Henry Kissinger, a German-born American diplomat who shaped U.S. foreign policy in the second half of the 20th century and won a Nobel Prize for brokering an end to the Vietnam War, has died. He was 100 years old.
Kissinger, was the most celebrated U.S. statesman in modern times, helping former President Richard Nixon establish U.S. relations with China, negotiating the 1973 ceasefire with North Vietnam, reaching Cold War detente and arms agreements with the Soviet Union and conducting “shuttle diplomacy” to defuse Middle East tension.
Kissinger at the same time was an intensely controversial figure and a lightning rod for critics of Nixon’s foreign policy, particularly in conduct of the Vietnam War and its expansion into Cambodia, which was followed by the rise of the genocidal Khmer Rouge.
He was hailed as a brilliant strategic thinker, a Harvard-educated political scientist who wielded power with pragmatic conservatism, sometimes described as “realpolitik,” or hard-nosed political realism.
“He had the most strategic mind of anyone I’ve ever came across,” said Brent Scowcroft, who served as Kissinger’s deputy from 1973 to 1975 and later was national security adviser to former President Gerald Ford and former President George W. Bush. He said Kissinger could look at individual countries and issues and “mold them so somewhere down the line they’d all come together.”
“He was a realpolitician in the German sense of the term,” said Robert Dallek, whose 2007 book, "Nixon and Kissinger," chronicled the apex of Kissinger’s career, 1969 through 1974.
“He was the most influential secretary of State in modern times but not the most constructive or successful,” Dallek said in a 2007 interview. (Those accolades, he said, were more aptly bestowed on George Marshall and Dean Acheson, who created institutions such as NATO that preserved Western democracy in Europe after World War II and ultimately won the Cold War.)
Kissinger’s critics, such as the late writer Christopher Hitchens, author of "The Trial of Henry Kissinger," accused him of playing a role in the fall of Salvador Allende, the democratically elected Marxist president of Chile who was deposed and died in a military coup in 1973. Allende’s death preceded two decades of authoritarian rule in that country.
Kissinger’s critics pointed to Nixon White House tape recordings as evidence that he worked internally to delay an end to the bloody and divisive war in Vietnam until after the Republican president’s 1972 re-election, a period that saw thousands of U.S. combat deaths and civilian casualties.
Kissinger became national security adviser when Nixon took office in 1969 and in 1973 became secretary of State, after overshadowing William Rogers, Nixon’s first secretary of State, by taking the lead on important foreign policy issues. Kissinger continued in the Cabinet post under former President Gerald Ford after Nixon resigned office over the Watergate scandal.
Kissinger was an outsize figure on the public stage during the prime of his public career. An unabashed publicity hound, he dated Hollywood starlets and both courted and manipulated Washington columnists and journalists. He remained a fixture of television talk shows well into his 80s and led a successful consulting business.
Democrat and Republican presidents alike sought his counsel as they shaped foreign policy in the aftermath of the Cold War and the terrorist attacks on the United States of Sept. 11, 2001. Companies and governments paid millions of dollars to his consulting firm, Kissinger Associates, for his strategic analysis and contacts with those still in power.
Kissinger’s “influence stayed with him after he left office, while that of all the others — with the possible exception of James Baker — dissipated,” said Leslie Gelb, a former president of the Council on Foreign Relations and onetime Kissinger protege.
Kissinger came to the United States at the age of 15, an immigrant who had escaped Nazi Germany with his family.
Source: USA TODAY
BDST: 0823 HRS, NOV 30, 2023