Wednesday, September 12, 2012

800 Words: That Paper from Yesterday, Better Formatted (let's try this again)

Here it is again...sans footnotes and hopefully formatted better.

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick: The Masquerade of Conservative Idealism as Realism  
  An essay by Evan Tucker

“Macbeth’s self-justifications were feeble – and his conscience devoured him.  Yes, even Iago was a little lamb too.  The imagination and the spiritual strength of Shakespeare’s evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses.  Because they had no ideology.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago#


There are, however, systemic differences between traditional and revolutionary autocracies that have a predictable effect on their degree of repressiveness.  Generally speaking, traditional autocrats tolerate social inequities, brutality, and poverty, whereas revolutionary autocracies create them.

Traditional autocrats leave in place existing allocations of wealth, power, status, and other resources, which in most traditional societies favor an affluent few and maintain masses in poverty.  But they worship traditional gods and observe traditional taboos.  They do not disturb the habitual rhythms of work and leisure, habitual places of residence, habitual patterns of family and personal relations.  Because the miseries of traditional life are familiar, they are bearable to ordinary people who growing up in the society, learn to cope.  .  .  . Such societies create no refugees.

Precisely the opposite is true of revolutionary Communist regimes.  They create refugees by the millions because they claim jurisdiction over the whole life of the society and make demands for change that so violate internalized values and habits that inhabitants flee in the remarkable expectation that their attitudes, values, and goals will “fit” better in a foreign country than in their native land.#

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick's essay, "Dictatorships and Double Standards," is generally regarded as one of the most influential articles of the post-World War II era.  It would not be an exaggeration to say that "Dictatorships and Double Standards," and particularly the excerpt quoted above, caused a revolution in American policy.  The change in policy advocated by Kirkpatrick and followed by the Reagan administration came to be commonly known as the “Kirkpatrick Doctrine.”  Whatever objections one might have to Kirkpatrick's scholarly analysis, it cannot be denied that the blueprint for the policy of the Reagan administration, which many believe defeated Soviet Communism, was hers.  As analysis, it was not without some insight, though it was quite flawed.  As an outline for future Reagan policy, however, it proved to be effective beyond anyone’s expectations.  Very few, if any, people believed that the Soviet Union could be completely defeated by a more aggressive tactic.  Her goal was most likely a neo-Dullesian gradual rollback of Soviet territory that would incrementally add up to substantial gains in the American sphere of influence over a long period of time.  However, the thought that a policy like the Kirkpatrick Doctrine would contribute to the collapse of the Soviet Empire was virtually unthinkable in 1979 when she wrote “Dictatorships and Double Standards.”

            The bulk of "Dictatorships and Double Standards" was a stinging polemic against the Carter Administration.  Kirkpatrick correctly demonstrated how Carter's lack of understanding about the nature of unpleasant alliances led him to disastrous choices in foreign policy.#  The Carter administration made the mistake, in the cases of both Iran and Nicaragua, of encouraging the fall of the Shah and the Somoza family, assuming that the advocates of liberal democracy in those countries had enough influence to wrest control of the countries from potential autocrats unfriendly to the United States.  Instead of supporting those two "moderate autocrats, friendly to American interests," the Carter administration "actively collaborated" in tossing them aside and replacing them "with less friendly autocrats of the "extremist persuasion.”#   What Carter failed to understand was the famed dictum, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."  In the conduct of foreign affairs, alliances with distasteful regimes are sometimes necessary in support of vital national interests.   As Winston Churchill once said in relation to Stalin, "If Hitler invaded hell, I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.”#  Sometimes the exigencies of foreign policy make it necessary to form temporary alliances with unattractive partners because the threat of the main enemy takes precedence.  As Roosevelt is reputed to have said in a perhaps apocryphal story about various dictators (the story is sometimes told regarding Duvalier of Haiti or about Somoza of Nicaragua), “He may be a son of a bitch, but at least he’s our son of a bitch.”#  Both Churchill and Roosevelt understood how foreign policy works.  Unfortunately, Carter did not.  

            There can be no doubt of the resounding success that “Dictatorships and Double Standards” had as a polemic.  If Kirkpatrick had limited her article to this kind of "realistic" criticism of the Carter administration, her argument would have been unassailable.  But Kirkpatrick went further than merely criticizing the Carter administration for its lack of realism.  She contrasted the "revolutionary autocracies," predominantly of the communist type, that the United States had to oppose in the most forceful way, with the right wing dictatorships, which she felt were worthy of American support, despite how repulsive those regimes were and how uncomfortable it might make Americans feel to have their government supporting them.   

It is at this point in her argument that Kirkpatrick's article ceases to be merely an effective polemic against liberal idealism in the handling of foreign policy and begins to substitute a new kind of conservative idealism disguised as realism that had its own dangerous implications for the conduct of foreign affairs.  The seemingly inexorable logic of her analysis is quite seductive, but the problems begin with the way she used the word "totalitarianism."  In “Reflections on Totalitarianism” she defined the word with only two specific criteria, the first being that totalitarianism "conceives the ultimate purposes of the individual as identical with those of the state (or race, or class)," and the second being that totalitarianism "conceives coercion as an instrument for the achievement of these ends.”#   This definition was so general that any state possessed of a total ideology and using even nominal coercion to enforce its beliefs would then be considered “totalitarian.”  Kirkpatrick pushed this reasoning a step too far when she implied that there is no distinction between communist dictatorships and totalitarian ones.  Such a distinction is necessary, and to imply that it does not fails to recognize the nuances involved.  The communist dictatorship of Stalin was both quantitatively and qualitatively different from the regimes of Khrushchev and Brezhnev.  Once the distinctions are blurred between communism and totalitarianism, all communist governments are ipso facto "totalitarian," regardless of the extent to which they pursue genuinely totalitarian policies. 

Other scholars and policy makers defined "totalitarianism" differently, each with their own criteria.   Therefore, countries that would be defined as "totalitarian" by one thinker would not necessarily be thought of as totalitarian by another.  For example, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Carl Friedrich, writing in the 1950's, but before the full extent of Khrushchev's reforms were appreciated, and before Khruschev’s speech to the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was widely disseminated, defined a totalitarian government as one that is in possession of six properties: 1) a total ideology, 2) a single party, 3) a terrorist police, 4) a monopoly on mass communication, 5) a monopoly on weapons, 6) a command economy.#   However, there are a great many communist governments of both the past and present that fall well short of this definition.  Communist China from Deng Xiaoping onward has undergone a metamorphosis into perhaps the most aggressively capitalist economy in the world.   The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 would not have been possible with a complete monopoly on weapons.   The Socialist Republic of Czechoslovakia obviously had no monopoly on communication during the Prague Spring of 1968.  It is arguable that Poland had a second political party in the Solidarity movement during the last stages of Communist Poland's existence, and certainly the Polish Catholic Church had the ability to disseminate an alternate ideology through the Church’s own media that competed with those of the state and communist party.

Hannah Arendt's definition of “totalitarianism” as “the only form of government with which coexistence is not possible,” – one of many definitions she provides -- clearly implies that at a certain point, communist governments were no longer totalitarian.#  The United States coexisted easily with Mao after Nixon's opening to China in 1973 (arguably after Mao was no longer completely in control) and uneasily with Soviet Russia after Stalin’s death in 1953.  When it suited the United States, alliances were made with all kinds of Communist governments. Even within the Iron Curtain, there were governments such as that of Tito's Yugoslavia and Ceausescu’s Rumania with which the United States saw fit to ally or at least to encourage becoming more independent of their Soviet hegemons.  Furthermore, there are examples of the United States' coexisting with governments that fit Brzezinski/Friedrich's definition of totalitarianism far better than the Soviet Union did after Khrushchev's famous 1956 speech to the Twentieth Congress of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.   Over the years, the US has been on favorable terms, or at least sought to do business with Stalinist Russia, Maoist China, Suharto’s Indonesia, Baathist Iraq, and even Kim Jung Il's North Korea.  With the most brutal and repressive societies on earth, the United States has often seen fit to negotiate and form alliances if the US felt that doing so served its interests.  When strategic interests seem to compete with the concern for human rights, the US has rarely shown any compunction about placing strategic interests first. 

Even though Kirkpatrick's use of the word, "totalitarian," seems overly promiscuous and designed primarily to appeal to a right wing constituency (such as the readers of Commentary magazine),  Kirkpatrick's analysis would seem, at least at first glance, to be remarkably prescient about the nature of authoritarian governments.  Her prognostication was, however, much less remarkable with regard to the governments she deemed “totalitarian,” many of which made their transitions to democracy, or at least to capitalism, far more easily than she had predicted when she wrote that "[traditional autocracies] are more susceptible of liberalization."#  
But her prescience about the governments she deemed “authoritarian” was, in a sense, exceptional.  Kirkpatrick had the foresight to realize that so many of the seemingly permanent dictatorships of Latin America, Africa and East Asia were merely transitory and would go the way of all flesh just as the dictatorship of Greece did in 1974.  The economic freedom that the strongmen leading these countries allowed perhaps facilitated a smooth transition to democratic governance.  Or perhaps the strengthening of capitalism through years of stability encouraged the creation of a middle class that was one of democracy's prerequisites. In case after case-- Argentina, Brazil, Chile, the Philippines, South Korea, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, etc.--the transition from autocracy to democracy was incredibly uneventful in comparison to the violent revolutionary events that some might have predicted would be necessary to overthrow an entrenched dictatorship.  But even though Kirkpatrick might have been quite correct in predicting that these dictatorships would ultimately pass away and often be replaced  by democracies,  there is no way of knowing how necessary it was to have dictators in these countries with the bankrolled support of the United States.  Was it possible in any of these countries to have democratic governments, even leftist/Marxist ones, that were free from the influence and control of the Soviet Union?  And if American support were absolutely necessary in some places, the question remains, where?   Would it have been possible to turn potential world leaders such as Allende, Sukarno, Bhutto, Mossadegh, into figures like Tito and Ceausescu, who were at very least amenable to US influence and not categorical supporters of the USSR?  Or would the damage to the economy that such leftists would cause by their support of socialism and nationalization be so disruptive that their control of the economy would ultimately delay the passage into a free political society?  

