That great American ambassador and lovely lady Jeane Kirkpatrick has left us, but her passing also causes us to remember her strategic sense and moral clarity. She came to national prominence in Reaganite circles in 1979 with her marvelous Commentary magazine essay on "Dictatorship and Double Standards." It argued that traditional authoritarian autocracies were both more susceptible to liberalization and more amenable to American interests than totalitarian dictatorships of the left, which came into power with disturbing frequency in the late 1970s, with America as their stated enemy.
She easily explained how the Carter administration and the liberal press romantically saw in the revolutionary left a shared commitment to modernity over tradition, science over religion, an educated bureaucracy over private hierarchies, and futuristic and universal goals over appeals to an archaic and ordered past.
How little things have changed 26 years later. Even now, Jimmy Carter is touring the country blasting our democratic friends in Israel (smearing them in his book title as racist architects of "apartheid") and making excuses for Palestinian terrorists completely at odds with American interests, just as the liberal press continues betraying sympathy for left-wing totalitarians, while blasting long-faded right-wing authoritarians.
To prove the point, three days after Kirkpatrick passed away, former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet died. Pinochet was one autocrat who proved Kirkpatrick right. During his tenure, he set in motion economic reforms that made Chile's economy an envy to every other country in Latin America. And after 15 years of rule, he allowed a national plebiscite to vote against him. He stepped down in 1990. But none of that mattered to the American liberal press, still boiling with rage over his misdeeds.
The Washington Post headline was "A Dictator's Dark Legacy," and the reporters began by noting his government "murdered and tortured thousands during his repressive 17-year rule ... leaving a legacy of abuse that took successive governments years to catalogue." His death left an "incomplete" crusade to seek "justice" for his reign in the courts.
The New York Times headline noted Pinochet was a "Dictator Who Ruled by Terror in Chile." The Times began by describing him as "the brutal dictator who repressed and reshaped Chile for nearly two decades and became a notorious symbol of human rights abuse and corruption." He was "never brought to trial." Both the Post and the Times used post-Pinochet government estimates that more than 3,000 people were executed or disappeared during the Pinochet dictatorship.