Issue December-2

Henry Kissinger - Genius Diplomat?

Henry Kissinger

Possibly the greatest diplomat the world has ever seen.

The death of Henry Kissinger at 100 years caused some to lavishly praise him but in general the praise was rather restricted due the woke opinions that his support for the bombing of Cambodia was a war crime.

We get back to the old problem of what amount of destruction, now often known as collateral damage, can be justified or considered appropriate and acceptable if the aim in the greater scheme of things is to save lives (not necessarily the enemies).

Having seen many interviews with both Kissinger and Nixon form the time and not in hindsight I firmly believe that Kissinger at least was the last person to want to kill innocent civilians. But he a Nixon had the end the Vietnam war, not only for military but also for political reasons. The resistance to US policy in Vietnam was growing immensely and any politician with a brain knew that the madness of this war had to stooped as soon as possible.

It cannot be our aim in the Times to repeat the many lists of achievements and involvements that this amazing man had during his lifetime.

Of course having escaped together with his parent from Nazi Germany in 1938 and joining the US army in the fight against Germany makes him somewhat unique. Often we tend to think of politicians as arm-chair warriors who let the others do the fighting but Henry (born Heinz) took part in active service including the famous "battle of the Bulge".

Even though he was only a private he was assigned the task of setting up the administration of the city of Krefeld.
His knowledge of the German language was of course a good reason but various authors attribute his task allocation due to his high intellect. Actually within only eight days he had formed a functioning civilian administration.

He was reassigned to the Counter Intelligence Corps, where he became a Special Agent and promoted to the rank of sergeant.

He was given charge of a team in Hanover assigned to tracking down Gestapo officers and other saboteurs, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star and in June 1945 he was was made commandant of the Bensheim metro detachment, Bergstrasse district of Hesse, with responsibility for denazification of the district.

It is aid that although he possessed absolute authority and powers of arrest, Kissinger took care to avoid abuses against the local population by his command.

During this time he had become a US citizen.

In 1950 Kissinger earned his Bachelor of Arts summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa in political science from Harvard College where he lived in Adams House and studied under William Yandell Elliott. His senior undergraduate thesis, titled The Meaning of History: Reflections on Spengler, Toynbee and Kant, was over 400 pages long, and was the origin of the current limit on length (35,000 words).
He earned his Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy at Harvard University in 1951 and 1954.

In 1952, although still a student, he served as a consultant to the director of the Psychological Strategy Board, and founded a magazine, Confluence. It is said that at that time, he sought to work as a spy for the FBI.

Eventually Kissinger served as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under President Richard Nixon and continued as Secretary of State under Nixon's successor Gerald Ford.

Kissinger and Nixon were unusually close and shared a penchant for secrecy and conducted numerous "backchannel" negotiations.
Excluding the official State Department experts, through the Soviet Ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Dobrynin, they conducted secret talks.

Kissinger played a dominant role in United States foreign policy between 1969 and 1977 where he extended the policy of détente. The policy led to a significant relaxation in U.S. Soviet tensions and played a crucial role in 1971 talks with People's Republic of China Premier Zhou Enlai. The talks concluded with a rapprochement between the United States and the People's Republic of China, and the formation of a new strategic anti-Soviet Sino-American alignment. He was jointly awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize with Le Duc Tho for helping to establish a ceasefire and U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam.

The ceasefire didn't hold. Tho declined to accept the award and Kissinger it seems was deeply ambivalent about it.
He donated his Nobel prize money to charity, did not attend the award ceremony, and later offered to return his prize medal.

According to Kissinger, his friend Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., the Ambassador to Saigon, employed Kissinger as a consultant, leading to Kissinger visiting Vietnam once in 1965 and twice in 1966, where Kissinger realised that the United States "knew neither how to win or how to conclude" the Vietnam War. He also stated that in 1967, he served as an intermediary for negotiations between the United States and North Vietnam, with him providing the American position, while two Frenchmen provided the North Vietnamese position.

When he came into office in 1969, Kissinger favoured a negotiating strategy under which the United States and North Vietnam would sign an armistice and agreed to pull their troops out of South Vietnam while the South Vietnamese government and the Viet Cong were to agree to a coalition government. Kissinger had doubts about Nixon's approach, believing that it would give the Soviet Union leverage over the United States and unlike Nixon he was less concerned about the ultimate fate of South Vietnam.

Kissinger did not regard South Vietnam as important in its own right, but he believed it was necessary to support South Vietnam to maintain the United States as a global power, believing that none of America's allies would trust the United States if South Vietnam were abandoned too quickly.

Originally In 1969, Kissinger was opposed to the bombing of Cambodia. He feared that Nixon was acting rashly with no plans for the diplomatic fall-out. On March 16, 1969, Nixon announced the bombing would start the next day.

Kissinger saw that the president was committed and became more supportive. On fact Kissinger played a key role in bombing Cambodia to disrupt raids into South Vietnam from Cambodia, as well as the 1970 Cambodian campaign and subsequent widespread bombing of Khmer Rouge targets in Cambodia.