Kirkpatrick's insight, however qualified, about the transitional nature of right-wing authoritarian governments was not matched by an understanding of what would happen to the "revolutionary autocracies" that she identified as the main objects of American opposition.  Though Kirkpatrick seemed prescient about the transitional nature of  “traditional”  right-wing autocracies, she did not seem to foresee that communist governments were about to disappear as well.  Even before Kirkpatrick penned “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” there were examples in Europe such as Hungary in the 50's, Czechoslovakia in the 60's, and Poland in the 70's, which showed very promising signs of being able to transition to democracy, and all that prevented them from doing so was the iron fist of Soviet occupation.  The obviousness of their readiness for such a transition was borne out almost immediately after the fall of Soviet communism.  In retrospect, one must ask if the same forces that brought down so many right-wing "traditional authoritarian" governments did not also overthrow the communist puppets of Eastern Europe, Soviet Communism, and ultimately the communist governments of East Asia as well.  China and Vietnam are today communist in name only.  China as ever inches towards the potential for political reform, and its rapid strides in capitalistic economic development is likely to lead either to a need for political modernization or greater repression.  Communism remains the governing philosophy of North Korea and Cuba, but one cannot but wonder if these two last bastions of the old type of communism (and totalitarianism in the case of North Korea) are not in their last stages as well.  

Furthermore, Kirkpatrick's argument about the objectionable nature of communist totalitarianism because of the refugee problems that its "revolutionary" nature creates is also problematic.   The “refugees by the millions” do not always seem to be created by domestic regimes;  they are often created by war.  Refugees from Hungary in 1956 and Afghanistan in 1980 were fleeing a foreign occupation, not oppression from within.   Moreover, communist regimes do not have a monopoly on creating refugee problems.  The refugee crises of the Congo, of Sudan, and of Haiti were hardly created by communism.#           

“Dictatorships and Double Standards” is an article that allegedly argues a case for greater realism in foreign policy.   And yet the notions Kirkpatrick espoused are not always reality.  On the one hand, she had the foresight to realize that many authoritarian governments were transient and would disappear when a country's wealth would allow them to cast repression aside.   On the other hand, she did not see that the case was the same in many communist countries.  She blurred the distinctions between “totalitarianism” and “communism,” and she neglected the United States' history of being able to negotiate at suitable times with many of the world's worst regimes.  What Kirkpatrick argued is not the case for realism.   In her analysis, there is little room for the nuances and ambiguities which realism must permit.  It is the case for a hard-liner's idealism that imagines the United States in perpetual conflict with a force that allows no room for compromise.   As the foundation principle, it was certainly effective in that the policies that grew out of her analysis contributed to the Soviet Empire's collapse.  But inspiring effective policy is not the same as nuanced analysis.  As analysis, “Dictatorships and Double Standards” is insightful, but simplistic. Within its simplicity, the analysis contains insights that may have eluded other more nuanced thinkers.  However, the simplicity of Kirkpatrick's analysis causes “Dictatorships and Double Standards” to obscure more knowledge of the world than it elucidates.


Misdefinitions and Misapplications

Totalitarian practices derive from a variety of utopianism which (1) conceives the ultimate purposes of the individual as identical with those of the state (or race or class), and (2) conceives coercion as an instrument for the achievement of these ends.  Totalitarian utopians attribute no independent or intrinsic value or reality to individuals.  Presons matter only as examples and members of a collectivity.#

Kirkpatrick's definitions of “traditional” and “revolutionary autocrats” are not distinct enough from one another to create separate categories.   As we will see below, in some cases all that separates the practices of a “traditional autocracy” from a “revolutionary” one is that the traditional autocracy supports US foreign policy;  revolutionary autocracy opposes it.   As we shall see later, the objective differences between those governments Kirkpatrick would label “authoritarian” and those she would label “totalitarian” are often far too minute for the regimes to be placed in separate categories the way she does.

It is highly probable Hitler and Stalin both articulated the purpose of a totalitarian government better than any student essay could.  Hitler repeated many times that “The state is only the means to an end.   The end is: Conservation of race.”#  If one were to substitute “conservation of race” with “empowerment of the worker,” the statement could apply just as easily to communism.  Stalin once made a similar statement: “We are in favor of the state dying out, and at the same time we stand for the strengthening of the dictatorship of the proletariat which represents the most powerful and mighty authority of all forms of State, which have existed up to the present day.  The highest possible development of the power of the state with the object of preparing the conditions for the dying out of the State;  that is the Marxist    formula.” #

  It is just as difficult to imagine nearly any of the bureaucratic communist dictators of the 70’s or 80’s making statements like those above as it would be to imagine most right-wing dictators doing the same.  In an authoritarian regime, the state is an end in itself.  It would have been treasonous to suggest even in most communist states that there is a higher purpose to which the state is accountable.  But in a totalitarian regime, the state is ultimately accountable to its ideology and all means are implemented in the service of enforcing such an ideology.  

When Kirkpatrick speaks about traditional and revolutionary authoritarian governments, perhaps she had in mind the distinction between “authoritarian” and “totalitarian” governments.   To put the distinction with the greatest possible simplicity: an “authoritarian” government aspires to power, whereas a “totalitarian” government aspires to control.  For an authoritarian government to aspire to power means that if the regime perceives an opportunity for the consolidation of its power, or the reduction of opposition to it by granting certain limited freedoms, it will not hesitate to do so.   On the other hand, for a totalitarian government to aspire to control means something much more specific.  Opportunities for relative gain mean very little to a government only concerned with absolute control.  When a government's primary aspiration is to implement an ideology, it requires an apparatus that can maintain a level of control close to absolute over its citizens.  Relaxation of state control for gain is an oxymoron because there is no relative gain when the goal is absolute control.#  

Ironically, one of the best descriptions of what distinguishes a totalitarian government from an authoritarian one comes from Kirkpatrick herself when she writes that totalitarianism "conceives the ultimate purposes of the individual as identical with those of the state (or race or class).”# This quote demonstrates the distinction extremely well because however ruthlessly an authoritarian state may govern, it is still merely authoritarian so long as it does not view its citizens as individuals barred from having basic motivations apart from those that are permitted by the state.   The difference between the two systems is the difference between the possibility of private ownership or independent media, and the impossibility of the same.  Granted, a totalitarian state may allow for some of the trappings of liberalism.  Hitler allowed for private property and decentralized industry, and even the bloodiest communist regimes allowed for private property, though they never allowed private control over the “means of production.”  But those who owned property or businesses privately knew that they had to follow the very precise requirements of the state or else their private holdings would be repossessed, effectively making their holdings operate as though they were the property of the state.  

From such small freedoms as an authoritarian state allows might spring larger ones.  The difference between the ability and inability to liberalize from within is one of the clearest distinctions between “totalitarian” and “authoritarian” government.   A totalitarian state by Brzezinski's and Friedrich's definition has means at its disposal for control that far outstrip the means of many later communist governments.  Therefore, there were many times in different communist countries when the state did not possess the means to stop large advances of liberalization from within, and in some cases the Soviet Union had no choice but to allow its satellites to liberalize their systems over a period of time.  

Moreover, the creation of a distinction between “traditional autocrat” and “revolutionary autocrat” is a construct belonging solely to Kirkpatrick in the sense that she uses both.  One of the most significant differences between the two is found in Kirkpatrick's famous dictum from "Dictatorships and Double Standards," that "traditional autocrats tolerate social inequities, brutality, and poverty, whereas revolutionary autocrats create them.”# The most important reason for repeating her famous phrase is to note that the statement is fraught with strange semantic contortions and inaccuracies belying Kirkpatrick’s motivation to whitewash America’s allies into colors more acceptable to her readers.  Precisely what does it mean that traditional autocrats "tolerate brutality?"   Toleration implies a lack of direct responsibility for such brutality.  When anywhere between 9,000 and 30,000 Argentines disappeared in the mid-1970’s as a result of the “National Reorganization Process” of General Videla and his successors#, could this ever be called merely “tolerating brutality?”  Or did autocrats like Videla and Galtieri create and order the brutality which characterized their regimes?  One must also ask to what extent social inequities were created by "revolutionary autocrats" in Eastern Europe and to what extent the inequities were inherited from as much as 1000 years of a rural, pre-capitalist mentality that did not encourage private enterprise and disdained all commercial enterprise as something fit only for the Jewish minority.   There is no doubt that "revolutionary autocracy" did more than its part to complicate poverty and to create problems of social inequality.   But to say that revolutionary autocrats "create" such conditions sounds as though they did not exist beforehand.  Surely communist policies increased levels of poverty within their countries, but to say that communist countries "create" poverty is a rhetorical sleight of hand.  Similarly, when poverty levels initially increase due to the deregulation often implemented by traditional authoritarian states or by the removal of state subsidies, is that mere toleration of poverty or is it the creation of new economic disruption by state policy?   Furthermore, a “revolutionary autocracy” is in itself an unsound concept because some “traditional autocracies” came to power by way of revolution, and at least one came to power through traditional means:  Hitler would have not become Der Fuhrer if he had not first won the largest plurality of the vote in relatively free elections and then been appointed Chancellor by democratically elected President Hindenburg.  

The purpose of mentioning these semantic inconsistencies is to demonstrate that the distinction between revolutionary and traditional autocracies is confused at its source.   By rough tabulations, Nazi Germany can be said to be responsible for than 20,946,000 deaths,  Communist China for 53,879,000 deaths, and the Soviet Union responsible for no less than 61,911,000 deaths.#  And surely there have been right-wing authoritarian governments-- non-dominated by total ideology and allied to the United States-- that were so coercive in their methods that they could only be seen as totalitarian.  Surely the anti-PKI massacres of Suharto (300,000 to a million killed) and then the unprovoked slaughter of one-third of the population of East Timor (200,000 killed) must count as acts that could only be perpetrated by a regime that approaches totalitarianism in its methods.#  In addition, surely the anti-Kurdish attacks of Saddam Hussein combined with the pre-emptive war on Iran in the 1980’s (total of approximately 800,000 killed, not to forget his Kurdish and Shiite massacres in the 1990’s that killed between 90,000 and 230,000) would count as practices very near to totalitarian in their brutality.# There are truly enormous distinctions that must be made between the regimes that produced such foully high death-tolls and merely despotic regimes that caused profoundly high levels of misery and murder, but not democide.

Thus not only did Kirkpatrick misdefine the distinctions between autocratic and totalitarian governments that would cause one type to be more susceptible to liberalization than the other, but she even misapplied her own definitions as well.   There were some states which Kirkpatrick would term “traditional autocracies” simply because they did not subscribe to an overtly “total ideology.” And yet these states were in such complete control of their citizens that only the term “totalitarian” could apply. 

Similarly, there were many communist states which Kirkpatrick would term “revolutionary autocracies” and therefore consider them “totalitarian.”  And yet these states fell short of possessing the controls necessary to refer to them as “totalitarian” according to Brzezinski/Friedrich’s definition.  Perhaps those autocratic governments which fall short of the standard set by Brzezinski and Friedrich may be considered "mere" autocracies.   The difference in degree between the two is not a matter of having some means at the government's disposal to implement a total ideology, it is a matter of possessing all possible means to control their citizens.  Once again, Jeane Kirkpatrick provides fodder for her prosecution: “A totalitarian regime is distinguished by its rulers’ determination to transform society, culture, and personality through the use of coercive state power.  Non-totalitarian systems – whether autocracies or democracies – do not use power for such broad purposes.”#  When a totalitarian government relinquishes possession of the means to control its citizens totally, it ceases by definition to be totalitarian.  There is too much that separates the communism of Dubcek and the communism of Stalin to group them together.  And there is too little that separates many “revolutionary autocracies” from “traditional autocracies” to separate them into categories.  Surely the Czechoslovakia of Dubcek, the Poland of Gierek and the Hungary of Nagy and Kadar were far closer to authoritarian regimes in their levels of oppression than they were to truly totalitarian governments like Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany and Maoist China.   

