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聞季辛吉博士過世有感
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我只看過季辛吉博士一本以十九世紀政局為背景,討論(各方)「勢力」的著作;對他的思想和政策取向所知不多。

不過,沒有他主導的「乒乓外交」,很可能就沒有中國1979年的「改革開放」,以及後來的「和平崛起」等等。至少在時程上會延後個三、五年。在因緣合和與世事難料等現實下,中國史和世界史也就很可能別有一番面貌。

在改變「歷史走向」和影響世局與人類生活的幅度與深度上,20世紀的政治人物鮮出其右。

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問題在於「人格特質」 ------ Anthony Lewis
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下文是12/03紐約書評通訊》上,附贈了陸易斯先生這篇1977年的文章;它評論莫里斯先生關於季辛吉和美國外交政策的書

陸易斯先生此文的重點不在該書;而在根據該書內容對季辛吉其人、其言、其行的描述,強調政治家「人格特質」的重要他對季辛吉的評價是負面的;從而,陸易斯先生認為季辛吉外交政策失敗的因素,主要源於後者「人格特質」在方方面面的缺陷


索引

détente
(國家間關係的)緩和,緩解;此處指美、蘇間的「和解」或「降低緊張氣氛」
droit de seigneur
初夜權,特權(諷刺意味)
emasculated
閹割的,喪失功能
jigs
:一個帶種族歧視意味的詞彙,泛指任何非白人族群。A very racist term refering to any race, but only one race at a time. Used if in mid-sentence and decided not to say nigger, spic, wetback etc.
mendacity
:謊話,狗屁
Ozymandias:雪梨的作品;主旨在描述權力的曇花一現
Pooh-Bah:自以為是自以為人一等a comic character in the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta The Mikado (1885)
pungent
犀利,(言詞)潑辣
ripeness
粗俗,下流,恬不知恥

A Matter of Character

Anthony Lewis, 10/27, 1977 issue

Uncertain Greatness: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy
By Roger Morris
Harper & Row, 312 pp., $10.95

When they returned from lunch on January 20, 1969, senior officials of the State and Defense departments and the CIA found on their desks a top secret paper from the new White House. Entitled National Security Study Memorandum No. 1, it ordered prompt answers to a long list of questions for a review of Vietnam policy. The more perceptive of those who read it that afternoon, Roger Morris says, recognized the memorandum as the signal of a coup d’état—“a seizure of power unprecedented in American foreign policy.”

The change so colorfully characterized was a concentration of the decision-making process in the hands of the new President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs, Henry Kissinger. A plan approved by Richard Nixon before his inauguration reversed the old assumption that the departments develop policy and present it to the White House in final form for approval; instead, Kissinger was to define the alternatives and control the process from beginning to end. In foreign policy as in law, he who frames the questions often determines the answers.

The new decision-making structure was designed by Morton Halperin, a thirty-year-old Pentagon official whom Kissinger asked to the Nixon transition office. Halperin, having experienced the difficulty of getting critical views on Vietnam through to Lyndon Johnson, intended to make sure that the president had a real choice of policy alternatives. But Kissinger dominated the process from the start, the departments were effectively emasculated, and soon the policy reviews became empty formalities. Halperin had helped to create a system more single-minded than ever, more secretive, more hostile to dissent—and, incidentally, one that greatly enlarged the destruction in Indochina.

Halperin’s own fate was as ironic as his plan’s. He went to work for Kissinger in a senior position, but by the summer of 1969 he was not happy and quit. Kissinger urged him to stay, saying that his work had been “extraordinary.” What Halperin did not know then was that Kissinger had supplied his name to the FBI for an investigation of leaks, and that his home telephone had been tapped since May. His own, his wife’s, and his children’s calls were recorded for twenty-one months; Kissinger read at least some of the transcripts. When the tapping became known in 1973, Halperin sued Nixon, Kissinger, and others. Kissinger’s deposition was taken with Halperin in the room; what struck the lawyers present was that Kissinger never took the occasion to go over and say, “I’m sorry, Mort.” In a March 1976 telephone call to Kissinger (a transcript was made by a secretary and obtained by Robert Keatley of the Wall Street Journal), former President Nixon said of Halperin: “He is obviously smart but hung up on this thing. We treated him too well.” Kissinger replied: “Too well. That is the only mistake I made.”  

The ruthlessness of Henry Kissinger is one of the less concealed facts of our time. His love of power, his vanity, his secretiveness, his insecurity he made the subject of his own jokes. He treated subordinates with contempt. His word was good until sunset.

Yet the world, or much of it, hailed him as a foreign-policy genius. Americans, or most of them, treated him as a super-hero. The press, or most of it, fawned on him as it has on no other public figure in memory. At the press conference following his promotion to Secretary of State, a reporter asked whether he would like henceforth to be addressed as “Mr. Secretary or Dr. Secretary.” Kissinger topped that servile jest by replying that “Excellency” would do. But my favorite example of star-struck journalism was a column by Tom Braden in the Washington Post of September 15, 1975:

There is a certain boyish quality about our Secretary of State which makes him intensely likable and also makes one wonder whether boyishness is not a necessary ingredient in the personalities of first-rate men.

Roger Morris was one of Kissinger’s young men in the White House until he and two others resigned in May 1970, over the invasion of Cambodia. During the last several years, in frequent magazine articles, he has argued for deeper and more critical public understanding of foreign policy and its makers. Reviewing Kissinger, by Marvin and Bernard Kalb, in The Washington Monthly, he deplored “superficial, misleading books” and said that what was needed was “an investigative report” on Kissinger. That is what he has set out to supply: a book penetrating appearances to give us the reality of the policy-making process in general and Kissinger’s in particular.

The book does provide significant new glimpses of the authentic Kissinger. During the Nigerian war there was much compassionate official talk of relief for the starving Ibos in Biafra, for example, but because of concern for US interests in Nigeria nothing much was done. Kissinger worried about appearances: his own especially. Late one night at the critical time of Biafra’s collapse, he telephoned Senator Edward Kennedy to assure the senator that he, at least, was doing all he could for the starving. He added, “You remember, Ted, that I worked for your brother.” In a meeting Jean Mayer, the Harvard nutritionist, demolished a report by Under Secretary of State Elliot Richardson playing down the need for relief; Kissinger took Mayer aside and said, “You see what I’m up against. The State Department is incompetent.” On January 20, 1970, Nixon had a State Department briefing on relief efforts. Afterward he telephoned Kissinger. “They’re going to let them starve, aren’t they, Henry?” he asked. Kissinger replied: “Yes.” They went on to discuss the State of the Union speech.

Racism was in the air of the White House. When African matters were discussed in Kissinger staff meetings, Alexander Haig amused the boss by pretending to beat drums. Once Kissinger asked how the Ibos could be distinguished from Nigeria’s northern tribes. The latter were more Semitic in appearance, he was told, the Ibos more Negroid. Visibly surprised, he said, “But you have always told me the Ibos were more gifted and accomplished than the others. What do you mean ‘more Negroid’?” In February 1970, as Kissinger was working on a foreign policy message, Nixon telephoned him and said: “Make sure there’s something in it for the jigs, Henry.” Kissinger said there was. Morris comments, surely correctly, that attitudes of “such casual bigotry” must have affected American policy toward the non-white world in the Kissinger-Nixon period.

