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The more elementary the experience, the more profound its impact on a nation’s interpretation of the present in the light of the past.” After all, Kissinger asked, “Who is to quarrel with a people’s interpretation of its past?It is its only means of facing the future, and what ‘really’ happened is often less important than what is thought to have happened.” To the political scientist, states might “appear …There are reasons other than his longevity why so many world leaders—among them the Chinese President Xi Jinping—continue to seek the counsel of Henry Kissinger, who stepped down as U. From January 20, 1969, until November 3, 1975, he served as assistant to the president for national security affairs, first under Richard Nixon, then under Gerald Ford. He was also a member of the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy (1986–88) and the Defense Policy Board (2001–present).
If the democracies had moved against the Nazis in 1936, Kissinger argued, “we wouldn’t know today whether Hitler was a misunderstood nationalist, whether he had only limited objectives, or whether he was in fact a maniac.
The democracies learned that he was in fact a maniac.
They had certainty but they had to pay for that with a few million lives.” This insight had profound implications for the nuclear age, when the potential casualties of a world war could number in the hundreds of millions.
The problem of conjecture lies in the asymmetry of the payoffs.
Four years later Kissinger received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and, in 1986, the Medal of Liberty.
Kissinger’s record in office remains the subject of multiple historical controversies, echoes of the bitter debates of the 1970s, not least on the subject of Vietnam.Writing in 1983, Kissinger’s former Harvard colleague Stanley Hoffmann depicted Kissinger as a Machiavellian “who believe[s] that the preservation of the state …requires both ruthlessness and deceit at the expense of foreign and internal adversaries.” Many writers have simply assumed that Kissinger modeled himself on his supposed heroes, the Austrian statesman Klemens von Metternich and the Prussian leader Otto von Bismarck, the standard-bearers of classical European realpolitik. Morgenthau, the authentic realist, vehemently disagreed. Kissinger was certainly not an idealist in the tradition of U. President Woodrow Wilson, who sought universal peace through international law and collective security.It was Kissinger who negotiated the end of the Yom Kippur War between the Arab states and Israel and whose shuttle diplomacy paved the way for the Camp David Accords.Kissinger’s Intellectual Orientation Yet Kissinger has continued to be consulted by foreign leaders not just because of his achievements.Lawyers, he remarked in 1968, are the “single most important group in Government, but they do have this drawback—a deficiency in history.” For Kissinger, history was doubly important: as a source of illuminating analogies and as the defining factor in national self-understanding.Americans might doubt history’s importance, but, as Kissinger wrote, “Europeans, living on a continent covered with ruins testifying to the fallibility of human foresight, feel in their bones that history is more complicated than systems analysis.” The Problem of Conjecture Unlike most academics, Kissinger discerned early in his career that high-stakes policy decisions often must be taken before all the facts are in. policies did not reside in the ‘facts,’ but in their interpretation,” he argued in A World Restored.From September 22, 1973, until January 20, 1977, he was secretary of state—the first foreign-born citizen to hold that office, the highest-ranking post in the executive branch after the presidency and vice presidency. In 1973 the Norwegian Nobel Committee jointly awarded Kissinger and Le Duc Tho the Nobel Peace Prize, citing their perseverance in the negotiations that produced the Paris Peace Accords. Under Ronald Reagan, he chaired the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America, which met between 19.Yet even his harshest critics cannot deny the skill with which Kissinger managed the most important of all the foreign relationships of the United States at that time, the one with the Soviet Union.He was responsible—to name only his most obvious achievements—for negotiating the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the Soviets.