There are many dictators whom Kirkpatrick would have branded "revolutionary autocrats" due to the nature of the "total ideology" to which the autocrats subscribed.   As was stated in the introduction, Kirkpatrick's definition of “totalitarian” ultimately means that any state based upon a “total ideology” and possessing “coercive means” is therefore totalitarian.   This is an unsound syllogism designed to demonstrate that all communist states are inherently totalitarian by virtue of their ideology and would make no distinction in degree between communism under Stalin and under Khrushchev.    Kirkpatrick explains why she believes that no distinction is necessary in her essay “Reflections on Totalitarianism:”

It has been argued that ubiquitous terror is a necessary characteristic of totalitarianism (as in Stalinist Russia, the Nazi regime, or the Chinese Cultural Revolution) and that the decline of terror signals the end of the totalitarian regime.   But if a chief task of the totalitarian is to translate ideology into culture, then one would expect the role of coercion in the cultural sphere to decline with time as habit, socialization, and the succession of generations result in progressive internalization of the new ways of thinking and valuing and in progressive conformity to new modes of behavior.   As new norms are internalized, new beliefs accepted, new habits established, the need to coerce conformity through crash "thought reform" programs and punishment of dissenters should decline.#

In other words, the behaviors of communism are so indoctrinated into the populace that after a period of terror and coercion, the culture becomes so accustomed to communist methods that the extreme forms of totalitarian control are no longer necessary and coercion can be relaxed.  Kirkpatrick assumes prima facie that the highest goal of totalitarianism is to transform ideology into culture, and therefore the level of coercion subsides as the culture takes root.   However, this assumption is a fallacy.  Whereas the culture of a populace is an abstract notion, always changing as the needs and desires of people change, ideology is concrete, dogmatic and unmovable.  It is impossible to impose an ideology on a culture because an ever-metamorphosing populace will always find ways to resist ideology.  Therefore, the only way to impose an unchanging ideology upon an ever-evolving culture is by way of ubiquitous terror that designates certain people within the culture as “enemies” of the ideology to be blamed for why the end of implementing an ideology has not been achieved.  Therefore, all-encompassing terror is an absolute necessity in a truly totalitarian regime and “the decline of terror” is a telltale sign that a totalitarian regime is at its end.   History has proven that when terror declines within the totalitarian state past a certain level, the entropy of state-run monopolies soon follows.  

What distinguishes a totalitarian dictatorship from an authoritarian one is much more than mere ideology and the continual maintenance of power.  A totalitarian dictatorship must put its total ideology to the service of an enterprise that aspires to the domination and control of its citizens.  One must admit that total ideology predisposes regimes to totalitarian rule.   Total ideology is essential to the existence of totalitarian government and serves as an indicator of the possibility of totalitarian rule's existence.    But one must also admit that not all governments with total ideologies are inherently totalitarian.

Many governments subscribing to a total ideology lack the means to institute coercion on a scale of total domination.  Total ideology need not entail a monopoly on coercive means, which is why the second criteria for Kirkpatrick's definition of totalitarianism as conceiving coercion as an instrument for the achievement of these ends of total ideology is quite unconvincing.   It is not enough to conceive or even possess coercive means to achieve the ends of a total ideology;  one must possess means for coercion as the modus operandi in the implementation of a total ideology. 

The defining characteristic of the totalitarian state is not its total ideology, but the sum total of the actions perpetrated in the name of total ideology's justification.   Many states that possessed total ideologies were not capable of total coercion at many points in their history.  In the wake of Imre Nagy’s Revolution of 1956, Janos Kadar’s new government judged that the Hungarian population was so hostile that trying to impose total control might instigate nationalistic and religious attacks on Soviet occupation.  Therefore, Kadar and his Soviet masters decided to moderately liberalize the country.  In November, 1956, Kadar introduced a fifteen point plan to reestablish stability in Hungary that allowed farmers to keep privatized plots and even permitted for general criticism of the Hungarian government.#   “Anyone not against us is with us,” Kadar said. #  As this evidence displays, countries governed by total ideologies may still fall well short of the accepted definitions of “totalitarian” government.  

Because Kirkpatrick misdefined and misapplied the definitions of “authoritarian” and “totalitarian” states, she failed to realize that neither totalitarian nor authoritarian states could stay as they were permanently for a variety of reasons.  Kirkpatrick's foresight was clear enough to allow for the eventual transition of “traditional authoritarian” states like Argentina, Brazil, South Korea and Malaysia, but in the cases of left-wing authoritarian states like the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary, her foresight was lacking.  Many states within the Soviet bloc found the transition to western-style government relatively easy because their leaders were unable to contain ever larger degrees of freedom in the media and political assembly.  All across the Eastern Bloc, radio stations like Voice of America and the BBC could be heard.  Extensive social contacts with the west existed, and intellectual and social exchanges could not be contained.  Soviet occupation could suppress ideological deviation as it did in Budapest in ’56 and Prague in ’68, but it could not prevent ideological deviation from forming.   


      Traditional Autocracy  

Since many traditional autocracies permit limited contestation and participation, it is not impossible that U.S.  policy could effectively encourage this process of liberalization and democratization, provided that the effort is not made at a time when the incumbent government is fighting for its life against violent adversaries, and that proposed reforms are aimed at producing gradual change rather than perfect democracy overnight.  To accomplish this, policymakers are needed who understand how actual democracies have come into being.  History is a better guide than good intentions.#

It is certainly true that governments fighting for their lives cannot concern themselves with liberalizing reforms.  But threats to existence cannot be made into excuses to perpetuate dictatorships, either.  Surely there were regimes that remained as authoritarian as ever in spite of lacking an existential threat.  In retrospect, we see that the authoritarian regimes of Argentina, Brazil and Chile were eventually much more threatened by the rise of democracy than by the possibility of a Marxist Revolution.  But certainly Kirkpatrick was right that the support in those authoritarian regimes for capitalist economic reforms helped create the social structure necessary for liberal democracy to emerge.

What Kirkpatrick realized in an incomplete form was that if political circumstances are correct – that is, if a country is at peace or without overt international pressure, if the economy is sufficiently developed, if there are sufficient international contacts and information about the outside world – then moves in the direction of liberalization will probably happen to most states, just as moves in the direction of authoritarianism will happen under other circumstances. Without a state of war or international pressure, without considerable international isolation, without full control of all the media and public information, and probably without grinding individual poverty, it is almost impossible for an authoritarian regime to keep absolute and unchanging control over its populace indefinitely.  Depending upon circumstances, authoritarian regimes are likely to move in the direction of liberal democracy as they did in Greece, Mexico or South Korea, or they are likely to give way to even bloodier authoritarian regimes as they did in Cuba or Iran.  Kirkpatrick took the American government to task for being foolish enough to encourage rebel forces in both Nicaragua and Iran because the US believed the rebels had liberal democrats within their ranks.  She was certainly correct that such encouragement was futile. America did so only to find out that the American government, along with Iranian and Nicaraguan liberals, was ultimately duped by the more radical insurgents into permitting an even more authoritarian regime.  

However, Kirkpatrick carried her conclusions too far.  Kirkpatrick assumed that the lesson learned from the experiences of Nicaragua and Iran was to always support “traditional” authoritarian regimes congenial to US interests because the alternative would in all probability be more authoritarian and less sympathetic to the US.  But Kirkpatrick’s assumption is ultimately incorrect.  In order to expand their base of power and court popularity with their citizenry, authoritarian regimes often allow for decentralization of economic power and sometimes even decentralization of the media.  Once such power is decentralized, it is only a matter of time before the populace demands the limitation of governmental power as well.

Such a transition need not necessarily mean a sudden abdication of autocrats to give way to a liberal or social democracy.  A sudden transition such as that which happened with the fall of the USSR would predictably lead to a power vacuum that would be filled by another authoritarian leader.   But a gradual transition with a gradual abdication of centralized power such as that which happened in Pinochet’s Chile or in Franco’s Spain is likely to leave in its place a liberal democracy with healthy apparatus such as an independent media and a privatized industry.  Authoritarian regimes uncooperative with the demand for political reform risk not only a popular uprising they are powerless to stop without the help of more powerful countries, but also the seizure of power from them by even more autocratic regimes.  

It is not in the greatest interests of America to assist in the continual maintenance of sympathetic “traditional” authoritarian regimes for fear of regimes that are bloodier and unsympathetic to the US.  Rather, it is in America’s interest to apply as much delicate pressure as possible to authoritarian regimes to gradually institute economic, financial, social, and eventually political reform when authoritarian countries are stable enough in other regards to withstand a change in their systems of government.  Such pressure was eventually applied in the cases of Chile, the Philippines, and South Korea.  In each case, the end results – the gradual transition to democracy – were incontrovertibly successful, though far too late to prevent many unnecessary deaths.  One must at least wonder if such transitions would have happened without the application of such pressure, thereby making all three countries susceptible to still worse authoritarian regimes than those of Pinochet, Marcos and Chun Doo-hwan.  

The transition to democracy is a process that is undertaken successfully when a state is already well-ordered enough to withstand the pressures of a new system.  In the cases of Iraq under American occupation, Russia under Yeltsin, and Pakistan under Bhutto, transitions to democracy were hampered by the absence of stability.  The stability of a nation will allow for political freedom;  the reciprocal is not the case.  As the occupation of Iraq has shown beyond a doubt, political freedom is no guarantor of political or economic stability.  If the forces of economic productivity and rule of law which enable democracy to exist are too weak to withstand the pressures of a process as unstable as democracy, the result is invariably a power vacuum that can collapse the democratic system in its infancy.  Such a vacuum can be filled either by civil war or by an autocrat.