Any lingering notion that Kissinger was a dove on Vietnam should be dispelled by this book. In September 1969, he formed a study group to prepare detailed plans for what he called a “savage punishing” blow at North Vietnam, including widespread bombing, mining of Haiphong and inland waterways, and a naval blockade. He also instructed the group to consider the option of bombing the Red River dikes. “I can’t believe,” he said at the first meeting, “that a fourth-rate power like North Vietnam doesn’t have a breaking point.” The group produced a complete “package,” going so far as to draft a presidential speech terming the escalation necessary to correct Hanoi’s “intransigence” and stop “the senseless attrition of American lives.” The proposals were argued before Nixon in October 1969, with Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird in heated opposition to them and Kissinger “equivocal.” In the end they were put aside, to be revived and carried out in April 1972.

There is much new material here on Washington’s shameful silence in 1971 as the Pakistan military slaughtered the Bengalis in what was then East Pakistan. In cables quoted by Morris, American diplomats in Dacca said they were “mute and horrified witnesses to a reign of terror” and called for at least some words of regret. But Kissinger was intent then on using the Pakistan regime as a channel in his secret approach to China, and US policy was expressed in the instruction recorded in the famous leaked minutes: to “tilt in favor of Pakistan.” Morris observes that the minutes as published said much about the supposed group process of policy-formulation: “Dr. Kissinger instructed…ordered…requested….”

Sprinkled here and there are vignettes that might have shocked us if we had not been hardened by White House tapes and successive memoirs. A few months after taking office Nixon agreed to meet the members of Kissinger’s staff. They met in the Cabinet room, and Nixon began by commiserating with the staff for having to deal with those “impossible fags” at the State Department. (Most of the staff were in fact Foreign Service Officers.) After the rightist coup in Cambodia in March 1970, Morris says, Nixon sent down a flood of memos that “will make extraordinary reading for historians if they survive. Now stream-of-consciousness excursions into courage and aggression, now terse orders or questions, their thrust…was that the United States should aggressively support the new regime….” The result was the invasion, designed to show that the United States was not “a pitiful, helpless giant.” The “bizarre, almost manic decision-making” was Nixon’s, Morris says, but the root logic of mixing negotiations on Vietnam with brutal applications of force was Kissinger’s.

Morris discusses, shrewdly though with no new facts, the episode that I think revealed the most about Henry Kissinger while he was in office: the wiretapping of seventeen of his assistants, other officials, and journalists. On May 9, 1969, The New York Times carried a story by William Beecher saying that US planes were secretly bombing Cambodia. Kissinger, who was in Key Biscayne with Nixon, telephoned J. Edgar Hoover to say that the story was “extraordinarily damaging.” There were three other telephone conversations between them that day, and Hoover’s notes of the calls said “they will destroy whoever did this if we can find him.” The next day Kissinger sent Haig to the FBI with the names of four people to be investigated, including Halperin. Others followed. Kissinger later called his role “passive,” but there can no longer be any doubt that he picked many of the targets, knew they were to be wire-tapped, and got summaries of the transcripts of the taps.

On May 12, 1973, after knowledge of the Halperin tap had become public, Kissinger was asked at a press conference whether he had been “aware at the time it was taking place that the home of one of your staff members was being wiretapped.” A truthful answer would have been Yes. What Kissinger said was, in relevant part:

The CIA and the FBI submit reports through my office when they concern national security. In the overwhelming majority of cases, these reports are always at the direction of the Director of the Agency…and follow duly constituted processes. My office has not handled or been aware of any activities that were conducted by other processes. The overwhelming majority of reports that come through my office from both of these agencies concern matters of foreign intelligence. In a very few cases where it concerns allegations of the mishandling of classified information that was within the purview of the NSC, I would receive summaries of reports from agency heads concerning these activities….

On May 29; under further questioning about the taps, Kissinger conceded: “My office supplied the names of some of the individuals who had access to the information that was being investigated.” On September 10, at his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State, he said wiretapping “raises the balance between human liberty and the requirements of national security, and I would say that…the demonstration of national security must be overwhelming.” But the questions continued.

On June 11, 1974, he called a press conference in Salzburg and said he would resign if his “public honor” was put in doubt over the tapping issue. He had tried, he said, to do what I could to maintain the dignity of American values and to give Americans some pride in the conduct of their affairs…. I have attempted, however inadequate, to set some standards in my public life…. It is impossible and incompatible with the dignity of the United States to have its senior official and to have its Secretary of State under this sort of attack in the face of the dangers we confront and the risks that may have to be run and the opportunities that may have to be seized. This is a fact. This is not a threat.

It is necessary to detail the wiretapping affair at such length because even now, only a few years later, few remember—or can believe—the ripeness of what Kissinger did and said. It was a record of paranoia and mendacity, salted with self-pity. Morris suggests that the “sense of outrage, anguish and victimizationprojected in Salzburg was genuine, not put on, and his argument is convincing. Kissinger believed, he says, that statesmen had a droit de seigneur allowing them to use any necessary methods and to shade the truth for higher purposes of the state.

But why would Kissinger have become so agitated in the first place about a leak on bombing already known to those being bombed? Morris says his fervor in pursuing the leaker served to demonstrate his loyalty to Nixon, just as his support of the bombing itself “vouchsafed his toughness for the joint chiefs. Nothing more than principle was sacrificed.”

In reviewing the Kalbs’ book three years ago, Morris said the country needed a study of Kissinger as the quintessential politician, addressed with “the same sense of proportion, healthy skepticism and self-confidence we now apply to local politicians.” What was important about Kissinger was the way he manipulated Congress and the media and the bureaucracy and all his constituencies, foreign and domestic.

Judged by those aims, Uncertain Greatness is a curiously unsatisfactory book. Its judgments are pungent, and I agree with many of them, but it does not provide a coherent analysis of the politics of foreign policy or of the way Kissinger played the game. It is episodic, like a collection of pieces of investigative journalism. When Morris was a participant himself, as for example on policy toward southern Africa, the accounts are compelling. (Who could resist the story of a National Security Council meeting at which Spiro Agnew confused Rhodesia with South Africa and Richard Helms read an intelligence brief, evidently informed by the CIA’s friends in the white security services, so contemptuous of black Africans that even Kissinger was startled? Other times the statements are colorful but the evidence thin. Morris says flatly that the CIA station in Pnompenh informed Washington of the coup “well in advance,” and probably had seen the plans. One wants to know a lot more about that interesting assertion.

Morris does go back to the Halperin plan as the beginning of Kissinger’s grip on the system. But he does not really explain how this extraordinary man proceeded from there. One gets a little peek, now and then, of the Kissinger equivalent of Lyndon Johnson’s hand stroking a senator’s back—a stroke for Jean Mayer, say, or Edward Kennedy. But we do not end up understanding, in the large, how the manipulation worked.

Moreover, Morris seems to have a low opinion of just about everyone who has anything to do with foreign policy: Kissinger’s predecessors and successors, the State Department hierarchy under both Nixon and Carter, the Foreign Service, Congress, journalists, presidents, the public. If there is an unqualified good word for anyone in this book, I missed it. That disdain, combined with an evident belief that American foreign policy could work if only the fools got out of the way, produces a certain air of condescension, like that of a younger Pooh-Bah.

