Tim Kirby - May 10, 2020©
Some people blog, Henry Kissinger writes and his take on the consequences of the Covid-19 virus are certainly worth analysis. Kissinger as a major insider for generations of American power speaks with a voice that reflects a certain perspective on things from deep within the Beltway that those on the outside cannot entirely see or understand.
But we are free to try, because one of the most solidly connected men in the world, in his mid 90s, has decided to speak out on what is to be done after the Coronavirus situation calms down. Let’s take a look at his words and see if we can read the tea leaves.
The overall message of Kissinger’s piece seems to be an appeal to the pre-crisis status quo as the plan for the post crisis world. He wrote…
Sustaining the public trust is crucial to social solidarity, to the relation of societies with each other, and to international peace and stability.
Nations cohere and flourish on the belief that their institutions can foresee calamity, arrest its impact and restore stability. When the Covid-19 pandemic is over, many countries’ institutions will be perceived as having failed. Whether this judgment is objectively fair is irrelevant. The reality is the world will never be the same after the coronavirus. To argue now about the past only makes it harder to do what has to be done.
It seems as though Kissinger agrees with those like myself that the Coronavirus and its Anti-Globalization effects could be a game changer. Where we disagree is that Ole Henry sees this as a terrible thing indeed.If there is a mass perception that the previous status quo was a failure, it will be the catalyst to choose a different path or at the very least question it.
Just a few months ago the idea that borders would be closed and human movement would be restricted seemed impossible, as it would surely sink the global economy. True we are in an obvious economic downturn, but America is not starving to death despite migrant labor being trapped on one side of the border or the other. Yes some goods are still coming cheap from China, but a quarantined America seems far from falling due to being cut off from two dollar T-shirt supplies. A Globalized Liberal World Order that Kissinger seems to have been working towards almost his entire adult life finally has a counterargument being shoved in the faces of the masses and the elites of the entire world.
Leaders are dealing with the crisis on a largely national basis, but the virus’s society-dissolving effects do not recognize borders. While the assault on human health will – hopefully – be temporary, the political and economic upheaval it has unleashed could last for generations. No country, not even the U.S., can in a purely national effort overcome the virus. Addressing the necessities of the moment must ultimately be coupled with a global collaborative vision and program. If we cannot do both in tandem, we will face the worst of each.
Although one could argue that Globalization has lead to the Coronavirus problem, Kissinger insists that only a big sloppy bucket of more Globalization is the answer. Furthermore, this raises questions. Why exactly can’t the United States deal with this problem? From the discovery of the germ theory of medicine up until the end of the Cold War a non-Globalized world was very capable of vastly extending human life and developing medical wonders Medieval peasants could only dream of. Interestingly in the very next paragraph Kissinger seems to contradict himself…
Drawing lessons from the development of the Marshall Plan and the Manhattan Project, the U.S. is obliged to undertake a major effort in three domains. First, shore up global resilience to infectious disease. Triumphs of medical science like the polio vaccine and the eradication of smallpox, or the emerging statistical-technical marvel of medical diagnosis through artificial intelligence, have lulled us into a dangerous complacency.
As is often the case when people talk about an international community they actually mean the West/America. This coded language is very visible when one pushes for global solutions to be done unilaterally by one preferred “exceptional” state. Picking the Marshall Plan and Manhattan Projects as lessons of history is somewhat ironic given that both of them benefitted only U.S. interests at the expense of two Japanese cities and the now multi-generational occupation of Europe.
After going on to say his obvious and reasonable second point, that leadership the world over needs to focus on making international economies recover quickly, he slips into a very odd third assignment to tackle after the Coronavirus dives down.
Third, safeguard the principles of the liberal world order. The founding legend of modern government is a walled city protected by powerful rulers, sometimes despotic, other times benevolent, yet always strong enough to protect the people from an external enemy. Enlightenment thinkers reframed this concept, arguing that the purpose of the legitimate state is to provide for the fundamental needs of the people: security, order, economic well-being, and justice. Individuals cannot secure these things on their own. The pandemic has prompted an anachronism, a revival of the walled city in an age when prosperity depends on global trade and movement of people.
So in Kissinger’s first two points he lays out two different crises caused by the Covid-19 Pandemic – The need to internationally prepare for further plagues with the U.S. at the helm and the need to restore economy(ies) globally. So by that logic does that mean that the “Liberal World Order” itself is in a state of crisis?
This would seem to be the real reason why Kissinger chose to send his views to the Wall Street Journal. He seems very concerned that at the end of his lengthy, adventurous and influential life it may have been all for naught. As stated above the plague is providing a massive counter argument to the necessity of Globalization, at least in the way that many of the Neo-Liberal school would see it.