  One must at least give Kirkpatrick credit for the assertion that “it is not impossible that U.S.  policy could effectively encourage this process of liberalization and democratization, provided that the effort is not made at a time when the incumbent government is fighting for its life against violent adversaries. . .”#  This statement is eminently correct.  However, one must wonder if Kirkpatrick, given her support of Galtieri in the Falkland Islands conflict, had thought through the implications of her statement.  What is the dividing line between an authoritarian government that is “fighting for its life against violent adversaries” and an authoritarian government that merely exists for the sake of preserving itself and enriching its leaders?  Surely the government of Generalissimo Franco was not fighting for its life against violent and particularly communist adversaries for the entirety of its thirty-nine year existence.  Surely there were some authoritarian governments that were hampered by their longevity.  Once an authoritarian government that allows for economic prosperity achieves a certain level of it, the government impedes the possibility for growth in the prosperity of its citizenry by not reforming politically.  In each of the cases below, it is the very lack of political reform in authoritarian regimes that inhibits the maintenance of economic stability.  In the cases of Pinochet and Suharto, economic stability was achieved long before any political stability accompanied.  In both cases, economic security increased demands within the populace for political reform.  When both autocrats refused such reforms, many of their citizens rose up against them.  Such uprisings ruin investors’ confidence in their countries, a situation which leads them to pull out their funds and lighten their investments.  Therefore, without political reform to follow economic stability, economies will destabilize.  In such cases, the only options are political reform and liberalization to accompany economic stability or a return to economic instability in order to maintain political centralization.     

Indeed, perhaps the very acts of American support for many “traditional autocrats” in the fight against communism was not entirely necessary to begin with.  To varying degrees, one must concede the possibility in cases like those of Chile under Allende, Iran under Mossadegh, and Indonesia under Sukarno that these leaders’ unwillingness to commit fully to communist rule would have sufficed for conditional American cooperation.  But after careful reflection on this proposition, we must conclude that it is ultimately unconvincing.  Kirkpatrick was eminently correct in her insistence that a lack of support for an authoritarian regime that is allied to the US’s national interests and that is under existential threat could give way to a still-worse regime whose interests are hostile to the United States.   But Kirkpatrick was not correct in regard to the proportion of threats.  Surely not every threat to an authoritarian regime is an existential one.  And surely in many such cases when the United States willingly encouraged the most brutal actions of its authoritarian allies, such actions were counter-productive not only to American standing, but to the very allies whose governments the US was trying to sustain.  

When Kirkpatrick writes that no idea holds greater sway in the mind of educated Americans, than the belief that it is possible to democratize governments anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances,”# she is absolutely correct that this belief is a naïve, mistaken one.  Authoritarian regimes exist because the political and economic checks and balances of power do not exist to create conditions that allow democracy to thrive.  What exists in its place is the ability of more stable countries to limit the excesses of authoritarian regimes, and over a period of generations, to act as facilitators to the eventual emergence of democracy.  In unstable conditions, autocracy is almost inevitable.  In the cases of non-aligned autocracies, there is far less ability to influence and temper the governments’ behaviors.  In the cases of autocracies that align themselves with the interests of the United States, the US can indeed have a beneficial influence that seeks to moderate the behavior of such nations.  Therefore, when dissent is met with excessive force by autocracies allied with the United States, the US is often correctly blamed for its failure to control brutality.    

In the cases of Allende, Mossadegh and Sukarno, all three leaders created the conditions guaranteeing that authoritarian regimes (in the cases of Mossadegh and Sukarno,”worse” authoritarian regimes) would follow all of them in their respective countries.  Each of them removed the necessary political and economic checks on executive power that moderate authoritarianism.  The question that arises in each case would then be to ask what sort of authoritarian regime would ensue.  Would it be a communist or a military regime?  In each case, it seems highly possible, if not downright probable, that Soviet domination would have followed their deaths (in the cases of Mossadegh and Sukarno) or would have overwhelmed the leftist regime that encouraged the communist faction (Allende).  In those cases, Kirkpatrick is proven at least partially correct in her assertion that we have to be almost unconditional in our support of right wing “traditional authoritarian” movements because the alternative is invariably communism. 

Once it is decided to interpret the military coups of these countries as having been grounded in a very real possibility of Soviet domination, the question is if all the suppression done by the Pinochets and Suhartos of this world in the name of anti-communism was justified.  In the case of Pinochet the answer is “no” because the survival of “traditional authoritarian” regimes is so often dependent on the financial support of more powerful countries like the US and then, the US can often dictate many terms of how these regimes are run.  In the case of Suharto, the answer is “absolutely not” because the Suharto regime was so clearly as vile as any conceivable outcome of the battle between the Indonesian military and the PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia, the Indonesian Communist Party).  In the case of Mossadegh's Iran, the answer is “maybe.”  While Mossadegh’s actions were clearly self-destructive and short-sided, they were enabled by British reactionaries who refused to give up the final vestiges of the British Empire’s spoils of Persia.

  Chile from Allende to Pinochet

In the case of 1970’s Chile, we find an example in which Kirkpatrick is proven correct in her assertion that support for right-wing autocracy is sometimes very necessary due to very real threats of communist infiltration.  And yet the instance of ‘70’s Chile also proves Kirkpatrick incorrect because autocratic repression cannot be justified beyond the extent that it provides greater stability to its citizens than it would otherwise.  In the case of Chile there are two questions to be considered:  How necessary was it to forcibly remove Salvador Allende (1908-1973, President of Chile, 1970-1973) from power?  And how necessary was American support for the practices of the junta which followed?

The first question can simply be answered with the phrase “quite necessary.”  Salvador Allende  might or might not have been the Soviet informant from the 50’s onward,  operating under the code name LEADER, that he was alleged to have been in an uncorroborated document from the Mitrokhin archive.# But there is little doubt that without Allende, the conditions that brought about the Pinochet junta would never have occurred.  Chile’s own parliament would have agreed with this assertion when it passed a resolution calling for the forcible removal of President Allende in 1973 by a vote of 81 to 47.#  The economic counter-attack instigated by the Nixon administration was not at all necessary because Allende’s policies would have done enough damage by themselves.  By nationalizing the copper and banking industries all at once, Allende not only barred foreign investors from those particular industries, but also scared off investors in other industries as well.  By defaulting on debts to international creditors at the same time that he nationalized healthcare and education, Allende spent massive amounts of money that he did not have on social programs, thereby plunging the country into a level of hyper-inflation (800% annual inflation over the Allende presidency according to TIME, June 16, 1975),# virtually unseen in a modern state since the days of Germany under the Weimar Republic.  As a result, the prices of virtually all basic necessities went up severely.

In such conditions, a societal upheaval cannot help but be created from which virulent authoritarianism is often the natural consequence.  In such chaos, the possibilities for either civil war or authoritarian government were almost inevitable.  To his credit, Allende rarely, if ever, operated outside of his constitutional parameters, but his attempts to limit the power of the legislative branch through constitutional referendums and his efforts to intimidate his political enemies by bringing ever more members of the military into his cabinet were a prescription for political pandemonium.  It is conceivable that before long, Allende would have seized dictatorial powers and ruled by decree, as many members of the Chilean legislature suspected he was about to do.  Moreover, it was every bit as conceivable that he would have been replaced by someone to his left as to his right.  The hard-line communists who committed thousands of illegal seizures of land under Allende’s nose were, towards the end, as willing to agitate against Allende for not using force against those who opposed his policies or not implementing nationalization quickly enough as the hard right was.  There is, of course, the small chance that Allende would have been amenable to rolling back his sweeping reforms in exchange for financial aid, but it is highly doubtful that a politician as ideologically-committed to Marxist doctrine as Allende demonstrably was would have abandoned his policies for the sake of reaching a compromise and restoring political stability.  

To say that the deposing of a Marxist regime is necessary is certainly not the same as justifying all means that are used to depose such a regime.  In the case of Operation Condor, the end certainly did not justify a means that ultimately killed 50,000, caused another 30,000 to disappear forever, and incarcerated another 400,000 all over Latin America.#  Operation Condor, beginning in 1973, was a co-operative agreement of the leaders of the secret police of the countries of southern South America (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Chile) to share security information, to assassinate leftist leaders, to intimidate trade unions interested in leftist politics, and in other ways, to destabilize the socialist and communist movements of Latin America. This plan became a program of cooperation among the military and right wing dictatorships of Latin America to fight Marxist influence by imitating many of the conspiratorial and totalitarian methods that were routinely adopted by a Marxist movements and communist states.  It is at least arguable that not even a Latin America successfully overrun by Marxism would have been as efficient in terrorizing its citizens as was this joint program of rightist autocracies, aided and abetted by American support.  While the extent of American participation in Operation Condor is not yet fully known, it is clear that communication among the intelligence services of the participating Latin American countries, Chile among them, was facilitated by an American installation coordinated from Panama.

It was in such a climate that Augusto Pinochet (1915-2006, President of Chile, 1973-1990) and three other generals launched their military coup d’etat.  For all the horror of the Pinochet era, it cannot be doubted that Pinochet was far from the worst of all possible outcomes for Chile in the aftermath of Allende.  Pinochet supporters and apologists perhaps credibly make the argument that the ruthless torture and murder of many suspected Allende followers in the days following the coup d’etat might have prevented a civil war on a scale similar to Spain’s in the 1930’s.  They also credibly advance the argument that in Pinochet’s place could have been a left-wing authoritarian who would have modeled himself on Castro, with far worse consequences for America’s foreign policy in Latin America.  But such hypothetical scenarios do not negate Pinochet’s very real abuses of power.#  Pinochet has been the subject of considerable and virtually universal condemnation for his abuses of power. “The violent coup that left [Allende] dead and Chile’s long-standing democratic institutions destroyed truly shocked the world.  The Pinochet regime’s dictatorial bent, and abysmal human rights record quickly became a universal political and humanitarian issue.”#   But the vicious nature of the Pinochet regime and the violent nature of Allende’s overthrow does not change the fact that  it was Allende who created the atmosphere which gave birth to the Pinochet junta.

The United States certainly had no reason to aid and abet Allende’s misrule, but the question remains to what degree the United States had legitimate reason to plan his overthrow or to aid and abet the Pinochet junta.  The United States may be exonerated from blame for its desire to unseat a radical Marxist president who plunged his country into economic ruin and came perilously close to inviting communist domination and even for planning and evaluating contingencies in case of a coup against the Allende regime.  However, the United States almost certainly deserves condemnation for the events following September 15, 1970 when President Nixon ordered C.I.A. Director Richard Helms to initiate a covert overthrow of the Allende regime when it was in its infancy and its nature was not yet determined, the so-called Project FUBELT.  Nor can the United States be excused for its almost unconditional support of the methods and tactics of authoritarian dictator Augusto Pinochet.#  If Pinochet had simply limited his targets to members of leftist parties with histories of agitation, the United States might have been justified in its support of the Pinochet junta and its policies.  But the United States gave its support not only for the suppression of Marxist agitators, but also lent its support to the oppression of non-agitators and the legitimate democratic opposition as well.  