The Paris peace talks had become stalemated by late 1969 owing to the obstructionism of the South Vietnamese delegation. The South Vietnamese President Nguyan Van Thiou obviously did not want the United States to withdraw from Vietnam, and out of frustration with him, Kissinger decided to begin secret peace talks with Th? in Paris parallel to the official talks that the South Vietnamese were unaware of.

In June 1971, Kissinger supported Nixon's effort to ban the Pentagon Papers saying the "haemorrhage of state secrets" to the media was making diplomacy impossible.

As National Security Adviser under Nixon, Kissinger pioneered the policy of détente with the Soviet Union, seeking a relaxation in tensions between the two superpowers. He negotiated the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks which ended with the SALT I treaty and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Leonid Brezhnev who was General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party. Negotiations about strategic disarmament were originally supposed to start under the Johnson Administration but were postponed as a protest on the invasion by Warsaw Pact troops of Czechoslovakia in August 1968.

Nixon felt his administration had neglected relations with the Western European states in his first term and in September 1972 decided that if he was reelected that 1973 would be the "Year of Europe" as the United States would focus on relations with the states of the European Economic Community (EEC) which had emerged as a serious economic rival by 1970.

Nixon intended that economic relations with Europe would be tied in with security relations, and if the EEC states wanted changes in American tariff and monetary policies, the price would be defence spending on their part.

Kissinger wanted to "revitalise" NATO, which he called a "decaying" alliance as he believed that there was nothing at present to stop the Red Army from overrunning Western Europe in a conventional forces conflict. Kissinger at one point noted that the United States was going to sacrifice NATO for the sake of "citrus fruits".

Yom Kippur

When the Yom Kippur War broke out in 1973 Kissinger delayed telling President Richard Nixon about in order to keep him from interfering in the outset of conflict. Although the Israelis informed Kissinger about the attack at 6am on October the 6th 1973 ; Kissinger waited nearly 3 and a half hours before he informed Nixon. According to Kissinger, he was notified at 6:30a.m. (12:30pm. Israel time) that war was imminent, and his urgent calls to the Soviets and Egyptians were ineffective.

Kissinger promised the Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir that the United States would replace its losses in equipment after the war, but sought initially to delay arms shipments to Israel, as he believed it would improve the odds of making peace along the lines of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242. In 1973, Meir requested $850 million worth of American arms and equipment to replace its materiel losses. Nixon instead generously sent some $2 billion worth. The arms lift enraged King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, and he retaliated on October 20, 1973, by placing a total embargo on oil shipments to the United States, to be joined by all of the other oil-producing Arab states except Iraq and Libya.

Kissinger had avoided involving France and the United Kingdom, the former European colonial powers of the Middle East, in the peace negotiations that followed the Yom Kippur, being primarily focused on minimising the Soviet Union's influence over the peace negotiations and on moderating the international influences on the Arab-Israeli conflict. President Pompidou of France was concerned and perturbed by this development, viewing it as an indication of the United States' ambitions of hegemonic-ally domineering the region.

Kissingers involvement in many colossal matters of state in the following years cannot be underestimated. Whether it concerned the US influence in the Persian Gulf area (he even supported Iran at that time), then there was the delicate situation of two Nato allies Turkey and Greece being involved in the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Kissinger himself never felt comfortable with the way he had handled the Cyprus issue.

Kissinger's involvement in the troubles in Chile ended with him, on September 10, 2001, having civil proceedings against him. He was accused by relatives and survivors of General Rene Schneider of collaborating in arranging Schneider's kidnapping which resulted in his death. The case was dismissed by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, citing separation of powers: "The decision to support a coup of the Chilean government to prevent Dr. Allende from coming to power, and the means by which the United States Government sought to effect that goal, implicate policy makers in the murky realm of foreign affairs and national security best left to the political branches." Decades later, the CIA admitted its involvement in the kidnapping of General Schneider, but not his murder, and subsequently paid the group responsible for his death $35,000 "to keep the prior contact secret, maintain the goodwill of the group, and for humanitarian reasons".


According to declassified state department files, Kissinger also hindered the Carter administration's efforts to halt the mass killings by the 19761983 military dictatorship by visiting the country as Videla's personal guest to attend the 1978 FIFA World Cup and praising the regime.

Legacy and reception

Kissinger has generally received a polarising reception. He has been portrayed him as a strategic genius who was willing to act in a utilitarian manner, but others have portrayed his foreign policy decisions as immoral and profoundly damaging in the long run.

Due to his adherence to an approach to politics called Realpolitik, which prioritises pragmatic geopolitical considerations over moral or ideological values, Kissinger has been criticised for turning a blind eye to war crimes committed by American allies during his tenure.

Positive views
Historian Niall Ferguson has argued that Kissinger is one of the most effective secretary of states in American history.

Which side of the fence you are on will of course determine your final appraisal of the man. For me it is important to understand what was correct at the time and not to judge with hindsight based on our newer 21st century woke principles.

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