If I were a betting man I would put $100 dollars on Kissinger writing this piece out of his own fears that his life was futile. His words are in a way like a self-penned eulogy and an appeal for others to save the order that he has built. Even after winning the Cold War, opening up China and becoming the posterboy for realpolitik diplomacy achieving more than 99.99% of the human population ever will, the facts still remain that…
The Enlightenment is on the way out, last believers of it are getting older and will be gone forever in two generations. Its values will become something of a legacy belief system like Protestant churches in an Atheistic EU.
The world is not going to be Globalized around a Washington DC “papacy” and it looks like the Multipolar vision will win out slowly over time.
Kissinger’s so-called “anachronisms” will continue to grow as the citizenry of the world sees that we can live in a world with borders and separate cultures not revolving around the United States. The Liberal World Order is being challenged and it is failing to properly answer for itself.
Kissinger was a key player in building this Liberal World Order so at the end of the road we should not be surprised that he is lamenting its seemingly inevitable loss. That is the real message he is trying to send as he marches closer to infinity every waking morning.
Henry Kissinger: Good or Evil?
10 historians assess the controversial statesman’s legacy.
By POLITICO MAGAZIN - October 10, 2015
When Niall Ferguson’s Henry Kissinger, 1923 to 1968: The Idealist (excerpted here in Politico Magazine) came out last month, it sparked a new discussion about the controversial statesman’s role in shaping the history of the 20th century: Whether Henry Kissinger—for so long considered an iconic realist of our era—all this time has been, as Ferguson suggests, a misunderstood idealist. But the book also reinvigorated another, more timeless debate: Is Kissinger, idealist or not, worthy of the continued praise that gets heaped on him in certain Washington and international circles?
Politico Magazine decided to ask top historians and Kissinger experts to evaluate the statesman, his role in history and his legacy. Is he best characterized as America’s greatest statesman, capable of making smart sacrifices for the greater good? Or has he been a careless and callous leader, responsible for perpetuating war and great crimes against humanity to the detriment of U.S. national security? Is Kissinger simply a vastly overrated diplomat—no more original in his ideas than any other Cold War intellectual? And, ultimately, has he been a force for good—or for evil? Here’s what they had to say.
‘Henry Kissinger is one of the worst people to ever be a force for good.’
By Nicholas Thompson, editor of newyorker.com and author of The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan and the History of the Cold War
Henry Kissinger is one of the worst people to ever be a force for good. He manipulated colleagues and nations. He faked the beginning of a nuclear war in order to advance some perverse personal game theory. He callously perpetrated international crimes. But he was a man of ideas at the center of an American strategy that ultimately benefited the world in some grand sense. His China policy was one of America’s great Cold War achievements. He deserves to be honored and to be given a medal—but one with the image of a man who is scowling and holding a knife. Henry Kissinger was a success—a true, American success—but he can only be called an idealist if he can be called despicable too.
‘The best to be said for him was that he was creative in his diplomacy.’
By James Mann, author of About Face: A History of America’s Curious Relationship With China and resident scholar at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
The notion that Kissinger was fundamentally an idealist is, to me, utterly preposterous. Indeed, during his period in office he reveled in his realism.
The best to be said for him was that he was creative in his diplomacy, shaking up old patterns and relationships across the globe. Inside Washington he was also, along with Donald Rumsfeld, one of the two or three most skillful bureaucratic warriors of modern times; his most consistent trait was to amass as much power and control as possible in his own office and person. But his claims to brilliance often fell apart on closer scrutiny. (The China initiative, for example, began with Richard Nixon, not Kissinger—and Kissinger concealed for years some of the concessions he made in Beijing.) On the whole, he was and is vastly overrated as a statesman.
‘He was not particularly original or bold.’
By Mario Del Pero, professor of international history at Sciences Po and author of The Eccentric Realist: Henry Kissinger and the Shaping of American Foreign Policy
I think that Kissinger has been a quintessential 1950s U.S. Cold War intellectual. He was not particularly original or bold, once we scratch away from his writings the deliberately opaque and convoluted prose he often used, possibly to try to render more original thoughts and reflections that were in reality fairly conventional. He certainly loved to present (and represent) himself as the no-nonsense, realist thinker who could teach naïve and hyper-idealist America how to behave in the brutal arena of international politics. And post-1968 America loved, for a while, that kind of message, which appeared to offer the solution necessary to get out of Vietnam and finally abandon quixotic crusades in the name of democracy, modernization and development.