But the oddest feature of this book is its conclusion. After uncovering the inhumanity of Henry Kissinger in this episode and that, and deploring it, Morris seems to revert at the end to the Washington morality of toughness. Foreign policy, he says, is now in the hands of second-rate men, “a provincial, mediocre establishment that has survived its past folly by public amnesia and indifference.” There can be “no American statesmanship worth the name” unless the foreign-policy bureaucracy is sweepingly reformed. And there is only one man to do that: Henry Kissinger. He alone has the power to educate us, and to be heeded. “The zealot for secrecy must become the advocate of openness…, the seducer of the press and Congress the critic of every such seduction, the practitioner of ruthless Realpolitik the champion of a new humanity in American foreign policy.”

Yes, and he will call spirits from the vasty deep. That Morris can end by calling on Super-K to rescue us shows that he has not understood the simplest lesson of our recent history: that the character of our political leaders is as important as their intelligence or political skills.

Looking back at American foreign policy from 1969 to 1977, we can see two notable accomplishments: the opening to China and the beginnings, however fragile, of accommodation between Israel and her Arab neighbors. Beyond those it is a record of disappointment, failure, and shaming disaster. And the misadventures bear the imprint of the flaws in Henry Kissinger’s character.

His belief that American influence in the world depends on the appearance of “strength”—meaning ruthlessness, not the strength of moral integrity—helped to produce four more utterly pointless years of war in Indochina. America must not be seen to lose, he argued, no matter what the cost. He carried the argument so far that, as Saigon crumbled in 1975, he became a self-domino, warning that an American failure to keep the war going with more aid would have “cataclysmic” effects on our credibility.

His fear of seeming weak showed, too, in his otherwise incomprehensible insistence on treating regional conflicts as tests of strength with the Soviet Union. We had to stand up to communism in Angola and East Bengal. Because Cambodia might affect Vietnam, we had to break our official promises and enter her civil war; the result is a monument to Kissinger as Ozymandias.

His instinctive preference for right-wing dictatorships involved the United States in their repression and corruption and helped make America the arsenal not of democracy but of authoritarianism. His performance on Chile was symbolized by the note he scrawled on a cable from a US ambassador saying that he had raised the issue of human rights with the junta: “Tell Popper to cut out the political-science lectures.” His infatuation with the Greek colonels kept him from moving when they tried to install a thug in Arch-bishop Makarios’s place in Cyprus; his failure to act against the coup—indeed, the hint that the United States was satisfied with it—led inevitably to the Turkish invasion, a human and political disaster.

His ego was so involved in the conduct of American policy that successes had to be proclaimed even when the price was distortion of reality. In the case of “détente” with the Soviet Union, the price was high. That glamorous concept led to Nixon’s empty talk of “a structure of peace.” It led to flawed agreements with the Soviets. It led Americans to expect too much, and then in dangerous numbers to turn against the whole idea of accommodation on arms control and other issues.

His secretiveness and love of solitary power—his image of himself as “the cowboy who comes into town all alone on his horse,” as he put it to Oriana Fallaci—caused painful mistakes. Because the State Department had to be excluded from knowledge of the approach to China, the Japanese Government was shocked by the lack of notice. Because Kissinger had no interest in the new world issues of resources and finance, the power of OPEC took the United States government by surprise. Alastair Buchan, the late British student of international security, commented: “A cabal system of government has no early warning system.”

His disdain for law kept him fatally out of touch with American ideals, and hence unable to use in the world what has been a unique American influence. When he spoke to the press just before leaving office and was asked what his greatest disappointment had been, he answered: “The disintegration of Executive authority that resulted from Watergate…. It consumed too much of our energies on procedural and peripheral issues.”

His compulsion to deceive left stains on the reputation of the United States. When he finally conceded North Vietnam’s right to keep troops in the South, in the secret negotiations in 1972, he did not inform President Thieu. He went to Saigon and told Thieu that Nixon would have to look peaceful because of the election but afterward would support an invasion of the North. When the peace terms were published and Thieu denounced them, Kissinger told journalist friends that they would have to be forced down Thieu’s throat. Then he joined in the decision to bomb Hanoi over Christmas—as a way of showing Thieu that America would be tough on the North. He said in 1974 that the US had “no bilateral written commitment” to Saigon, knowing when he said it that a 1973 letter from Nixon to Thieu had given “assurance…that we will respond with full force should the settlement be violated by North Vietnam.”

His cold-bloodedness left him seemingly untouched by the human disasters in Cambodia, Vietnam, and elsewhere. Many American officials were changed by Vietnam: by the moral responsibility. But he agonized only on the outside. In 1974 Richard Holbrooke, then managing editor of Foreign Policy, now Assistant Secretary of State, wrote that in his actions on Vietnam Kissinger had been “wholly free of any constraint based on a set of moral beliefs.” Holbrooke added that his attitudes in such tragedies as those in Biafra and Bangladesh “seem to indicate that he does not consider the factor of human suffering the overriding one. That, in fact, is putting it gently: Some of his former associates…consider him wholly without feeling for human suffering.”

His self-pity was grossly unattractive in a statesman. He never said a word of regret about the wiretapping of men who had been close to him and of their families; but when someone went through his garbage, he said his wife had suffered “grave anguish.” After the Salzburg press conference, Philip Geyelin of the Washington Post wrote: “Other Secretaries of State have had their bad moments—and borne them with fortitude. Can we imagine George Marshall having a public tantrum and threatening to resign unless Senator Joseph McCarthy stopped calling him a Communist?”

Daniel Davidson, one of the former assistants who was wiretapped, wrote after Salzburg: “For Kissinger the price of power was to function in an immoral atmosphere—and there is no indication that he has paid reluctantly.” Roger Morris seems to understand that. He speaks of Kissinger sharing Nixon’s “evil and malice.” He writes, in connection with the tapping affair, that Kissinger “shared too much the goals of the regime, their venomous style. For him as for Nixon, principle and legal nicety and the national interest were ultimately a matter of their private vision, a vision which included a defiance of democracy.” How can one take seriously a foreign-policy expert who writes that, and then argues that we can be saved by a man free to act boldly—because he is not constrained by conviction?

“Kissinger is a man of first-rate intellect and third-rate temperament. The effect is disastrous.” That was said, while he was in office, by one of his wisest subordinates.

The importance of character in public men is not to be underestimated. Consider an ironic speculation. Suppose that in March 1969, when Richard Nixon was planning the secret bombing of Cambodia, he had a man of character at his side—say George Marshall, if one can imagine him with Nixon. That person would have told the President that the United States should not act in such a way: that the risk of a self-inflicted wound was too great. There would have been no secret bombing, no Beecher story, no pledge to “destroy” the leaker, no taps, no “White House horrors” to conceal later…. It is of course idle speculation, because the character of Richard Nixon would probably have told one way or another. The point is that the character of Henry Kissinger told.

