THE REAGAN administration has a new approach to human rights which, while it won't affect anyone in the United States, may have some important ramifications for political prisoners around the world. The philosophy of the new approach was expressed recently by Prof. Jeane Kirkpatrick of Georgetown University, who is a very influential Reagan adviser.
"If we are confronted with the choice between offering assistance to a moderately repressive autocratic government, which is also friendly to the United States, and permitting it to be overrun by a Cuban-trained, Cuban-armed, Cucan-sponsored insurgency, we would assist the moderate autocracy," Ms. Kirkpatrick was quoted as saying.
Nobody in his or her right mind would argue with that. The big question is, how far a moderately repressive autocratic government can go to keep the opposition down? New human rights guidelines will have to be written for the MRAG countries.
Right now the ambassadors of Moderately Repressive Autocratic Governments are being called home for Christmas to advise their juntas on what the new American government will expect of them in the human rights field.
"Colonels, I am happy to report that we can expect all the support we need from the United States to put down the political opposition, providing we can prove our repressive government is being threatened by Cuban intervention."
"Suppose we can't prove it?"
"They'll take our word for it, if we can produce confessions from our political opponents."
"Does that mean we can still resort to torture to exact the confessions?"
"In moderation. Obviously, a certain amount of torture has to be used but we can't overdo it."
"Can we still beat political prisoners with truncheons?"
"Of course that is acceptable. But attaching electric wires to a person's intimate parts can only be done under the supervision of a doctor."
"What about dunking them in water until they almost drown?"
"If it's done with compassion. But I think we better stay away from pulling out fingernails, at least at the beginning of the Reagan term."
"Can we continue summary executions without trials?"
"Nobody in the Reagan transition team has spoken out against them. From all I can gather, the U.S. will no longer interfere in our justice system."
"Thank God. Does that mean we can still throw writers, editors and students into prison without having our military aid cut off?"
"I believe that the U.S. would encourage it as long as we can prove they are a threat to the regime."
"Will the secret police be able to get the latest equipment to put down terrorism in our country?"
"That goes without saying. If the United States wants to keep us as a friend, they're going to give us the tools to keep another regime from taking over."
"They're finally making some sense in Washington. As I see it, as long as we torture our opponents in moderation and repress our people for their own good, and only shoot the people who deserve it, we can have good relations with the United States again."
"Colonels, I don't know about the rest of you, but as head of the Moderate Repressive Junta I recommend we give human rights a try."