There can be little doubt that in the financial circumstances created by the Allende government, a democratic Chile was impossible in the short run.  What was possible was an authoritarian government that did not place brutality at quite so high a priority.  At the time, the Chilean junta had staged the bloodiest coup d’etat in the history of Latin America.  Its enemies were not as precisely targeted as the junta wanted the world to believe.   There is also little doubt that the Nixon and Ford administrations could have brought much greater pressure to bear on the Pinochet government to curb its worst excesses and elected not to do so.  Even when Allende officials were assassinated on American soil, as Orlando Letelier was, Chile escaped with very moderate censure (a purely symbolic slap on the wrist in the form of a ban on the buying of American arms).  Ironically, the embargos on aid which Nixon had previously placed made no difference to Allende’s Chile, which would undoubtedly have collapsed with or without American aid.  But even a threatened ban on aid to Pinochet’s Chile or a cut in trade would have ended the worst excesses of the junta very quickly.  

The Pinochet junta operated under the pretext of restoring Chile to democracy.  By the early 1980’s, Pinochet had, over a ten year period, restored economic vitality in Chile by reliance on market forces and by the encouragement of industry and exports that should have lead to economic conditions favorable to a restoration of democracy.  However, in the later years of Pinochet’s regime, the Chilean economy experienced renewed problems.  The Pinochet government had utterly exhausted its usefulness and became a liability to Chile’s economic prosperity.  If Pinochet had resigned in the early ‘80s when the Chilean economy looked to bring renewed prosperity to the country rather than in 1990 when predictably forced out by a plebiscite, he would have been remembered as a brutal, but, necessary authoritarian who had restored Chile to economic health.  But Pinochet, like most dictators who worship power, had no interest in stepping down from office.  Many critics would point to his alleged poisoning of centrist former President Eduardo Frei in 1982 as proof of his complete lust for power.#  The consequence of the renewed inflationary pressure at the end of the Pinochet presidency (30% a year#), was a loss of political popularity for Pinochet along with a marked increase in Marxist agitation.  In 1988, Pinochet asked the country for an extension of his presidency for an additional eight year term.  Under the provisions of Pinochet’s own 1980 Constitution a referendum was submitted to the electorate with a simple choice`-- Si or No. Pinochet lost this plebiscite, with approximately 55% voting  No#.  In 1989, Pinochet’s government supervised a multi-party election without Pinochet on the ballot. With the proviso that Pinochet was given the position of senator for life so that he could avoid any further prosecution for abuses of power, corruption, and political assassination, Pinochet left the presidency in 1990.

Iran from Razmara to Mossadegh

Iran under Mohammed Mossadegh (1882-1967, Prime Minister of Iran, 1951-1953) provides an interesting counterpoint to Kirkpatrick’s justification for traditional autocracy.  In the case of Iran under Mossadegh, Kirkpatrick was again absolutely correct that a right-wing autocrat was needed to replace Mossadegh in order to prevent a communist takeover of Iran after Mossadegh’s retirement or death.  America found the autocrat that it needed to protect Iran from falling into the hands of the communists in the person of the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi (1918-1980; Shah of Iran, 1941-1979). The Shah never ran Iran completely by himself, particularly in the beginning when he was perceived by the world at large as little more than a figurehead and dandy.  But he provided the personality around which pro-Western opponents of communism could galvanize.  However, what a theorist like Kirkpatrick could never have accounted for is that it was Western imperialism, avarice, and unnecessary meddling that made a left-wing nationalist like Mossadegh possible.  If America had forced Britain to allow Iranian oil to be nationalized during the rule of Razmara in the year before Mossadegh came to power, Iranian pride would not have been wounded and Iran would not have turned to Mossadegh in its desperation.

Once again, in the case of Iran under Mohammed Mossadegh, two questions must be raised:  Could the rise of Mossadegh have been prevented if Britain had relinquished its colonial interests in Iran sooner rather than later?  And was an uprising against Mossadegh justified?

In Mohammed Mossadegh, we find yet another leftist ruler against whom an uprising was completely justifiable.  But it was Western incompetence that made such a dictator possible.  If Britain had realized that its colonial interests were no longer viable and if the United States had sooner pressured Britain into finally relinquishing its dreams of imperial domination, the rise of a strongman like Mossadegh would have been utterly impossible.

In March, 1951, then-Prime Minister of Iran, General Haj-Ali Razmara, (1902-1951, Prime Minister 1950-1951) was assassinated by a Muslim extremist who was unhappy with the General’s plan for accommodation with Britain vis a vis the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.  Razmara was attempting to increase Iran’s take of the revenues, but was willing to settle for less than what the Saudis had gotten in a similar deal, and agreed to continued British participation in the running of the company. The Iranians were perhaps not sophisticated, but they certainly were not stupid and realized that the British were cheating them. This was not simply a matter of money;  it was more importantly a matter of national honor.

The US Ambassador to Iran, Henry F. Grady, undiplomatically resigned his office in Teheran and on returning home, he candidly “laid [the blame for America’s problems with Iran] at the feet of [Secretary of State] Mr. Acheson.” # The State Department was overly indulgent of their British allies and their old colonial attitudes.  “Had Britain and the U.S. backed [General Ali] Razmara, the former Iranian Prime Minister who was a friend of the West and who was fighting the nationalization movement, this present situation would not have developed,” Grady commented to a reporter for TIME magazine. “Nor would Razmara have been assassinated.’” #

But the British persisted in holding onto their financial interests in the lands of former client states like Iran well past the point where a compromise that respected Iran’s national dignity could have been beneficial to both sides.  In 1951, Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was handling most of Iranian oil.  As the majority partner, the British government decided how much revenue it would give back to the Iranian government.  The British government profited more from the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in just taxes than the Iranian government received from any and every source of income it had.#  All this was done in spite of the fact that the International Court at The Hague had ruled in favor of Iran’s nationalization of its oil.  Had the British offered Razmara a deal that was as favorable to Iran as the deals they gave to the Saudis or the Egyptians, Iranian pride may not have been insulted, and Ramzara would perhaps have survived and even remade his country into an ally of the Western democracies.  Razmara’s apparent lack of militancy on this issue led to his assassination by the Fadayan-e Islam, a nationalist-Muslim-terrorist organization.  Had the British not reacted to the court decision in favor of nationalization by a blockade against Iran in the Strait of Hormuz, Ramzara might have been able to continue in office, and in turn, would have prevented the rise of the ultra-nationalist Mossadegh.  

In April of that year, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh was voted in as Prime Minister by a vote of 79 to 12 in the Iranian Parliament.  One of his first actions was to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.  Rather than accept a negotiated deal with the British as Razmara had preferred, Mossadegh was committed to unilaterally nationalizing Iranian oil.  So committed was Mossadegh to nationalizing the oil industry that he expelled all British technicians without which it was impossible to produce Iranian oil in the same quantities.  In response, the British established a blockade of the Persian Gulf to prohibit Iran from exporting its oil.  They also withdrew all of their trained technicians from the country, both actions paralyzing the Iranian oil industry.   An economic stalemate ensued:  Mossadegh’s government did not allow British involvement in its oil industry and Britain would not allow oil to leave Iran. As a result of Mossadegh’s intransigence, the Iranian government lost all oil payments.  In such an anti-imperialist climate, the Tudeh (Communist) Party found it easy to make gains in an election.  The Tudeh claimed that only communism with its support from the neighboring Soviet Union could effectively deal with the unbridled ambitions of Iran’s imperialist enemies.

In September 1952, after a series of not very half-hearted offers, the British finally made an offer so serious that would easily have been enough to placate Iranian pride had it been made to a pro-western prime minister like Razmara. Unfortunately, it came a year too late to keep Razmara in power.  The offer contained the following provisions:

1.  The British informally would accept Iran's oil nationalization.
2.  Negotiations between Britain and Iran on the sale and distribution of Iran's oil.
3.  British would buy all oil then stored in Iranian tanks – $20 to $30 million worth, in spite of British claims that the oil rightfully belonged to Britain.
4.  Britain would lift the ban on exports to Iran, and the unfreezing of Iranian sterling holdings in the Commonwealth.
5.  The issue of compensation Iranians owed to the British for the Anglo-Iranian Oil holdings would be submitted to the International Court at The Hague, along with the matter of whether past British operations in Iran were legal.
6.  The United States of America would provide Iran with a $10 million bonus,  contingent on Iranian acceptance of the deal.#

Unfortunately, Razmara was not the Prime Minister to whom this offer was made.  Instead, Mohammed Mossadegh was by then not only the Prime Minister, but also the autocratic ruler of Iran.  The Shah at first attempted to wrest control away when Mossadegh insisted upon control of the army only to find that Mossadegh’s dismissal provoked a popular uprising.   Mossadegh was recalled and the Shah was forced into a temporary exile.  The source of Mossadegh’s power was that his extreme nationalism had such popular appeal in the streets of Teheran.  Were he to have cooperated with the British and Americans, he would have lost his appeal to Iranians and in his place would have come either political Islam represented by men such as Ayatollah Kashani or the Tudeh (Communist) party, both of which were biding their time because the 73-year-old Mossadegh could not last forever.

By the end of Mossadegh’s reign, the only ideological force not alienated by him was that of the communists.  It should be mentioned that Mossadegh himself was no communist – he was an ultra-nationalist who opposed the USSR on matters of Iranian interest, as he did on the matter of the USSR’s attempt to seize complete control of the Caspian Sea.  But it is reasonable to believe that a communist regime might have easily succeeded Mossadegh because everyone else had been defeated.  For the moment, other than the Shah himself, there were no eminent pro-Western political figures to take the place of General Razmara.  In 1952, Mossadegh asked for another year of dictatorial powers.  Mossadegh’s previous ally, Ayatollah Kashani, the Speaker of the Majles (lower house of Parliament) and the preeminent Islamic politician, attempted to block his request.  For his action, Kashani was forced to leave the Majles.  Mossadegh even said in an interview that he expected that  he would be succeeded by a communist government.#  In the time leading up to Mossadegh’s downfall on August 19, 1953 the communists were very supportive of his anti-Western stance.  Since it is doubtful that Mossadegh was ever going to operate under conditions favorable to Western powers, the Tudeh Party would likely have continued to operate with Mossadegh’s favor.  If Mossadegh had continued in power unimpeded by a C.I.A. inspired coup d’etat, it is highly likely that he would have at least been succeeded by communist rulers, thereby establishing a communist presence in an area of extreme strategic importance.

By attempting to depose the Shah, Mossadegh had furthered his political isolation, already a factor because of the economic crisis Iran was facing.  Mossadegh’s inability to break the British blockade and sell oil was counted as a strike against him in a country that was desperately poor and counted on its oil revenue to support its very weak peasant economy.  Without oil income, inflation was a continual concern in his country - at the time of the coup against him, the Iranian rial had fallen to 118 to the US dollar#.  With the stalemate between the British and the Mossadegh government continuing to ruin the Iranian economy, thereby making the threat of a communist takeover an ever more real possibility, the government of the United States in the person of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles stepped in to break the impasse. Dulles ordered his brother, Director of the C.I.A. Allen Welsh Dulles, to engineer a political crisis that would be resolved by a military coup.  When the Shah fled the country in accordance with his role in the C.I.A. plot, “Operation Ajax,” Mossadegh had, in effect, instigated an anti-monarchist revolt which technically legitimated a counter-coup by military forces loyal to the Shah.  From Rome, the Shah was able to issue an order deposing Mossadegh and confer political power on Gen. Fazlollah Zahedi, the former interior minister and Mossadegh opponent, who was able to find enough support in the military to organize a military coup d’etat.