We still wait, then, for an adequate book on the Kissinger phenomenon. It would have to be in considerable part a study of ourselves: of what it was in Americans that made them a foil for such a person. But having said that, I am bound to add that the enterprise of still another Kissinger book seems a dubious one. Without power, Henry Kissinger has become uninteresting. He lacks the redeeming fascination of Richard Nixon, the talent to amuse.


This Issue, October 27, 1977

Anthony Lewis, a former columnist for The New York Times, has twice won the Pulitzer Prize. His latest book is Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment.

More by Anthony Lewis

The Shame of America January 12, 2012 issue
The Most Skillful Liberal April 7, 2011 issue
How the Supreme Court Should and Should Not Work November 11, 2010 issue


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《季辛吉務實政治背後的悲劇》評論
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從這篇文章的標題來看(本欄上一篇),我以為它又在批評季辛吉的外交政策。讀完之後,我認為普蘭教授稱得上當今的頭號「魔鬼辯護士」。在這位「教授」(叫獸)的筆下,季辛吉不但是偉大的政治家,他幾乎成了聖人。事實上,季辛吉的行為也的確符合老子對「聖人」的定義。我這個評論根據美國頭號惡名昭彰戰犯季辛吉畢世於100(12/01)以及《季辛吉的「(政治)現實主義(12/01)兩文

像凱普蘭教授這一恬不知恥,拿「道德」現實或任何其它概念,替「季辛吉式」外交政策擦脂抹粉的「政論家們」(見該文第2),大概是個虛無主義者,而不配自稱現實主義者當然,她/他們也許在大學時代重修過n次邏輯課以至於到現在還不知自己所云。或許,他這篇文章只不過印證了「吃人的嘴軟」這句俗話(見該文第13兩段)

我曾預告過很多篇我「要」寫的文章,不幸大部分都還睡在我的「未完成」檔案夾中。雖然有點不好意思,但我還是預告一下希望年底以前,我能抽空討論「(政治)現實主義。對這個議題有興趣的朋友,不妨提醒提醒,督促督促

其它討論季辛吉外交政策與其政治理念的評論

* The Legacy of Henry Kissinger by Richard Haass
*
Kissinger's Realpolitik in U.S. Foreign Policy Is a Tortured and Deadly Legacy by Jarrod Hayes



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季辛吉務實政治背後的悲劇 – Robert D. Kaplan
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The tragedy behind Kissinger’s realpolitik

His statecraft internalised the lessons of the Holocaust

ROBERT D. KAPLAN, 11/30/23

I was privileged to know Henry Kissinger for over two decades, having dinner at his weekend home in Kent, Connecticut, several times a year since 2000, except for the period of the pandemic, when we spoke on the phone or via Zoom. What brought us together was an Atlantic essay I wrote in 
June, 1999 about his first book, A World Restored, dealing with the post-Napoleonic peace treaties. We met for the first time several months after that piece was published.

Once we became friends I did not write again about Kissinger, except for one long tribute to his career, meant as an obituary, which The Atlantic decided to publish upon his 90th birthday in 
May, 2013. Between that piece, and the superior work on Kissinger’s life and thoughts published by Niall Ferguson, Barry Gewen, and Martin Indyk, I have little to add, except for personal reminiscences of dinner discussions, with Kissinger calling on his several guests to offer their opinions of the great issues of the day — and then replying to them.

At Kissinger’s dinner parties, organised by his brilliant and formidable wife Nancy, whose own presence filled the room, the headlines were often ignored. Discussions ranged from the historic dilemmas of China, Germany, Russia, and the United States to the challenges of the universities to the attributes of great leaders. You got a preview of his later books by being in his presence.

But I think it necessary here to reprise some of my interpretations of his philosophy which I find so crucial — enough so that they bear repeating from my previous essays. For it is Kissinger’s philosophy that I find most important about him, and which constitute a rough guide to his statesmanship: because it is a philosophy whose origins lay in his experiences as a young Jew in Hitler’s Germany and as the son of immigrants in challenging circumstances.

In fact, Kissinger had internalised the lessons of the Holocaust, though they were different lessons from those learned by the liberal elite of his era. Kissinger saw Hitler as a revolutionary chieftain who represented the forces of anarchy attempting to overthrow a legitimate international system, as imperfect as it was. For in Kissinger’s mind, his first book about the diplomatic response to another revolutionary chieftain, Napoleon, offered a vehicle for him to deal, albeit obliquely, with the problem of Hitler. Morality and power couldn’t be disentangled, in Kissinger’s mind.

In fact, Kissinger, as a practitioner at the highest levels of US foreign policy during some of the hardest days of the Cold War, thought more deeply about morality than many self-styled moralists. And the ultimate moral ambition during that period was the avoidance of a direct military conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union through a favourable balance of power. The Cold War may now seem ancient, but for someone like myself, who as a journalist covered Communist Eastern Europe, with all its grim, freeze-frame poverty and pulverising repression, it will always remain quite vivid. And were it not for Kissinger’s realpolitik, which allowed for a truce with China in order to balance against the Soviet Union, even as he and President Richard Nixon achieved détente with the Kremlin, President Ronald Reagan would never have had the luxury of his subsequent Wilsonianism.

Indeed, Kissinger was a realist internationalist, like the other great Republican secretaries of state during the Cold War, George Shultz and James Baker III. Realists today have drifted toward neo-isolationism, and have grown literally smaller because of it.

Kissinger’s beliefs, which emerge through his writing, are certainly not for the faint-hearted. They are emotionally unsatisfying, yet analytically timeless. They include:

Disorder is worse than injustice, since injustice merely means the world is imperfect, while disorder tempts anarchy and the Hobbesian nightmare of war and conflict, of all against all.
It follows, then, that order is more important than freedom, since without order there is no freedom for anybody.
The fundamental issue in international and domestic affairs is not the control of wickedness, but the limitation of self-righteousness. For it is self-righteousness that often leads to war and the most extreme forms of repression, both at home and abroad.
The aim of policy is to reconcile what is just with what is possible. Journalists and freedom fighters have it easy in life since they can concern themselves only with what is just. Policymakers, burdened with bureaucratic responsibility in order to advance a nation’s self-interest, have no such luxury.
Pessimism can often be morally superior to misplaced optimism. Pessimism, therefore, is not necessarily to be disparaged.

It is true that much of the above is derivative of the great philosophers, especially Hobbes. But it is to Kissinger’s credit that he consciously activated it in the daily conduct of foreign policy.

Of course, Kissinger continues to be hated because of Vietnam. But as strange as it may seem, Kissinger and Nixon, in withdrawing from Vietnam in the bloody manner that they did, demonstrated real character: they believed that they were serving the national interest and proving their toughness to China and the Soviet Union, even as they knew they would be vilified in the media, in all the books written by liberal historians, and in the opinion polls for acting thus.

Their bloody and methodical withdrawal in the face of liberal demands for total and immediate capitulation and a conservative flight from reality (a belief in fighting till victory) had a demonstrable effect in terms of America’s reputation for power in China, the Soviet Union and the Middle East. For Nixon and Kissinger’s foreign policy was all of a piece. You cannot disentangle Kissinger’s brilliant peace-making in the Middle East from his actions in Indochina. Nevertheless, the withdrawal from Vietnam was still faster than De Gaulle’s from Algeria, for which the French leader has been lionised by historians.

