Former Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, one of the most admired women in the world, passed away in December at the age of 80, leaving a huge vacuum in our hearts and minds. Her posthumously published book, "Making War to Keep Peace" (Harper Collins, $26.95), released April 24, brings her ideas to life.
The book is devoted to her foreign policy experiences and reflections from 1981 to 2006. Jeane had a way of providing and applying a clear worldview for debating, discussing and deciding U.S. foreign policy in a complex and complicated world.
Kirkpatrick's friends and colleagues, from William F. Buckley and George P. Schultz, to Edwin Meese and Ed J. Feulner, to Richard V. Allen and Alan Gerson, are helping review, publicize and promote her incredible experiences and prescient views about the future. She envisioned a future of democracy, freedom, stability, and principled leadership undergirded by wise U.S. policies from the departments of State and Defense.
"Making War to Keep Peace" is the book's provocative title, made particularly ironic in my thinking because Kirkpatrick was primarily responsible for that great aphorism of "peace through strength," which became the hallmark of President Ronald W. Reagan's views on foreign policy that she so vigorously defended during her years at the United Nations.
Jeane was never one to shrink from a critic and already there are detractors. David Corn in the "left-leaning" magazine The Nation takes a rather gratuitous slap at the Bush-Cheney administration. Corn quotes from the book, "I was privately critical of the Bush administration's argument for the use of military force for pre-emptive self-defense," and "that the war - with respect to bringing democracy to Iraqis - did more harm than good." Corn then concludes, "It's stunning criticism from a hawk who for over two decades has been a guiding light for the neocons, who cheerleaded the nation to war in Iraq. In her book, she contends that the invasion has so far been counterproductive." While Jeane was a quiet critic of the war, she was a loyal diplomat until the end and never was a cheerleader for the neocons.
Corn also writes, "She does not say where and to whom she voiced her misgivings - if she did." I can only add that in my private talks with Kirkpatrick over the years since we co-founded Empower America with Vin Weber, Bill Bennett, Michael Novak and Ted Forstmann, she never put her own private views above those or whom were responsible for making the very difficult decisions required of presidents, then and now.
I wasn't the only one discussing the Iraqi war and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East with my friend, my mentor and my neighbor, Ambassador Kirkpatrick, as she had many close friends and confidants on both the "center left" and "center right". They ranged from Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., and Ambassador Max Kampelman to Novak, Ernie Lefevre, and Gerson, among others. But I can say for a fact, she unambiguously supported the effort to liberate Afghanistan after the terror attacks of Sept. 11. She also voiced quiet yet thoughtful critique of this administration and the neocons' rather cavalier assurance that the United States could establish a liberal democracy in Iraq as a model of "statecraft" for the Islamic Middle East. Kirkpatrick was aware that - with no history of stable institutions, or rule of law, and with a vacuum of power that left centrifugal forces spinning out of control - it would require more than a surge of troops to be successful. The situation demands an immediate surge of diplomacy at which she was so good.
Corn's conclusion that Kirkpatrick considered the war a mistake is derived from Kirkpatrick's comments about her own career, to wit, "Throughout my career, I have been careful not to criticize any sitting president, and I was not inclined to change my position in that regard when President George W. Bush sent troops across the border of Iraq. In fact, when asked, I even agreed to defend his actions. I believe then as I believe now that President Bush had the legal right to invade Iraq, if not entirely for the reasons his administration claimed. However. I also believe that he had neither the obligation nor the need to expand his military offensive into Iraq after sending troops into Afghanistan."
Many of us arrived at the same conclusion and we supported the administration's troop "surge" in the opinion that pacification of Baghdad and Anbar Province, plus regional talks, would lead to a political settlement. I truly believe that's where she'd be today.
During many private talks with her and my wife Joanne and family, Kirkpatrick would reflect on what in her words she described, "The key to putting Iraq on the path of democracy today is to help establish law and order. This policy is already part of the Bush administration plan, but as of this writing their strategy remains unclear. However, history offers hope for Iraq's future. Battles in other countries that seemed unwinnable have come to peace - and victory."
It seems obvious to me with these words, she was not advocating the left-wing desire to get out of Iraq post haste. It's no secret Kirkpatrick advocated early on in the Reagan administration for a more "free market" oriented foreign policy as an important ingredient to any successful pursuit of conflict resolution. She and I talked at length about how the United States used economic aid, trade and investment to help rebuild World War II-ravaged Germany and Japan as the bipartisan Marshall Plan emerged from the Truman administration and was supported by the GOP in the Senate.
Based on this great book, her public statements and our private conversations over the years, Jeane Kirkpatrick was a seasoned diplomat, wise counselor to several presidents and a voice for liberal democracy who understood perfectly the demand for our United States of America to be a "shining city on a hill." We must lead the free world by example while defending ourselves from terrorists intent on imposing their will on friend and foe. We are fortunate to have a great secretary of state who brings many of the same characteristics of Ambassador Kirkpatrick to our efforts. They are as needed today as they were in the early 1980s, even more so.