The Doctrine claimed that the communist states which the United States opposed were totalitarian regimes while the third-world dictatorships which the United States supported were authoritarian ones. The Doctrine further argued that totalitarian regimes were more dangerous because they were more stable than authoritarian regimes, and had a greater propensity to induce neighboring states to in turn adopt dictatorial regimes. In this regard, the Kirkpatrick Doctrine was a natural successor to the domino theory.
The Kirkpatrick Doctrine was strongly criticized for justifying United States support for regimes with bad human rights records.
Some have argued that the Kirkpatrick Doctrine tenet that totalitarian regimes are more stable than authoritarian regimes was proven in error with the collapse of the Soviet Union which occurred unexpectedly within a decade of the invention of the Doctrine. Others counter that it was only through strong adherence to the Kirkpatrick Doctrine and steady opposition to Communism that the Soviet Union fell.