As for the judgment of history, Kissinger’s own memoirs, with all of their faults, are vaster, more elegantly written, and far more intellectually stimulating than those of any other American statesman of the period. Kissinger may not have the last word, but he will have something close to it.

Kissinger was a “genuine statesman”, to use the German philosopher-historian Oswald Spengler’s definition: that is, he was not a reactionary who thought that history could be reversed, nor was he a militant-idealist, who thought that history marched in a certain direction. Kissinger’s conclusion was more grounded: he believed less in victory than in reconciliations.

Robert D. Kaplan holds the Robert Strausz-Hupé Chair in Geopolitics at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. His most recent book is The Loom of Time: Between Empire and Anarchy, from the Mediterranean to China.,

SUGGESTED READING

The myth of Chinese supremacy,
EDWARD LUTTWAK
Kissinger's final warning, THOMAS FAZI

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Henry Kissinger, America’s Most Notorious War Criminal, Dies At 100

The titan of American foreign policy was complicit in millions of deaths — and never showed remorse for his decisions.

 Travis Waldron/George Zornick, 11/29/23

Henry Kissinger — who as a top American foreign policy official oversaw, overlooked and at times actively perpetrated some of the most grotesque war crimes the United States and its allies have committed — died Wednesday at his home in Connecticut. He was 100 years old.

Kissinger’s death was announced by his consulting firm on Wednesday evening. No cause of death was immediately given.

Kissinger served as secretary of state and national security adviser under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, positions that allowed him to direct the Vietnam War and the broader Cold War with the Soviet Union, and to implement a stridently “realist” approach that prioritized U.S. interests and domestic political success over any potential atrocity that might occur.

The former led to perhaps the most infamous crime Kissinger committed: a secret four-year bombing campaign in Cambodia that killed an untold number of civilians, despite the fact that it was a neutral nation with which the United States was not at war.

During his time in charge of the American foreign policy machine, Kissinger also directed illegal arms sales to Pakistan as it carried out a brutal crackdown on its Bengali population in 1971. He supported the 1973 military coup that overthrew a democratically elected socialist government in Chile, gave the go-ahead to Indonesia’s 1975 invasion of East Timor, and backed Argentina’s repressive military dictatorship as it launched its “dirty war” against dissenters and leftists in 1976. His policies during the Ford administration also fueled civil wars in Africa, most notably in Angola.

Even the most generous calculations suggest that the murderous regimes Kissinger supported and the conflicts they waged were responsible for millions of deaths and millions of other human rights abuses, during and after the eight years he served in the American government.

Kissinger never showed remorse for those misdeeds. He never paid any real price for them either. He maintained a mocking tone toward critics of his human rights record throughout his life, and remained a member in good standing of elite Washington political society until his death.

In May 2016, for instance, President Barack Obama came as close as the United States ever does to apologizing for its role in a human rights atrocity during a visit to Argentina. The U.S. “has to examine its own policies as well, and its own past,” Obama said, in an expression of regret for the United States’ role in the “dirty war.” “We’ve been slow to speak out for human rights, and that was the case here.” He pledged to declassify thousands of documents related to the dictatorship’s reign of terror and U.S. support for it.

The examination must have been quick. Two months later, the Obama administration handed Kissinger, who those documents showed had cozied up to Argentine military dictator Jorge Rafael Videla in the 1970s, the Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest honor the Pentagon offers civilians.

Kissinger’s acolytes argue that honors like these are more than deserved. His accomplishments, including an opening of relations with China and detente with the Soviet Union, outweigh any abuses that helped make them possible. At the very least, they posit, the abuses were part of a cold calculation that “ensuring a nation’s survival sometimes leaves tragically little room for private morality,” as Robert D. Kaplan argued in 2013. Kissinger’s defenders suggest that even more death may have occurred if the U.S. had pursued a more morally grounded foreign policy instead.

His critics have made persuasive cases in numerous books, documentaries and publications that Kissinger was not just a war criminal but responsible for the creation of an imperial foreign policy that eventually embroiled the U.S. in a state of perpetual war and led it to commit and overlook numerous abuses of human rights in the decades after he left power.

Kissinger (center) remained a member in good standing of the Washington political, press and societal elite throughout his life, even among leaders like President Barack Obama (left), who criticized the human rights abuses that took place on his watch.

Still others have argued that Kissinger was, in the words of New Yorker essayist Thomas Meaney, “a far less remarkable figure than his supporters, his critics — and he himself — believed.” Rather than an outlier, Meaney and others have suggested, Kissinger was a consummate political actor and a natural product of the American war machine, if one who had an outsize sense of self-importance even compared with many of the supposedly “great men” who’ve led the country before and after him.

Settling on an ultimate legacy for Kissinger is an enticing task — one historians, foreign policy experts and journalists have sought to perfect for decades. It is a pertinent endeavor, too, for determining if Kissinger’s war crimes made him a particularly evil figure, or if they reveal that it is simply impossible to steer an empire the size of the United States for so long without doing some heinous things. Maybe both can be true.

What is undeniable, on the occasion of his death, is that millions of Argentinians, Bangladeshis, Cambodians, Chileans, East Timorese and others cannot offer their opinion on Henry Kissinger’s legacy or the world he helped create, because they died at the hands of the tyrants Kissinger enabled.

Born Heinz Alfred Kissinger in Bavaria in 1923, Kissinger and his family immigrated to the United States in 1938 to flee Nazi persecution of German Jews.

Kissinger forever downplayed the effect that had on his life, but historians have argued differently: Kissinger’s experience as a child likely shaped his “legendary insecurity, paranoia and extreme sensitivity to criticism” and planted the seeds of his “emphasis on stability and equilibrium, and his fears about revolution and disorder,” Thomas A. Schwartz, a Vanderbilt University historian, wrote in his biography of Kissinger in 2020. That Kissinger’s father, a teacher who was fired for being Jewish, lost everything, Schwartz continued, “contributed to Kissinger’s own sense that not only do the meek not inherit the earth, but that power is the ultimate arbiter in both life and international relations.”

Or, as a longtime Kissinger colleague put it in another quote Schwartz relayed: “Kissinger’s philosophy of life was that ‘good will won’t help you defend yourself on the docks of Marseilles.’”

Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943, Kissinger served in Germany during World War II and became an accomplished intelligence agent. He earned a Bronze Star in part for his success in hunting down members of the Gestapo, the Nazis’ secret police force, in the immediate aftermath of the war.

After returning to the U.S. and graduating from Harvard, he fast-tracked his way to foreign policy influence, initially gaining fame within the establishment by arguing that President Dwight D. Eisenhower needed to accept that “limited nuclear war” in Europe might be necessary to protect the U.S. and its allies from the emerging power of the Soviet Union.

Kissinger’s rapid ascent up the foreign policy ladder was also possible because he was such a skilled political operator, Schwartz argued. He offered diplomatic and foreign policy advice to both Eisenhower, a Republican, and to President John F. Kennedy, a Democrat.

He advised former New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller in three separate bids for the presidency. But when Rockefeller failed to win the GOP nomination in 1968, Kissinger maintained positive relations with both Richard Nixon, the Republican candidate, and Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey throughout the general election. It was almost a given in Washington that Kissinger would assume a prominent role in the next administration, no matter the outcome.

