Courtesy Reuters

Profile: Jeane Kirkpatrick at the United Nations

As U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick has represented a dramatic change in style and approach from her immediate predecessors (and, in her confrontational predilections, from all previous American U.N. ambassadors except for Daniel Patrick Moynihan). Her political philosophy, her attitude toward the United Nations and her relations with African delegates, in particular, are diametrically opposed to those of Andrew Young and Donald McHenry. They were liberals; she is a staunch neo-conservative on foreign policy issues. They saw the United Nations as a helpful forum for arriving at peaceful solutions; she considers it "a dangerous place" where conflicts tend to be exacerbated. They cultivated the African representatives at the United Nations and frequently represented black African viewpoints in Washington; she reflects the Reagan line, which is perceptibly friendlier to South Africa. These differences are not merely personal; they reflect differences in attitudes between the Carter and Reagan Administrations.

To understand Jeane Kirkpatrick, one must first understand her political philosophy. In foreign policy she is a conservative. She acts and speaks out of ideological conviction, as the representative of an Administration that is, by American standards, unusually ideological. She is critical of those who believe that Americans "should concern ourselves with universal values, with abstract supranational goals, with what they are predisposed to call democracy and freedom, and not with such mundane matters as American power."1 Her criticism does not mean that she is skeptical about the virtues of democracy and freedom. On the contrary, she is firmly convinced that the American concepts of democracy and freedom are superior to Marxism or any other collectivist society. Rather, her criticism is directed against those who would subordinate U.S. national interests-and particularly in the East-West struggle she sees in deeply moral terms-to "abstract" moral concerns directed at U.S. allies or associates.

Her ideological affinity with the President is made clear in the essays and speeches collected in her most recent book, The Reagan Phenomenon. In the foreword,

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