In place of Mossadeq and his Tudeh allies, the C.I.A. brought back the Shah. The British strengthened the Shah’s hand by offering the kind of oil deal that they should have offered Razmara in the first place.  The lifting of the blockade, the increase in revenue from the new arrangement with the British government and the British Petroleum Company, the return of economic stability to Iran, and the satisfaction of the perceived insult by the UK to the people and government of Iran, the Shah re-commenced his reign with a strong political hand. The Shah began an autocratic-nationalist rule that was certainly not extreme by the standards of Pinochet and his military allies in southern South America, but his monarchy certainly cannot be described as a liberal parliamentary regime.  The Shah banned the Tudeh Party and political dissidents were repressed by the SAVAK, the Shah’s political police.  The later political problems of the Shah were not caused by his extreme cruelty, but rather by his attempts to be a kind of enlightened despot who would unilaterally try to bring Iran into the twentieth century by backing suffrage for women and other kinds of women’s rights, interfering with the power and influence of the Shiite clergy, sponsoring land reform and other economic innovations, and even supporting some kind of political and economic accommodation with Israel.  

An attempt to remake Iran into a progressive country with global political aspirations was extremely ambitious and should probably not have been attempted without considerable domestic political support, but the Shah had ruined his ability to build up that kind of support by disdaining democracy, which perhaps could have been effectively managed.  Instead the Shah followed the same autocratic style that worked very well earlier for his regime, but was clearly outdated as Iran became wealthier, more educated, and included many more sophisticated, informed, and wealthy citizens. That was certainly a terrible fault of the Shah’s regime, and he paid for this fault terribly.  But the crucial point to account for is that the autocracy was established initially with the complicity and sponsorship of the United States government to counter not an incipient democracy, as is often alleged, but a chaotic situation that was destined to result in a communist takeover in a critical part of the world with results that could very well have been catastrophic for the foreign policy interests of the United States.

Indonesia from Sukarno to Suharto

Indonesia is a superb example of Kirkpatrick’s theory working in reverse: an authoritarian with definite communist sympathies deposed by a right-wing dictator friendly to the West and far closer to totalitarianism in his methods.  There is little doubt that the Sukarno (1901-1970; President of Indonesia, 1949-1967) regime was perpetually on the verge of collapse throughout its duration.  In addition to right-wing military men like Suharto and Nasution waiting for Sukarno’s collapse, the PKI (the Indonesian Communist party) waited as well to be Sukarno’s successor.  As with Pinochet and the Shah, one must at least ask the question if Suharto’s brutality prevented a civil war between the rival factions who expected to benefit from Sukarno’s downfall.  

The answer for Suharto unfortunately must be the same as the answer for Pinochet: an extremely qualified “yes.” Sukarno’s interpretation of non-alignment was in effect an alliance with an enormous communist party which had already attempted to depose his government and a rejection of Western interference that was often desperately needed.  The intentions of the Suharto coup were undoubtedly dubious at best.  But whatever damning accusations one can make against the Suharto regime in terms of its venality or its lack of concern for its citizens, several incontrovertible facts remain in its favor:  Under Sukarno, the Communist PKI grew under Sukarno to be 3 million strong, a larger Communist party than that of any Communist country outside of Russia and China#.  Moreover, the PKI had already attempted a coup d’etat in 1948, yet Sukarno felt threatened enough by them to keep them in his Cabinet.  Secondly, Sukarno had launched a preemptive war Malaysia in 1963, claiming that Malaysia was a mere vestige of British imperialism nearby.  Thirdly, Sukarno had rejected aid from the United States when the price of rice was so unaffordable to the average Indonesian that widespread famine resulted.   Fourthly, Sukarno’s opposition to imperialism made him reject any influence of Western governments that might have helped him better manage the Indonesian economy which had increasing difficulty in providing even basic sustenance for its burgeoning population.  In other words, Sukarno might have claimed to be non-aligned, but he clearly leaned to the East, giving Suharto cause for a coup.

In 1949, Indonesia finally achieved full independence from the Dutch and established a functioning parliamentary state with Sukarno given the figurehead title of President.  However, Sukarno was able to achieve real power in the Indonesian government through a system he devised which he entitled “Guided Democracy.”  According to Sukarno, Western Democracy was not commensurate with Indonesian “values.”  Therefore, a system was needed where the pre-eminent groups of Indonesia - the Communists, the Nationalists and the Islamists – would deliberate under the “guidance” of their president.  Under such a system, the president could always “guide” national discussions to achieve the national consensus he desired.  The system allowed Sukarno to stay in power for nearly 20 years until he was deposed by Suharto in 1965-66, who turned out to be far more authoritarian in his methods than Sukarno ever was.

The circumstances that create the necessity of a coup d’etat do not justify all methods of implementing a coup.  In every conceivable way, Suharto was a more brutal authoritarian than Sukarno.  At times, his authoritarian rule verged on the totalitarian.  And yet by Kirkpatrick’s standards, Sukarno would have been considered a “revolutionary autocrat” while Suharto would have been considered the “traditional autocrat.”  Sukarno was unquestionably a strongman who did not allow for parliamentary procedure, but he nevertheless allowed for political parties and assembly.  Suharto banned the Communist Party outright and forced all other parties to consolidate under the auspices of three state-approved parties.  Sukarno declared a preemptive war on Malaysia, while Suharto not only annexed East Timor, but, in the process of resisting East Timorese independence, caused the deaths of approximately 200,000 inhabitants, roughly 1/3rd of East Timor’s population#.  Just in the coup itself that replaced Sukarno with Suharto, varying estimates put the deaths incurred in the anti-PKI massacres at anywhere between 78,000 and 2 million.#  

In such a case, one must ask if there was anything that could have been done to prevent the
coup d’etat from being so bloody.  The CIA has admitted to involvement in Indonesia from at least 1958 when the Agency backed an abortive coup d’etat against Sukarno.#  Upon achieving power, Suharto immediately took steps to earn the West’s favor by severing relations with China and encouraging foreign investment.   Would the threat of partial economic sanctions or divestment have been enough to have brought about changes in the way Suharto conducted his regime?  

In order to answer this question properly, perhaps the Brzezinski/Friedrich criteria for a totalitarian state should be applied to Suharto’s Indonesia.  The Suharto regime was astonishingly close to fulfilling the requirements for a “totalitarian state.”  Suharto certainly allowed for private investment and ownership.  But Suharto’s army successfully maintained a steady monopoly on weapons, crushing civil unrest in its path as it did to the Aceh province in 1976.  Of the three parties allowed by the Suharto regime, only Suharto’s own Golkar party was allowed to swell in membership, while the other two were restricted to very low numbers.  As of 1992, Suharto’s intelligence organization (KOPKAMTIB) was monitoring approximately 1.4 million suspected PKI sympathizers#.  However, passing four of the six criteria would not merit consideration of the Suharto regime as anything more than a particularly brutal authoritarian state were it not for the presence of a total ideology.

In 1967, Suharto instituted what was called ‘The New Order.’  ‘The New Order’ was a  program of rigorously applied authoritarian practices that resulted in the imprisonment of approximately one and a half million suspected Communists sympathizers, the oppression of Indonesia’s Chinese minority through banning of its culture and often much more lethal measures, and imperial expansion into neighboring islands like East Timor#.  Surely, there is little in Pinochet’s Chile that compares.  “The New Order” had the three features of a total ideology

    1. 1. Using the Chinese ethnic minority and Communism as scapegoats for all of Indonesia’s ills, “The New Order” found the enemies that a total ideology requires to sustain itself. 

    1. 2.
  1. Indonesia’s expansion into East Timor, along with its suppression of the Aceh province and the underhanded annexation of western New Guinea, amounted to a partial achievement of the objective which Suharto called “Indonesia Raya” (Greater Indonesia).  Through the actions listed above, it becomes plainly clear that Suharto’s goals included imperial expansion into neighboring territories where the native population had little if any desire to consider itself Indonesian.  

  1. 3.
  1. Suharto’s regime placed a near-theological faith in capitalism that resembled Communism’s faith in socialism at its most ideological.  Under Suharto, capitalism was not only the means to enhance his regime’s base of power and stability, it was also the means by which Indonesia was supposed to be eternally liberated from Chinese influence and oppression.  

It is generally held that total ideology requires a vision of an ideal society, a scapegoat to blame for the failure to reach the ideal, and a means by which the ideal is achieved.  On all three counts, Suharto’s Indonesia meets the criteria and therefore it is conceivable that the country was gripped by a total ideology.  This would mean that Indonesia under Suharto would count as meeting five of the six standards required for a totalitarian state.  In such a case, it is highly improbable that even economic sanctions or divestment would have changed Indonesia’s methods.  The only method to change such a state would be a change in regime, a change that took place thirty-three years later, and it is certainly unclear that economic sanctions or divestment would have sped up the process of regime change to any great degree.  

Instead, all that could have been done was to do everything within the power of the West to cooperate with Sukarno to prevent the eventuality of Suharto’s Indonesia Raya.  Of course, the United States and the C.I.A. probably could not have completely anticipated all the terrible things that Suharto would eventually accomplish.  It is certainly possible that Sukarno would have been more willing to accept the aid his country desperately needed and that the United States offerred if the United States had not previously attempted to instigate a coup d’etat.  Sukarno was unquestionably a strongman, but his version of “Guided Democracy” was certainly successful in the way it enabled Sukarno to maintain power for nearly 20 years.  Before 1966, both the left and the right had attempted a coup d’etat against Sukarno, yet neither side was successful.  In truth, there is ample evidence listed above to demonstrate that Sukarno was neither pro-capitalist nor pro-communist, he was pro-Sukarno.  If the United States had cooperated with Sukarno in maintaining his delicate balance of power, perhaps Sukarno would have looked more favorably upon US influence and been more amenable to curtailing the influence of the PKI.  For in retrospect, absolutely anything should have been tried to prevent the rise of a semi-totalitarian like Suharto, including cooperation with a PKI-lead Indonesia.