By NIALL FERGUSON
Was he a war criminal? I am afraid that by the standards some of his critics have applied to Kissinger numerous post-1945 U.S. statesmen could be accused of crimes against humanity (and that applies perhaps to the vast majority of modern great powers’ leaders). What the archival record has so far revealed is that Kissinger was often simplistic, binary and even uninformed during his tenure as national security adviser and secretary of state. His often broadcasted realism notwithstanding, he tended to adhere to a dogmatic, zero-sum-game of the international game. In short, he wasn’t a war criminal, he wasn’t a very deep or sophisticated thinker, he rarely challenged the intellectual vogues of the time (even because it would have meant to challenge those in power, something he always was—and still is—reluctant to do), and once in government he displayed a certain intellectual laziness vis-à-vis the intricacies and complexities of a world that he still tended to see in black-and-white.
‘Nowadays, we could use a much larger dose of Kissingerian realism in our discussions of foreign policy.’
By Walter Isaacson, CEO of the Aspen Institute and author of Kissinger: A Biography
I think it’s useful that Niall Ferguson has produced a well-researched revisionist perspective on Henry Kissinger. History benefits from layers and layers of new brush strokes. My own view (and it will be interesting to see if Niall reflects this in his second volume) is that when Kissinger comes to power he is more of a classic realist in his outlook. He focuses on an unsentimental assessment of national interests and is able to balance smartly relations with Russia and China. I think that approach was not perfectly suited to the impulses of the American public of that time, and it caused problems with both neo-conservatives and the left. But I believe that nowadays, we could use a much larger dose of Kissingerian realism in our discussions of foreign policy.
‘Kissinger’s policies were not only morally flawed but also disastrous as Cold War strategy.’
By Gary Bass, professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University and author of The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide
In at least one crucial part of the world, Kissinger’s legacy is fixed: In South Asia, Indians and Bangladeshis widely remember Kissinger as an unusually cruel and cold-hearted person. As they bitterly recall, he and Richard Nixon firmly supported Pakistan’s military dictatorship throughout its bloody crackdown in 1971 on what today is Bangladesh, sending some 10 million Bengali refugees fleeing into India. In one of the worst atrocities of the Cold War, Pakistan’s junta brushed aside the results of a democratic election, killed awful numbers of Bengalis and targeted the Hindu minority among the Bengalis. (Bangladesh is now the eight-largest country in the world, with a population larger than Russia or Japan, as well as a major Muslim country with considerable strategic importance in South Asia.) On the White House tapes, Kissinger sneered at Americans who “bleed” for “the dying Bengalis.”
Kissinger’s actions in 1971 were clouded by his own ignorance about South Asia, his emotional misjudgments and his stoking of Nixon’s racism toward Indians. Kissinger’s policies were not only morally flawed but also disastrous as Cold War strategy. As U.S. government officials presciently warned him, a Pakistani crackdown would result in a futile civil war with India sponsoring the Bengali guerrillas, creating the conditions for Soviet-backed India to rip Pakistan in two—a strategic defeat for the United States and a strategic victory for the Soviet Union. And don’t forget that Kissinger knowingly violated U.S. law in allowing secret arms transfers to Pakistan during the India-Pakistan war in December 1971. Despite warnings from White House staffers and State Department and Pentagon lawyers that such arms transfers were illegal, Nixon and Kissinger went ahead, with Kissinger saying that doing so was “against our law”—a scandal of a piece with an overall pattern of lawlessness that culminated with Watergate.
‘Henry Kissinger may be the most overrated public figure of our times.’
By David Greenberg, professor of history, journalism and media studies at Rutgers University and author of Nixon’s Shadow: The History of an Image
Henry Kissinger may be the most overrated public figure of our times. He is overrated, first, by some foreign policy jocks, who wrongly credit him with being the mastermind behind Nixon’s foreign policy achievements. In fact, Nixon drove his own foreign policy and very much wanted to open relations with China and achieve détente with the Soviet Union. Nixon was the grand strategist, Kissinger the tactician. (Those achievements, moreover, are counterbalanced by Nixon’s needless prolongation of the Vietnam War.)
Kissinger is overrated, second, by Washington society and the punditocracy, which treat him as some kind of great mind. In fact, most of his ideas have been fairly conventional. His ideas have never exerted great influence in the academic world, and in foreign policy he often just goes with the Republican flow, as when he counseled Bush to avoid withdrawals from Iraq, lest the public become addicted to them “like salted peanuts.” Yet he appears on Charlie Rose to discuss the World Cup.
Kissinger is overrated, finally, by his enemies on the hard left, who use shrill and absurdly inapt labels like “war criminal” because they don’t like his foreign policy decisions. Nixon and Kissinger deserve severe condemnation for many elements of their foreign policy, but to suggest that Kissinger is the equivalent of Hitler or Milosevic is to engage in juvenile sloganeering. Kissinger’s worst crime was apparently testifying falsely to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about his involvement in Watergate—specifically his authorization of illegal wiretaps of the phones of journalists and government officials. Watergate was the scandal of the century, and Kissinger’s key role in it should be what history will remember him for most.
