The National Interest Jacob Heilbrunn (Sept-Oct 2014)
WHEN HENRY KISSINGER celebrated his ninetieth birthday in Manhattan’s St. Regis Hotel in June 2013, he attracted an audience of notables, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Valery Giscard D’Estaing, Donald Rumsfeld, James Baker and George Shultz. Kerry called Kissinger America’s “indispensable statesman,” but it was John McCain who, as the Daily Beast reported, electrified the room with his remarks. McCain, who was brutally tortured in what was sardonically known as the Hanoi Hilton, earned widespread respect for courageously refusing to accept an early release from his Vietnamese captors after his father had been promoted to commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
At the party, McCain recounted for the first time the specific circumstances of that refusal. He explained that when Kissinger traveled to Hanoi to conclude the agreement ending the war in 1973, the Vietnamese offered to send McCain home with him. Kissinger declined. McCain said:
He knew my early release would be seen as favoritism to my father and a violation of our code of conduct. By rejecting this last attempt to suborn a dereliction of duty, Henry saved my reputation, my honor, my life, really. . . . So, I salute my friend and benefactor, Henry Kissinger, the classical realist who did so much to make the world safer for his country’s interests, and by so doing safer for the ideals that are its pride and purpose…. MORE
In the summer of 2002, during the initial buildup to the invasion of Iraq, which he supported, Henry Kissinger told me he was nevertheless concerned about the lack of critical thinking and planning for the occupation of a Middle Eastern country where, as he put it, “normal politics have not been practiced for decades, and where new power struggles would therefore have to be very violent.” Thus is pessimism morally superior to misplaced optimism.
I have been a close friend of Henry Kissinger’s for some time, but my relationship with him as a historical figure began decades ago. When I was growing up, the received wisdom painted him as the ogre of Vietnam. Later, as I experienced firsthand the stubborn realities of the developing world, and came to understand the task that a liberal polity like the United States faced in protecting its interests, Kissinger took his place among the other political philosophers whose books I consulted to make sense of it all. In the 1980s, when I was traveling through Central Europe and the Balkans, I encountered A World Restored, Kissinger’s first book, published in 1957, about the diplomatic aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. In that book, he laid out the significance of Austria as a “polyglot Empire [that] could never be part of a structure legitimized by nationalism,” and he offered a telling truth about Greece, where I had been living for most of the decade: whatever attraction the war for Greek independence had held for the literati of the 1820s, it was not born of “a revolution of middle-class origin to achieve political liberty,” he cautioned, “but a national movement with a religious basis.”… MORE
When Americans look around the world today, we see one crisis after another. Russian aggression in Ukraine, extremism and chaos in Iraq and Syria, a deadly epidemic in West Africa, escalating territorial tensions in the East and South China seas, a global economy that still isn’t producing enough growth or shared prosperity — the liberal international order that the United States has worked for generations to build and defend seems to be under pressure from every quarter. It’s no wonder so many Americans express uncertainty and even fear about our role and our future in the world.
In his new book, “World Order,” Henry Kissinger explains the historic scope of this challenge. His analysis, despite some differences over specific policies, largely fits with the broad strategy behind the Obama administration’s effort over the past six years to build a global architecture of security and cooperation for the 21st century.
During the Cold War, America’s bipartisan commitment to protecting and expanding a community of nations devoted to freedom, market economies and cooperation eventually proved successful for us and the world. Kissinger’s summary of that vision sounds pertinent today: “an inexorably expanding cooperative order of states observing common rules and norms, embracing liberal economic systems, forswearing territorial conquest, respecting national sovereignty, and adopting participatory and democratic systems of governance.”… MORE
When Henry Kissinger talks about world order, to some it might seem as if he is living in a previous century. The 17th, perhaps. Beginning with his Harvard doctoral dissertation 60 years ago, he has extolled the concept of international order that was established in 1648 by the Peace of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years’ War. Instead of being shaped by wars of religion and the death spasms of the Holy Roman Empire, Europe’s international system was thenceforth based on independent nation-states, each sovereign over religion and other issues in its own territory. States would not interfere in the internal affairs of other states, and order would, ideally, be maintained by clever statesmen who focused on national interests and curated a balance of power.
Kissinger’s appreciation for order, he later recalled, came after his family fled Hitler’s Germany in 1938 and arrived in New York, where he realized he did not have to cross the street to avoid non-Jewish boys who might beat him up. Kissinger became an exemplar of the realist, as opposed to idealist, school of diplomacy, someone who believed that a foreign policy that is overly guided by moral impulses and crusading ideals was likely to be dangerous. “The most fundamental problem of politics,” he wrote in his dissertation, “is not the control of wickedness but the limitation of righteousness.”