                     Revolutionary Autocrats

Kirkpatrick’s greatest failure was her inability to understand the real subtleties of relationships between communist countries as they were.  To Kirkpatrick, the countries governed by communist regimes were mere cogs in the wheel of a monolithic structure unaffected by the historic alliances, ethnic conflicts, and national hostilities which affect the sweep of history.  But communist countries were in fact like all other countries in the subtleties of historical dynamics that dictate the ways they relate to one another and to the outside world.  Those living within communist countries were not inhuman specimens whose nature had changed by living under Soviet oppression; they were human beings with the same kinds of historic national aspirations and the same kinds of historic hostilities as those on the other side of the Iron Curtain.  

Stalin’s death in 1953 had left the entire Soviet sphere in a state of flux.  Within the countries whose control he had acquired at Yalta and afterwards, he lacked the time to go about organizing a purge of “traitors” that was on the same level as the “Great Terrors” he had organized within the Soviet Union itself.   With the demise of Stalin, many of the countries that had recently been forced to accept communism found it impossible to apply the “proper” principles of totalitarianism to the same extent that the paranoid Stalin had demonstrated over the course of the many purges he had conducted.  Therefore, seeds of rebellion that from the totalitarian point of view should have been snuffed out before they ever had a chance to take root, were permitted to sprout.  

The USSR, particularly under Khrushchev, had two basic choices from which it could operate.  One was to attempt a Stalinist “cleansing” of the territories so that none would dare to oppose the will of the Soviets.  The other was to form an implicit social contract with the citizens who lived in these countries.  Hard-line Soviet-appointed leaders such as Poland’s Bierut and later Gomulka (who was at first appeared to be relatively liberal), Hungary’s Rakosi and Czechoslovakia’s Novotny, demonstrated clearly to the Soviets that attempts to clamp down on the people in the manner of Stalinism would only further incite rebellion among populations already hostile to Russian-dominated communism.#  

However, the replacements to the first generation of Soviet satellite leaders--Gierek in Poland, Nagy in Hungary, and Dubcek in Czechoslovakia--proved in each case that the populace of their respective countries would not simply be satisfied with reforms on a small scale.  In all three cases, the relaxing of the party’s coercive grip led to large-scale calls for Western-style liberalization and democratization.  The relative freedom which each of these leaders allowed was enough to whet the appetites of many citizens for greater freedom.  

Perhaps it should have occurred to Kirkpatrick to perceive Gierek, Nagy, and Dubcek as the indicators of communism’s weakness and ultimate demise.  In all three countries, the Soviet Union could not hope to permanently suppress a hostile and rebellious population.  Therefore the Kremlin replaced these “liberals” and installed in all three countries a new pragmatic leadership in the hope that small scale accommodation and liberalization would make a modified form of Soviet communism acceptable to a hostile population.  Perhaps in all three cases, the model should have pointed to the same end result that occurred much later in the Soviet Union itself under Mikhail Gorbachev.  If Stalin and earlier Stalinists had been in power, they would have argued strenuously that when communist systems try to gradually liberalize themselves, the end result would be the collapse of the system more often than successful creation of a more liberal form of communism.

In this regard, let us consider the case of Poland and its historic relationship to Russia.  Communism in Poland was clearly a system imposed on a country that had always been unwilling to accept it.  As a whole, the country was extraordinarily devout in its Roman Catholicism.  A country as resolute in its Catholic piety as Poland would never have installed a system that either hailed from an historically Orthodox country or proclaimed atheism as its core principle unless the system was imposed by force.  The Soviet Union had always been hated by the Poles, if for no other reason than that it was perceived as a Russian (and often as a Jewish) invention.  Unlike other Slavic peoples such as the Bulgarians, the Serbs, the Macedonians, and occasionally even the Czechs, Poland never looked to Russia as a Slavic “big brother.”  Since the Middle Ages, Poles had identified themselves as a Western peoples by dint of their religion and looked accordingly to the West for guidance, protection and orientation.  

In the eighteenth century, Poland had been partitioned by the Russians (along with their Prussian and Austrian accomplices) no less than three times.  In the nineteenth century, Poland was in a continual state of rebellion against their Czarist overlords.  In the twentieth century, Poles viewed Russians as having attempted yet again to overthrow their post-World War One independence when the Red Army reached the outskirts of Warsaw in 1920.# From the Polish perspective, Marshal Pilsudski magnificent victory over the Reds not only restored Polish independence, but saved Western Civilization from the onslaught of communism,# much as Sobieski’s victory over the Turks in the outskirts of Vienna in 1683 had saved Western Civilization from the Mohammedan Turks.  But Poland’s independence was short-lived.  In 1939, the Germans and Russians once again conspired to wipe Poland off the map in what amounted to Poland’s fourth partition.  Perhaps all that allowed Poland to re-emerge after the war as even a nominally independent country was Hitler’s surprise betrayal of Stalin in the form of the 1941 invasion.  But even with Poland’s re-established independence, it was much reduced in size on its eastern border and completely under Soviet domination.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

From the Polish nationalist perspective, communism was imposed on an unwilling country by force, and force was all that kept communism in power.  Obviously, the Communist Party of Poland worked long and hard to try to convince Poland that her nationalist perspective needed to be re-interpreted and that the dominance of the Soviet Communist Party was just the aid of a fraternal socialist system that, by virtue of its previous establishment as the first successful communist revolution, was entitled to some say in the Polish state of affairs.  However, few people, and least of all the Soviet leaders in the Kremlin, were under any illusions that the Polish masses accepted a pro-Soviet or a pro-Russian re-interpretation of Poland’s history.  Poland had always looked westward in its orientation, and by the end of the twentieth century looking west meant preferring democracy and capitalism.

For Polish nationalists, the great event of the second half of the twentieth century was the election in 1978 of Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, the Archbishop of Cracow, as Pope John Paul II.  Poland was arguably the most Catholic country in Europe, one where the Church historically was closely associated with Polish national identity (in opposition to the neighboring Protestants of East Germany and to the Orthodox of White Russia and the Ukraine). The election of a Polish pope galvanized Poland’s political hostility to its imposed communist economic and political system as nothing else could.  Although John Paul was not usually a direct player in the events that led to the overthrow of communism in Poland, his presence in Rome as the Polish Catholic and nationalist symbol of opposition to the Soviet Union and communism was undoubtedly one of the necessary factors that made the overthrow of communism possible.#                                                                                      

It is clear that for reasons cultural, economic, historical and religious, Poland was continually struggling from underneath the yoke of Russian oppression despite being nominally ruled by the local Polish Communist Party.  According to Kirkpatrick’s thinking, such struggles would have ceased with the institutionalization of communist rule because Soviet bloc countries had been so indoctrinated that there was no chance of a Soviet bloc country instituting a large-scale rebellion which the Soviet system could not put down.  But the Soviet system had eroded well past the point that it could manage rebellion.  Stalin had shown that autocracy on such a massive scale may only thrive with totalitarianism.  By the end of the Brezhnev regime, on through the chairmanships of Andropov, Chernenko, and Gorbachev, the Soviet Union was no longer even recognizable as a shadow of the totalitarian state that it had been under Stalin.# Poland’s ability to stand up to Soviet threats, its ability to ward off a Soviet intervention because the cost to the Soviet Union would be too high, would have been unimaginable under Stalin. And Poland’s communist party was not quite the same pliant puppet of the CPSU that it had been earlier under Gomułka, completely willing to place the will of the Soviets above even the determined will of the Polish people.  General Wojciech Jaruzelski might have been a devoted and committed communist, but he still was enough of a nationalist not to want to sacrifice Poland to an intervention by the armed might of the Soviet Union.#  In a sense, General Jaruzelski had saved Poland from the power of the Soviet Army much as Marshall Pilsudski had about sixty years earlier.  “But Jaruzelski was no Pilsudski, however, for the former always regarded national independence as the only real end and national dignity as the only acceptable means.  Pilsudski, with typical bluntness, once explained that he had become a revolutionary because he refused ‘to live in the toilet’ of Russian domination; Jaruzelski spent his life as a latrine orderly.”#

 As Poland’s communist apparatus ossified with time, it could no longer command the population to comply with the dictates of the party in order to comply with the exigencies of the communist style planned economy.  Popular pressure forced the country to relinquish control of its command economy and its monopoly on the media and all communication.  And as this Soviet Bloc country lost control of the apparatus that allowed it to possess total control, it became as ripe for a transition to democracy as much as any “traditional autocracy.”

Kirkpatrick was extraordinarily perceptive in her realization that many traditional autocracies create the conditions of their own demise.  What she did not realize is that traditional autocracy can come in left-wing form as well as right wing form.  The same forces of entropy that allowed for the dissolution of authoritarian apparatus in so many parts of Southern Europe, Latin America and East Asia allowed for a similar dissolution in Eastern Europe of authoritarianism as well.  If one submits Poland to the test of Brzezinski/Friedrich, one quickly finds the Polish communist system wanting in its ability to be considered totalitarian: the Polish Catholic Church and Solidarity destroyed Poland’s monopoly on the press, challenged the one party system, made way for a competing ideology, and forced Poland to borrow money from western capitalist banks.  However brutal it was, Poland from Gomulka to Jaruzelski was far from a Stalinist type totalitarian state.  Poland was in many ways a typical authoritarian state of the late 20th century, concerned primarily with protecting its only its monopoly on power, that ultimately succombed as so many dictatorships of both the left and right did simultaneously.  



Perhaps it is equally important to critique Kirkpatrick’s argument from the standpoint of political theory as it to do so from the standpoint of history.  While Kirkpatrick’s ideas were sound as political propaganda, they were quite unsound from the point of view of political science.  There are untold numbers of examples from the conduct of states in the world at large that disprove her theory – only a select few of many are listed above.  But the ironclad test to which Kirkpatrick’s argument must be subjected is to find out whether her argument holds up as political theory.

The way in which one may critique Kirkpatrick’s ideas as theory is to compare them to another theory.  This paper has already shown that Kirkpatrick’s theory of totalitarianism would not hold up under the stringent standards of either Friedrich/Brzezinski or Arendt.  However, Kirkpatrick’s argument over what constitutes the difference between autocracy and totalitarianism would also not hold up when subjected to a more generalized political theory by a theorist roughly her contemporary:  Isaiah Berlin.

According to Isaiah Berlin, liberty in its most general sense can be divided into two categories: positive liberty and negative liberty.  The meaning of positive liberty is the freedom to achieve potential.  Positive liberty implies not only that a person is free to be all that he can be, but that a person is able to discover what he is capable of.  