Nixon prevailed and made Kissinger his first major foreign policy appointment, naming him White House national security adviser. Kissinger, like Nixon, was an ardent skeptic of bureaucrats he believed were too idealistic and moralistic in their approach to the Vietnam War and Soviet communism, and early in his tenure reshaped the White House National Security Council into its modern form in order to “tame the bureaucracy” and foster “a more centralized and secretive approach to foreign policy,” Schwartz wrote.

It would come in handy. Kissinger may have sought out the status he earned as a celebrity diplomat, and he sensed the importance of public opinion to an administration’s ability to exercise its foreign policy. But he preferred to do his dirtiest work in secret, away from the potentially scornful eyes of State Department diplomats, Congress, journalists or the public.

In the spring of 1969, desperate to bring an end to the Vietnam War, Kissinger authorized one of its most horrific chapters: the secret carpet-bombing campaign in Cambodia. The theory was that it would force North Vietnam to accept improved U.S. conditions for ending the war, an early use of a “bombs as an instrument of diplomacy” approach, as Yale historian and fierce Kissinger critic Greg Grandin has described it, that has become a hallmark of U.S. foreign policy.

From 1969 to 1973, when a Congress that had been largely kept in the dark about the Cambodian campaign moved to halt it, the United States dropped a half-million tons of bombs on the neutral country. Kissinger personallyapproved each of the 3,875 Cambodia bombing raids” that occurred between 1969 and 1970, according to a Pentagon report released later.

The bombing campaign ultimately killed between 150,000 and a half-million Cambodian civilians, various estimates suggest. It also helped unleash a civil war inside Cambodia that led to the rise of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot, a dictator whose regime killed as many as 2 million Cambodians, according to modern appraisals.

Kissinger and the U.S. negotiated the Paris Peace Accords with North Vietnam in 1973, paving the way for the war’s end. It earned Kissinger a Nobel Peace Prize. Two prize committee members resigned in response.

That was the second of his major accomplishments. The year prior, he had helped Nixon reestablish diplomatic relations with China, which both Kissinger and Nixon saw as crucial to deepening a divide between it and the Soviet Union, the world’s two largest communist powers.

The two episodes define Kissinger’s career and how it has been interpreted. They made him a superstar within the Nixon administration and the American foreign policy establishment. The accomplishments they paved the way for — including major arms limitation treaties with the Soviet Union and the full restoration of diplomatic recognition with China — are still cited as lasting Kissinger victories.

They also came at an incredible human cost that was a direct result of Kissinger’s desperation to achieve them. Much like the end of the Vietnam War had been, the opening of relations with China was directly preceded by an atrocity the United States broadly ignored: the 1971 Pakistani killings of at least 500,00 people in present-day Bangladesh, then known as East Pakistan.

Focused on Beijing, Nixon and Kissinger did not merely look the other way when what was then known as West Pakistan launched an aggressive campaign against East Pakistan. Kissinger and Nixon saw West Pakistan as a crucial ally against the Soviets and a “gateway to open diplomatic relations with China.” In an effort to keep that door open, the Nixon administration largely refused to condemn West Pakistan’s efforts to repress Bengalis in the east, and even authorized potentially illegal arms shipments to West Pakistan.

Bengali forces, with support from India, eventually forced the Pakistanis to surrender, leading to the creation of independent Bangladesh — but not before Pakistani armed forces and other allied militant groups killed as many as 3 million people and raped some 400,000 women, according to modern estimates. The crisis forced millions of others to flee the country.

To Kissinger, it mattered little. In 1971, the Pakistanis helped shuttle him into China for a secret visit that helped pave the way for Nixon’s eventual trip to Shanghai.

“Not one has yet understood what we did in India-Pakistan and how we saved the China option which we need for the bloody Russians,” Kissinger said to Nixon in 1972, according to reports from the Press Trust of India based on memos that were declassified decades later. “Why should we give a damn about Bangladesh?”

Declassified memos and notes have made clear that Kissinger rarely missed a chance to take a similarly cavalier approach to human rights and democracy as his career progressed.

After Chileans elected socialist President Salvador Allende in 1970, Kissinger and Nixon almost immediately began plotting the overthrow of his government. The Chilean military carried out a coup in 1973, and Gen. Augusto Pinochet established a murderous dictatorship that killed an estimated 3,000 supposed dissidents and tortured as many as 40,000 more, according to a national truth commission established after Chile’s return to democracy in 1990.

Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, an Army general, took power in a U.S.-supported coup in 1973 and embarked on a brutal reign of tyranny. Kissinger knew of the abuses and murders that took place on Pinochet's watch but regarded him as a defense against communism even as his contemporaries in the State Department criticized his approach.

Ever disdainful of what he saw as moralistic bureaucrats, Kissinger mocked the concerns State Department officials expressed about the dictatorship’s abuses.

“I read the briefing paper for this meeting and it was nothing but Human Rights,” he told a U.S. official about Chile in 1973, according to records obtained by the National Security Archive, a nonprofit library of public records and declassified documents. “The State Department is made up of people who have a vocation for the ministry. Because there are not enough churches for them, they went into the Department of State.”

Kissinger, who became secretary of state just a month after Pinochet’s coup, told State Department officials in October 1973 that the United States should not position itself as a defender of the military regime’s human rights abuses. But U.S. policy, he explained, was that “no matter how unpleasant they act, the [Pinochet] government is better for us than Allende was.”

Three years later, he told Pinochet in an official meeting that the Chilean dictatorship had become the victim of international propaganda efforts that had distorted its human rights record, according to declassified documents that notably were not shared with a U.S. Senate select committee that investigated covert American actions in the Chilean coup.

“My evaluation is that you are a victim of all left-wing groups around the world and that your greatest sin was that you overthrew a government that was going Communist,” he told the Chilean.

In December 1975, Kissinger and Ford flew to Indonesia to meet with Suharto, a military dictator who took control of the country after the overthrow of Sukarno, an Indonesian nationalist, in 1967. At the time, Suharto was considering an invasion of neighboring East Timor, which was seeking independence. The U.S. and Suharto feared the independence effort could lead to an anti-colonialist government sympathetic to the Soviets.

Suharto launched the invasion not long after Kissinger and Ford returned to the United States, and declassified memos have shown that he did so “knowing that he had the full approval of the White House.”

“It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly,” Kissinger told Suharto, according to declassified memos obtained by the National Security Archive. “It would be better,” he continued, “if it occurred” after he and Ford had returned to the United States.

Indonesian forces proceeded to carry out what some historians now regard as a genocide of East Timorese populations — some estimates suggest they murdered 2,000 people in the initial days of the invasion alone. A truth and reconciliation committee later suggested that between 100,000 and 200,000 East Timorese people died throughout the conflict and the resulting Indonesian occupation of the island, which lasted until 1999.  


