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The Kirkpatrick Doctrine was the doctrine expounded by United States Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick in the early 1980s based on her 1979 essay, "Dictatorships and Double Standards". The doctrine was used to justify the U.S. foreign policy of supporting Third World anti-communist dictatorships during the Cold War.
Kirkpatrick claimed that states in the Soviet bloc and other Communist states were totalitarian regimes, while pro-Western dictatorships were authoritarian ones. According to Kirkpatrick, totalitarian regimes were more stable and self-perpetuating than authoritarian regimes, and thus had a greater propensity to influence neighboring states.
The Kirkpatrick Doctrine was particularly influential during the administration of President Ronald Reagan. The Reagan administration gave varying degrees of support to anti-Communist dictatorships, including those in Guatemala (to 1985), the Philippines (to 1986), and Argentina (to 1983), and armed the mujahideen in the Soviet war in Afghanistan, UNITA during the Angolan Civil War, and the Contras during the Nicaraguan Revolution as a means of ending (or preventing) Leftist or Communist governments in those countries.
Kirkpatrick's tenet that totalitarian regimes are more stable than authoritarian regimes has come under criticism since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, particularly as Kirkpatrick predicted that the Soviet system would persist for decades. Others counter that the Soviet Union fell only amid steady U.S.-led Western opposition to Communism during the Cold War.
According to Kirkpatrick, authoritarian regimes merely try to control and/or punish their subjects' behaviors, while totalitarian regimes moved beyond that into attempting to control the thoughts of their subjects, using not only propaganda, but brainwashing, re-education, widespread domestic espionage, and mass political repression based on state ideology. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union are usually grouped together as examples of totalitarian regimes. Totalitarian regimes also often attempt to undermine or destroy community institutions deemed ideologically tainted (e.g., religious ones, or even the nuclear family), while authoritarian regimes by and large leave these alone. For this reason, she argues that the process of restoring democracy is easier in formerly authoritarian than in formerly totalitarian states, and that authoritarian states are more amenable to gradual reform in a democratic direction than are totalitarian states.
Ted Galen Carpenter of the Cato Institute has disputed this analysis, noting that while Communists movements tend to dispose rival authoritarians, the traditional authoritarian regimes supported by the US came to power by overthrowing democracies. He thus concludes that while Communist regimes are more difficult to eradicate, traditional autocratic regimes "pose the more lethal threat to functioning democracies."
- Jeane Kirkpatrick, "Dictatorships and Double Standards," Commentary Magazine Volume 68, No. 5, November 1979, pp. 34-45.
- "Middle Israel: The new world order". The Jerusalem Post. 2006-12-14. Retrieved 2007-08-16.
- The United States and Third World Dictatorships: A Case for Benign Detachment Ted Galen Carpenter. Cato Policy Analysis No. 58, August 15, 1985