“The ‘positive’ sense of the word ‘liberty’ derives from the wish on the part of the individual to be his own master.  “I wish my life and decisions to depend on myself,” he explained, “not on external forces of whatever kind.  I wish to be the instrument of my own, not of other men’s acts of will.  I wish to be a subject, not an object; to be moved by reasons, by conscious purposes, which are my own, not by causes which affect me, as it were, from outside.  I wish to be somebody, not nobody; a doer – deciding, not being decided for, self-directed and not acted upon by external nature or by other men as if I were a thing, …that is, of conceiving goals and policies of my own and realizing them….I wish, above all, to be conscious of myself as a thinking, willing, active being, bearing responsibility for my choices and able to explain them by reference to my own ideas and purposes.”#

Berlin’s basic critique of positive liberty is that it is the driving force that often leads individuals to assume that the potential which they choose to achieve is not only their own individual potential, but should be the individual potential of others.  Thus, the individual may see himself as knowing what is best for other members of society better than they themselves do.  While such paternalism can be benevolent, it can also be a destructive:  it is often the motive that puts the individual at the service of “a social ‘whole,’ of which the individual is an element or aspect:  a tribe, a race, a Church, a State, the great society of the living and the dead and the yet unborn.”#  Therefore, the “whole” (which Arendt would term the “masses”) would claim to speak for what choices are best for those individuals under its purview better than the individual would.  The “whole” may even claim that individuals in truth seek what they appear to resist.  In the name of individuals’ “true” wishes, they may be coerced in any way which the “whole” deems necessary. The state is organized to act as the political manifestation of the whole. When a state founded upon positive liberty decides that citizens are acting to achieve their potentials differently from the way the “whole” thinks they should, the state then becomes free to coerce its citizens towards the wishes of the “whole,” whether or not the individual agrees with those goals.#

Conversely, the meaning of negative liberty is the ability of individuals to be free from coercion.  In Berlin’s own words:

I am normally said to be free to the degree to which no man or body of men interferes with my activity.  Political liberty in this sense is simply the area within which a man can act unobstructed by others.  If I am prevented by others from doing what I could otherwise do, I am to that degree unfree; and if this area is contracted by other men beyond a certain minimum, I can be described as having been coerced, or, it may be, enslaved.  .  . Coercion implies the deliberate interference of other human beings within the area in which I could otherwise act.#  

Negative liberty implies that a person is free when he can do what he wants without interference by others.  “The wider the area of non-interference the wider my freedom” is how Berlin put it.#  However, absolute negative liberty would create an anarchic situation in which there would be no barriers to prevent people’s interfering with each other in the pursuit of their own goals:  all races would be to the swiftest and all battles to the strongest.  Therefore, free action has barriers placed in its way by laws. Berlin lauds negative liberty as a concept that ultimately leads to the practice of democracy and liberalism.#  

      That negative liberty is not an absolute goal should be a given.  There is always a certain amount of positive liberty that will be necessary in order to live under any government, regardless of how liberal.  However, positive liberty is only necessary in the individual sense, and in the collective sense it ought to be reviled.  When positive liberty is used in the collective sense, it becomes an excuse to coerce individuals who do not meet the arbitrary requirements of a collective.  A person who causes another person to do something against his will becomes a force for positive liberty because the person is in effect forcing the other person to become the “do-er” of an action against his will.  Therefore, he ought to be prevented from doing so.

Using Isaiah Berlin’s concepts of positive and negative liberty helps to expose the fundamental flaws in the thinking of both Jimmy Carter and Jeane Kirkpatrick.   In both cases, history will show them to have colossally misunderstood negative liberty.  To President Carter, the appearance of negative liberty is to be welcomed at all times and cultivated unquestioningly.  A president more wary of the application of negative liberty would not have supported liberal democrats in Nicaragua and Iran at the expense of our more stable allies, the Shah and the Somozas.  A president more attuned to the fragility of negative liberty would have perceived that liberals in both countries were dupes of stronger Marxist and Islamist forces whose relative strength in opposition to the liberals would never have allowed for a notable expansion of negative liberty.  Those liberals should have understood that once the extremists had used the liberals to get rid of the conservative autocratic status quo, they would then get rid of the liberals as well.  Both Iran and Nicaragua were applications of negative liberty too absolute to be effective, and the stronger forces of Marxism and Islamism took hold in both places.

To Ambassador Kirkpatrick, the appearance of negative liberty was to be viewed as a matter for undue caution.  Rather than welcome its appearance, Kirkpatrick generally viewed it as something of which we should be suspicious.  To Kirkpatrick, negative liberty was a luxury that ought to be willingly surrendered to whatever extent she deemed necessary in the face of a foe that would force people to surrender negative liberty to an even greater extent.

In fact, Kirkpatrick’s beliefs, when taken to their logical extreme, would lead to authoritarianism.  What hard-line conservatives like Kirkpatrick never understood is that no state is capable of successfully attaining the absolute goals to which positive liberty aspires.  Kirkpatrick displayed her misunderstanding of that fact when she wrote that “As new norms are internalized, new beliefs accepted, new habits established, the need to coerce conformity through crash ‘thought reform’ programs and punishment of dissenters (in totalitarian countries) should decline."#   
This quote displays that Kirkpatrick mistakenly believed, as so many conservatives did, that the Soviet Union had succeeded in its goal of changing human nature.  Therefore she also mistakenly believed that the absolute goals of positive liberty could be realized.  The Soviet Union collapsed because it was incapable of realizing its goal of a worker’s paradise, and therefore it imploded from within, toppled by the very people whose lives their ideology sought to improve.  

The Soviet Union was supposed to continue indefinitely in the worldview of Kirkpatrick, or, at least, its imminent demise was completely unexpected in contrast to the demise of contemporaneous authoritarian regimes whose replacement by more democratic capitalist forms of political and economic organization she completely foresaw.  According to her, the seeming decrease of coercion in, for example, the Brezhnev and Khrushchev regimes as compared to that of Stalin was not due to the entropy of the system, but to the Soviet Union’s complete success in normalizing and regularizing the communist revolution.  Kirkpatrick believed that the after 70 years the communist party so completely institutionalized its own rule that it no longer needed to use brute force to maintain its stability.  Obviously she was completely wrong in her assessment, but it is in this belief that one ultimately sees Kirkpatrick for what she is: a believer in positive liberty as a force for collective good.

Kirkpatrick’s belief in positive liberty is manifest in her sense that the Soviet Union was an implacable enemy that could continue indefinitely because its society succeeded in its goal of changing human nature.  If she believed that the Soviet Union was successful in changing human nature, then it stands to reason that she believed human nature itself to be changeable.  The belief in the ability to change human nature, to free humanity from the limitations that make perfection unattainable, is the telltale sign of a positive libertarian.  

In the fight against communism, Kirkpatrick did not fight on principle against positive liberty.  She rather fought against a type of positive liberty she thought to be inferior to the brand of positive liberty which she believed in.  Because she thought that communism was a foe which needed to be opposed indefinitely, she believed that negative liberty was for an indefinite time period a luxury that must be surrendered for the sake of fighting it.  While she claimed that “traditional autocrats” only need to be supported in case of existential threats, her true belief was that right-wing dictators must be supported absolutely.  The specter of an ever-potential communist revolution or coup d’etat was continually an existential threat to every country that had communists.  It was not simply a matter of supporting right-wing dictators in their fights against communism; it was a matter of supporting right-wing dictators in any fight the dictators chose to fight because a loss incurred the potential of a communist government that would never leave.  Therefore, the actions of an authoritarian government that happened to be anti-communist were always justifiable because to flag in one’s support would incur the possibility of capitulation to the communists.

History ultimately proved Jeane J. Kirkpatrick quite wrong in her assessment.  Communism was no more or less successful in changing human nature than any other form of positive liberty before or since – in other words, not successful at all.  In the wake of its futile attempts to bend human nature into contortions impossible to hold, its failed social and economic experiments have left untold devastation.   

As a thinker Kirkpatrick had two great strengths and two great weaknesses.  Her great strengths laid in her ability to realize the devastation which communism wrought and to realize that authoritarianism in government can give way to democracy.  Yet within these strengths lie her weaknesses:  her perception of communism’s devastation blinded her to the potential for democratic transition in the communist world, and this lack of foresight about the future downfall of communism blinded her to the devastation that so many authoritarian regimes caused.  By going to such lengths to oppose communism so totally, Kirkpatrick and those who held her worldview came to resemble the communists ever so slightly in their pursuit of absolutes.      

However, what ultimately distinguishes the attitude of Jeane Kirkpatrick and those conservatives who think as she did about communism is the counterintuitive way in which they always read signals in order to fit their theories.  To Kirkpatrick, the relative relaxation of Soviet grip upon the lives of its citizens was not a sign that communism was weakening;  it was in fact a sign that communism was gaining strength.  Soviet oppression was relatively less common in later years because the Soviet Union had triumphed in its attempt to break its citizens of habits which human nature had formed.  Rather than seeing the Soviet Union as a decadent and weakening empire, she willed herself to see an empire that was strengthened by conditions that others would read as weakness.  

A belief in the invincibility of the Soviet Union and the Soviet system flew in the face of empirical evidence and can almost be regarded as a religious belief based upon faith.  It is the mirror image of the same kind of religious belief based upon absolute faith in Marxism, rather than a reliance on skepticism and empiricism, that made the communist system possible.  It should also come as no surprise that this interpretation of facts to fit an opinion is precisely what led Kirkpatrick to believe that support of allies, regardless of their practices, must be unconditional and undirected.  As it was to Dulles, Goldwater, Chambers and Burnham before Kirkpatrick, all that was important was to beat the enemy.  It was immaterial to question whether the price of victory by any means was worth the sacrifice.  What a country becomes in the process of vanquishing its enemy was considered trivial compared to the tragedy a country would undergo if it were vanquished by the enemy. But such an unreflective attitude as expressed by Kirkpatrick and other conservatives is not realistic.  It is a form of conservative idealism that imagines all actions to be justified in the pursuit of the enemy’s defeat.  In this regard, Kirkpatrick is just one eminence in a continuing tradition of conservative ideologues that seek to justify excessive brutality by exaggerating the strength of the enemy.  To be sure, the ideology of Kirkpatrick was nowhere near as potent as the ideology of communism was, but the two resemble each other more than either would have liked to admit.  

Works Cited:

BOOKS and Articles

  1. Arendt, Hannah.  Origins of Totalitarianism.  New York, Schocken Books, 1951
  2. Isaiah Berlin, “Two Concepts of Liberty,” Liberty: Incorpoating Four Essays on Liberty, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997). Pp. 166-217.
  3. M.B.Biskupski, The History of Poland, (Westport, CT) Greenwood Press, 2000, pp. 70-71.
  4. Coleman,  Fred.  The Decline and Fall of the Soviet Empire: Forty Years that Shook the World from Stalin to Yeltsin.  New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996.  
  5. Marc Cooper, “Chile and the End of Pinochet,” The Nation, February 26, 2001,
  6. William H. Frederick and Robert L. Worden, editors. “Irian Jaya and East Timor,”  Indonesia: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1993.
  7. William H. Frederick and Robert L. Worden, editors. “SUHARTO,”  Indonesia: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1993.
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