Near the end of his time as secretary of state, Kissinger relayed similar messages to Argentina’s military dictatorship, which overthrew its government in 1976. In a meeting that year, Kissinger told the country’s foreign minister to “get the terrorist problem” — by which he meant dissenters against the new dictatorship — “over as quickly as possible,” according to memos declassified in 2002 and obtained by the National Security Archive. The Argentine left the meeting convinced the U.S. had greenlighted its “dirty war” and that Kissinger considered the elimination of dissenters far more important than human rights.

The same year, Kissinger visited Brazil and showered praise on the country’s military dictatorship, which had come to power in a coup in 1964, before Kissinger entered government. By then, though, it was well known that the regime was in the midst of its most brutal period of repression. In 2014, the country’s national truth commission found that the dictatorship killed at least 434 political dissidents and tortureding thousands more.

Kissinger’s sympathy for tyrants continued after he left the government in 1977. Kissinger attended the 1978 World Cup in Argentina as a special guest of Videla, the dictator, and lauded the regime for its success in “wiping out” its opponents, documents declassified in 2016 showed.

At the time, a State Department official expressed concern that the Argentines “may use Kissinger’s laudatory statements as justification for hardening their human rights stance.” Indeed, the dictatorship, which was fond of throwing dissenters out of helicopters and into the sea, eventually disappeared as many as 30,000 people.

There is no doubt that Kissinger knew these many abuses were taking place throughout his career.

In 1971, Archer Blood, the U.S. consul general in East Pakistan, wrote a memo detailing Pakistani atrocities in Bangladesh, telling his superiors that Pakistan was “systematically eliminating” Bangladeshis “by seeking them out and shooting them down.” A month later, he authored another telegram accusing the U.S. of displaying “moral bankruptcy” for refusing to condemn or attempt to limit the violent crackdowns on East Pakistan. “Our government has failed to denounce the suppression of democracy. Our government has failed to denounce atrocities,” the telegram said.

Not long after Blood sent the memo about Pakistan, Kissinger and Nixon reassigned him to a diplomatic post in Washington.

As Kissinger plotted an overthrow of Allende’s government in Chile, a National Security Council official warned that it was “patently a violation of our own principles and policy tenets.” But the warnings did nothing to stop Kissinger from fomenting coups and singing the praises of those who committed atrocities.

Kissinger believed these atrocities were worth it, both to stop the spread of Soviet communism and to bolster American interests and credibility in the world.

Former President George H.W. Bush, who served as ambassador to the United Nations under Nixon, described Kissinger as paranoid, according to Princeton historian and Kissinger critic Greg Bass, and this paranoia about communism appeared repeatedly during his career.

Kissinger saw Allende’s election in Chile as evidence of the unstoppable march of Marxism that might overtake the world if the U.S. didn’t act to stop it, and the Pinochet regime’s abuses as merely a necessary price to pay to stop it.

In 1973, he asked a top Latin America official at the State Department whether Pinochet’s human rights violations were “that much worse than in other countries in Latin America.” When the official told him they were, he said only that cutting off military aid would have “very serious” consequences.

Kissinger did not believe that American foreign policy could be successful if it let morality overtake pragmatism and self-interest. Moral outcomes, he argued, came from the advance of human freedom, and he believed his actions achieved that.

“A country that demands moral perfection of itself as a test of its foreign policy will achieve neither perfection nor security,” Kissinger wrote in his 1994 book, “Diplomacy.”

He also despised armchair quarterbacks. Governing, he posited, is difficult, and doesn’t allow for the luxury of hindsight that academics and his critics enjoy.

“The analyst runs no risk. If his conclusions prove wrong, he can write another treatise,” he wrote in “Diplomacy.” “The statesman is permitted only one guess; his mistakes are irretrievable.”

Kissinger’s defenders argue that his critics now treat “the West’s victory” in the Cold War “as a foregone conclusion,” and that across the world, “revolutionary nihilists” were busy massacring people too. But these are convenient excuses for many of the atrocities Kissinger tolerated or authorized, and they ignore that many of Kissinger’s contemporaries often saw clear paranoia and fault in his actions well in advance.

“Is Allende a mortal threat to the U.S.?” Viron Vaky, the NSC official who criticized Kissinger’s efforts to foment a coup in Santiago, asked in a 1970 memo that was later obtained by the National Security Archive. “It is hard to argue this.”

In 2003, the film director Errol Morris released “The Fog of War,” a documentary featuring former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, who oversaw much of the Vietnam War. The film centered McNamara detailing lessons he had learned from the experience as he sought to make peace with the “immense moral burden of his actions” in Vietnam, as The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson wrote in 2016.

Kissinger never engaged in any such reflection. Instead, he continued to peddle lies about his actions, including an absurd suggestion, in 2014, that U.S. drone warfare had resulted in more deaths than the Cambodian bombing campaign.

“Unlike Robert McNamara, Kissinger has shown little in the way of a conscience,” Anderson wrote. (Kissinger, as Anderson noted, in fact mocked McNamara for espousing regret in the film.) “And because of that, it seems highly likely, history will not easily absolve him.”

Washington, however, spent the final decades of Kissinger’s life doing exactly that.

Kissinger served as an informal adviser to numerous presidents, secretaries of state and foreign policy heavyweights even after he left the government. He was welcome at Washington’s swankiest dinner parties, feted by leaders of both major political parties and large think tanks, and given generous platforms to offer his advice and perspective on American military crusades in the pages of the country’s most prominent newspapers and on the airwaves of its biggest TV and radio networks.

He used those platforms to, among other things, cheerlead for war in Iraq: In 2002, a year before the U.S. invaded, he called for regime change in Baghdad. Kissinger served as an “informal adviser,” as historian Grandin described it, to President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and top aide Karl Rove throughout that war, during which as many as 200,000 Iraqi civilians may have died, according to estimates, and the U.S. amassed a litany of new human rights abuses to add to its record.

Kissinger’s sense of bipartisanship never faltered. Hillary Clinton leaned on him for advice as secretary of state and called him a friend. Samantha Power, who served as Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, often criticized Kissinger and argued that human rights should play a much more prominent role in American foreign policy. Yet in 2014, she attended a Yankees-Red Sox game with Kissinger, and two years later accepted an award named for him. The Obama administration leaned on the bombing of Cambodia as the legal justification for its drone wars, including the targeted killings of American citizens abroad.

That his influence never waned makes it easy to see Kissinger’s fingerprints on every ill — or accomplishment, as his acolytes would frame them — that followed. There’s probably some truth, too, to the idea that Kissinger maintained that influence in large part to help ensure his place in history as America’s most significant foreign policy mind, no matter who wrote it.

The United States, after all, overthrew numerous democratically elected governments, waged secret bombing campaigns, and committed and permitted human rights abuses well before Kissinger came to power. And the U.S. government has carried out decades of endless war that have resulted in significant civilian death tolls, the expanded use of torture, indefinite detention, illegal rendition and extrajudicial murder since Kissinger left government.

Much like Kissinger, the architects of those disasters faced few, if any, meaningful repercussions. A country that so often predicates its concern for human rights on the specific humans in question, and in which elite accountability for even the most blatant crimes and abuses is so rare, seems to have made up its mind about morality’s place in politics and public policy without much need for Kissinger’s help. He was just happier than most to provide it.

Perhaps, then, Kissinger’s life was most remarkable for how brightly it illuminated a simple and ugly truth about the nation he served.