Kissinger’s fellow students in Harvard’s government department scoffed at his choice of topic. The atom bomb, they contended, had fundamentally changed global affairs. One snidely suggested he should transfer to the history department… MORE
Der Spiegel -Interview Conducted By Juliane von Mittelstaedt and Erich Follath
Henry Kissinger seems more youthful than his 91 years. He is focused and affable, but also guarded, ready at any time to defend himself or brusquely deflect overly critical questions. That, of course, should come as no surprise. While his intellect is widely respected, his political legacy is controversial. Over the years, repeated attempts have been made to try him for war crimes.
In those roles, he also carried partial responsibility for the napalm bombings in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos the killed or maimed tens of thousands of civilians. Kissinger also backed the putsch against Salvador Allende in Chile and is accused of having had knowledge of CIA murder plots. Documents declassified just a few weeks ago show that Kissinger had drawn up secret plans to launch air strikes against Cuba. The idea got scrapped after Democrat Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976.
Nevertheless, Kissinger remains a man whose presence is often welcome in the White House, where he continues to advise presidents and secretaries of state to this day… MORE
F. TIMES -By Lionel Barber (Sept 5, 2014 1:26 pm)
Henry Kissinger’s latest opus is exquisitely timed. The Middle East is ablaze from Gaza to Iraq and Syria. Russia under Vladimir Putin has turned revanchist, annexing Crimea and mounting a stealth invasion of eastern Ukraine. China is jockeying for power and influence in the Pacific and beyond, testing the resolve of a war-weary America.
We are watching a world in disorder. The question is how far these convulsions are due to a power vacuum in the international system. Kissinger, 91, Harvard academic-turned-secretary of state to two US presidents, does not tackle this head-on in World Order but it is implicit in every page. The answers he suggests go to the heart of the debate about American leadership.
For the past 25 years, since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US has occupied the role of hegemon. The unipolar moment is now coming to an inglorious end. America under George W Bush overreached after the September 11 terrorist attacks, presiding in his first term over a militarisation of foreign policy that delivered a stalemate at best in Afghanistan and a broken state in Iraq. The result: a split western alliance, a disillusioned American public and a strengthening of theocratic Iran. …MORE
INDIATODAY Ian Bremmer September 18, 2014 | UPDATED 12:33 IST
Kissinger is dead right in describing the evolution of the world order but hedge your bets on his assertion for what comes next: the rise of the regions. Here’s Ian Bremmer’s review of Henry Kissinger’s World Order.Should you bet with Henry Kissinger on where the world is heading? In his new book, the former US secretary of state argues that «chaos threatens» the world order «side by side with unprecedented interdependence» between nations. He’s right on target. The globalisation of the world economy has proceeded alongside a host of threats that transcend borders: «the spread of weapons of mass destruction, the disintegration of states, the impact of environmental depredations, the persistence of genocidal practices, and the spread of new technologies». But even as the world’s prosperity and problems become more intertwined, geopolitical conflict between traditional nation-states is on the rise.The main driver for this growing volatility is a deteriorating US-led world order, what I call the ‘G-Zero’-the notion that we are experiencing a widening global power vacuum that no nation or group of nations will fill for the foreseeable future. America is becoming less willing and able to influence outcomes, precisely at a time when international leadership is increasingly critical. America’s exceptional ability to organise global institutions and the international agenda no longer holds-and there is no useful strategy to try and regain it. That underpins and links the geopolitical conflicts that feel ubiquitous today, from the South China Sea and Ukraine to Iraq and Syria….MORE
ISN Blog By By Daniel Fiott (October 3, 2014)
This short piece is an attempt to sketch out, however tentatively and briefly, the similarities between three of Henry Kissinger’s best-selling and most influential books. The first isA World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace 1812-1822 , which was submitted as a doctoral thesis by Kissinger in 1954 before making it into print in 1957. The secondisDiplomacy(1994). The thirdishis most recent and perhaps final offering, World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History (2014). There is no doubt in the mind of this author that comparisons between these texts will eventually form the basis of adoctoral thesis. However, the point of this short essay is to see how, if at all, Kissinger’s views on the conduct and ultimate aim of diplomacy have changed over time. It is thus a consciously brief exploratory exercise rather than a definitive account.
A World Restored
Kissinger’s first book was essentially a study of the corrupting effect of revolution on world – or, more specifically, European – order. Kissinger’s (thinly masked) parallel between Napoleon and Hitler made the point that revolutionary powers – defined as those states that seek to overturn the established global order – were intrinsically threatening to world peace. It was up to the reader to make the link between Napoleon, Hitler and the growing power (at the time of writing) of the Soviet Union. Revolutions, wherever they arose, needed to be eradicated or, at best, contained… MORE
The Globe and Mail (
Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger tells the Globe’s John Geiger that while some of the problems that arise in relationships between continents remain the same, the ability to collect information is like nothing before…. MORE