The maxim "the more cooks, the worse the broth" does not apply to the making of U.S. foreign policy. Too few cooks produce the bland cuisine of the State Department's policy cafeteria. That department has an unreasonably high ratio of interests to ideas, which is why the Reagan administration needs to be leavened by Jeane Kirkpatrick.
She has served a four-year sentence as ambassador to the United Nations. She would like to pass back through the looking glass, to a more reasonable world and a better office, and she has announced her "intention" to leave the United Nations soon.
However, until such an office -- secretary of state or national security adviser -- becomes vacant, she should stay at the United Nations. Otherwise, she will relinquish her "seat at the table." It is the table where the president, vice president, chairman of the joint chiefs, CIA director, secretaries of state and defense and -- gloriously -- Kirkpatrick deliberate about policy. The fact that she must, for now, sit amidst irrationality in New York in order to retain a role in Washington's reasoning is just one paradox in Kirkpatrick's public life, a life rich in paradoxes.
Here are two more: she is indispensable to American policy-making because she is somewhat un-American. And although her temperament is said to tax the patience of Secretary of State George Shultz, his temperament is why she should stay "at the table."
Ronald Reagan is no intellectual, but he first insisted on meeting Kirkpatrick because he had read one of her articles. Then he employed this woman whose intellectual gifts and attainments at least match those of Dean Acheson and Henry Kissinger.
Reagan is an elemental political force because he is utterly at one with his countrymen. He is pure American, to the center of all his cells. But that means he is inclined to indiscriminate optimism. In foreign policy, that produces a reluctance, even an inability, to understand that problems will not be dissolved by better communication, that the Cold War is not just a misunderstanding, that all human beings are not "basically alike."
Most citizens of tranquil, liberal democracies have difficulty understanding different national characters, and the radically different motives and goals of the world's governing elites. Kirkpatrick does not. Churchill said, sincerely and truly, "The Almighty in his infinite wisdom has not seen fit to create Frenchmen in the image of Englishmen." Kirkpatrick has a deeper understanding than anyone in government of the fact that Soviet leaders are not "like us."
Reagan, unlike FDR, does not relish conflict among subordinates. But for an intellectual of Kirkpatrick's stripe, conflict -- civil but sharp -- is like oxygen: essential to life. The sainted Edmund Burke said that antagonists are helpers because they strengthen our nerves and sharpen our skills. At the United Nations, Kirkpatrick has been surrounded by antagonists.
Kirkpatrick went there with strong nerves and sharp skills, and today they are stronger and sharper. Perhaps that is why many other foreign-policy officials in the administration are reportedly not eager to see more of her. Why? Why does butter avoid a sword?
Secretary Shultz is not butter. He is a mature, experienced man. But Kirkpatrick is a necessary complement to him. He has had a "British" career, moving through a succession of quite different high offices. (He has been head of what now is the Office of Management and Budget, and secretary of labor, then of Treasury, then of state.) But "British" careers are apt to require, as they do in Britain, the departmental head to become habituated to dependence on the "permanent government."
This is the bureaucracy, with its inertia and conventional thinking. Shultz, the quintessential "government man," is necessarily dependent on the State Department bureaucracy that is the part of the permanent government most ill-attuned to the president's professed vision of the world.
Furthermore, Irving Kristol argues that economists, businessmen and lawyers are ill- suited to diplomacy. Shultz is an economist and businessman surrounded by lawyers.
Economists think in terms of rational behavior models. But in international relations, cost-benefit analyses often are difficult, and such calculations often are rendered irrelevant by animal spirits, national atavisms and ideological frenzies. Businessmen live in a world of ored, almost decorous competition. Nations do not.
For lawyers, a negotiated outcome is normally presupposed, and winning is measured in adjustments at the margins of a dispute. Relations between superpower adversaries are not so mild. A capitalist country, where one person's gain can also profit another, is apt to underestimate the extent to which the game of nations is a zero-sum game, where one nation's gain is an adversary's symmetrical loss.
Kirkpatrick is a precious commodity precisely because she is not like economists, businessmen or lawyers.