“If all the sins of the U.S. security state can be loaded onto one man, all parties get what they need: Kissinger’s status as a world-historic figure is assured, and his critics can regard his foreign policy as the exception rather than the rule,” Meaney, the essayist, posited for The New Yorker in 2020. “It would be comforting to believe that American liberals are capable of seeing that politics is more than a matter of personal style, and that the record will prevail, but the enduring cult of Kissinger points to a less palatable possibility: Kissinger is us.”


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Henry Kissinger, American diplomat and Nobel winner, dead at 100

Reuters

Nov 29 (Reuters) - Henry Kissinger, a diplomatic powerhouse whose roles as a national security adviser and secretary of state under two presidents left an indelible mark on U.S. foreign policy and earned him a controversial Nobel Peace Prize, died on Wednesday at age 100.

Kissinger died at his home in Connecticut, according to a statement from his geopolitical consulting firm, Kissinger Associates Inc. No mention was made of the circumstances.

It said he would be interred at a private family service, to be followed at a later date by a public memorial service in New York City.

Kissinger had been active past his centenary, attending meetings in the White House, publishing a book on leadership styles, and testifying before a Senate committee about the nuclear threat posed by North Korea. In July 2023 he made a surprise visit to Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.

During the 1970s in the midst of the Cold War, he had a hand in many of the epoch-changing global events of the decade while serving as national security adviser and secretary of state under Republican President Richard Nixon.

The German-born Jewish refugee's efforts led to the U.S. diplomatic opening with China, landmark U.S.-Soviet arms control talks, expanded ties between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and the Paris Peace Accords with North Vietnam.

Kissinger's reign as the prime architect of U.S. foreign policy waned with Nixon's resignation in 1974 amid the Watergate scandal. Still, he continued to be a diplomatic force as secretary of state under Nixon's successor, President Gerald Ford, and to offer strong opinions throughout the rest of his life.

While many hailed Kissinger for his brilliance and broad experience, others branded him a war criminal for his support for anti-communist dictatorships, especially in Latin America. In his latter years, his travels were circumscribed by efforts by other nations to arrest or question him about past U.S. foreign policy.

His 1973 Peace Prize - awarded jointly to North Vietnam's Le Duc Tho, who would decline it - was one of the most controversial ever. Two members of the Nobel committee resigned over the selection as questions arose about the secret U.S. bombing of Cambodia.

Ford called Kissinger a "super secretary of state" but also noted his prickliness and self-assurance, which critics were more likely to call paranoia and egotism. Even Ford said, "Henry in his mind never made a mistake."

"He had the thinnest skin of any public figure I ever knew," Ford said in an interview shortly before his death in 2006.

With his dour expression and gravelly, German-accented voice, Kissinger possessed an image of both a stuffy academic and a ladies' man, squiring starlets around Washington and New York in his bachelor days. Power, he said, was the ultimate aphrodisiac.

Voluble on policy, Kissinger was reticent on personal matters, although he once told a journalist he saw himself as a cowboy hero, riding off alone.

HARVARD FACULTY


Heinz Alfred Kissinger was born in Furth, Germany, on May 27, 1923, and moved to the United States with his family in 1938 before the Nazi campaign to exterminate European Jewry.

Anglicizing his name to Henry, Kissinger became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1943, served in the Army in Europe in World War Two, and attended Harvard University on a scholarship, earning a master's degree in 1952 and a doctorate in 1954. He was on Harvard's faculty for the next 17 years.

During much of that time, Kissinger served as a consultant to government agencies, including in 1967 when he acted as an intermediary for the State Department in Vietnam. He used his connections with President Lyndon Johnson's administration to pass on information about peace negotiations to the Nixon camp.

When Nixon's pledge to end the Vietnam War helped him win the 1968 presidential election, he brought Kissinger to the White House as national security adviser.

But the process of "Vietnamization" - shifting the burden of the war from the 500,000-troop U.S. forces to the South Vietnamese - was long and bloody, punctuated by massive U.S. bombing of North Vietnam, the mining of the North's harbors, and the bombing of Cambodia.

Kissinger declared in 1972 that "peace is at hand" in Vietnam but the Paris Peace Accords reached in January 1973 were little more than a prelude to the final Communist takeover of the South two years later.

In 1973, in addition to his role as national security adviser, Kissinger was named secretary of state - giving him unchallenged authority in foreign affairs.

An intensifying Arab-Israeli conflict launched Kissinger on his first so-called "shuttle" mission, a brand of highly personal, high-pressure diplomacy for which he became famous.

Thirty-two days spent shuttling between Jerusalem and Damascus helped Kissinger forge a long-lasting disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

In an effort to diminish Soviet influence, Kissinger reached out to its chief communist rival, China, and made two trips there, including a secret one to meet with Premier Zhou Enlai. The result was Nixon's historic summit in Beijing with Chairman Mao Zedong and the eventual formalization of relations between the two countries.

Former U.S. ambassador to China Winston Lord, who served as Kissinger's special assistant, saluted his former boss as a "tireless advocate for peace," telling Reuters, "America has lost a towering champion for the national interest."

STRATEGIC ARMS ACCORD

The Watergate scandal that forced Nixon to resign barely grazed Kissinger, who was not connected to the cover-up and continued as secretary of state when Ford took office in the summer of 1974. But Ford did replace him as national security adviser in an effort to hear more voices on foreign policy.

Later that year Kissinger went with Ford to Vladivostok in the Soviet Union, where the president met Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and agreed to a basic framework for a strategic arms pact. The agreement capped Kissinger's pioneering efforts at detente that led to a relaxing of U.S.-Soviet tensions.

But Kissinger's diplomatic skills had their limits. In 1975, he was faulted for failing to persuade Israel and Egypt to agree to a second-stage disengagement in the Sinai.

And in the India-Pakistan War of 1971, Nixon and Kissinger were heavily criticized for tilting toward Pakistan. Kissinger was heard calling the Indians "bastards" - a remark he later said he regretted.

Like Nixon, he feared the spread of left-wing ideas in the Western hemisphere, and his actions in response were to cause deep suspicion of Washington from many Latin Americans for years to come.

In 1970 he plotted with the CIA on how best to destabilize and overthrow the Marxist but democratically elected Chilean President Salvador Allende, while he said in a memo in the wake of Argentina's bloody coup in 1976 that the military dictators should be encouraged.

When Ford lost to Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, in 1976, Kissinger's days in the suites of government power were largely over. The next Republican in the White House, Ronald Reagan, distanced himself from Kissinger, who he viewed as out of step with his conservative constituency.

After leaving government, Kissinger set up a high-priced, high-powered consulting firm in New York, which offered advice to the world's corporate elite. He served on company boards and various foreign policy and security forums, wrote books, and became a regular media commentator on international affairs.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President George W. Bush picked Kissinger to head an investigative committee. But outcry from Democrats who saw a conflict of interest with many of his consulting firm's clients forced Kissinger to step down from the post.

Divorced from his first wife, Ann Fleischer, in 1964, he married Nancy Maginnes, an aide to New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, in 1974. He had two children by his first wife.

Reporting by Abinaya Vijayaraghavan in Bengaluru; Editing by Sandra Maler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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