‘Henry Kissinger’s record as a statesman is surely mixed.’
By Fredrik Logevall, Laurence D. Belfer professor of international affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School and author of Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam
Henry Kissinger’s record as a statesman is surely mixed. As national security adviser and then secretary of state he understood the need to adapt U.S. foreign policy to a more even distribution of global power, and he shared with his boss Richard Nixon an ability to think in broad conceptual terms about America’s place in the world. Some genuine diplomatic successes resulted, notably, in the miracle year of 1972, when remarkable summit meetings in Beijing and Moscow were followed by a preliminary peace settlement in Vietnam. Armed with a winningly self-deprecating sense of humor as well as a deep German accent and slow delivery that seemed to add authority to his pronouncements, Kissinger proved adept at drumming up media support for the administration’s initiatives.
But the “Grand Design” in foreign policy that Nixon and Kissinger implemented was neither as grand nor as original as they and their admirers—both then and later—claimed it was. Important groundwork on détente and on the opening to China had been laid by the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, respectively, while on Vietnam both men were longtime hawks who upon taking office seemed no less determined than the Johnson team had been to achieve an “honorable” exit from the war, i.e., one that preserved, for the indefinite future, an independent, noncommunist South Vietnam. Or if not indefinitely, at least through the 1972 election—a remarkable feature of Kissinger’s statecraft was its intense interest in the domestic political implications of his policy prescriptions.
Publicly he claimed otherwise, of course, insisting that U.S. foreign policy had always been, and continued to be, made on a bipartisan footing in the national interest. But the internal record makes clear that Kissinger and Nixon always saw foreign policy options through the lens of domestic politics. Confident of the fundamental security of the American homeland, they were willing to play politics with foreign policy, often with deleterious consequences. (Credibility was the watchword, all right, as Kissinger often stressed, but it was partisan and personal credibility in addition to U.S. international credibility.) In this regard, too, the two men resembled their predecessors and successors in the White House more than they stood apart from them.
‘His sense of ‘grand strategy’ is too crabbed and narrow.’
By Elizabeth Borgwardt, associate professor of History at Washington University in St. Louis
Henry A. Kissinger’s personal and professional sense of ethics has long inspired passionate responses from across the political spectrum. I am more interested in Kissinger’s statecraft than in his personality, however. My sense as a historian, international lawyer, and conflict specialist is that this canny diplomat’s sense of what some analysts like to call “grand strategy” is too crabbed and narrow.
Kissinger’s nostalgic harking-back to the European balance-of-power system—the subject of his doctoral dissertation—is as unworkable as it is undesirable, and this is even more the case today than it was in the 1970s. Kissinger’s assumptions about diplomacy’s players, rules, and the bounds of the playing field itself are historically contingent and increasingly irrelevant.
This critique of Kissinger’s approach is a fundamental one: his overarching vision of the role of power in American foreign policy as a stack of poker chips in a “geostrategic” game of nations (one of his favorite words). His framing downplays the role of game-transforming moves in favor of point-scoring moves. This orientation is in effect the opposite of Suzanne Nossel’s more capacious vision of “smart power.” Nossel’s approach favors a much more wide-ranging set of strategies for advancing the U.S. national interest, by advancing policies that embody American values such as human rights, the rule of law and women’s equality.
Busting out of old realist/idealist binaries means that conflict in the international sphere is neither the default condition among naturally antagonistic nations and individuals nor an aberration in an otherwise harmonious world. This alternative orientation takes the historian Simon Schama up on his delightfully expressed advice to Kissinger, that the statesman should concentrate his gaze on that juncture “where the beady-eyed meets the starry-eyed.” Conflict is an inevitable by-product of the interaction of states and other entities that can be managed wisely and creatively. As Anne-Marie Slaughter and others have pointed out, those headings that are missing from the index of Kissinger’s books—and books about Kissinger—such as non-governmental organizations, activists, women and human rights ideas and institutions—light the way to a new pragmatism that could transcend Kissinger’s stale realism.
‘Hero or villain, he remains a larger than life figure, in part, because he mattered.’
By Luke Nichter, associate professor of history at Texas A&M University and co-editor of The Nixon Tapes
We Americans overly idealize our leaders. We like to think they’re John F. Kennedy, but they’re really more like Richard Nixon or Henry Kissinger. In his relatively short time in government, Kissinger played a leading role in creating the world we live in—a post-Cold War world, a globalized world and a more diffuse world. We are divided on his legacy because he remains so relevant today; we’ve spent nearly five times longer debating his accomplishments than he spent accomplishing them. Hero or villain, he remains a larger than life figure, in part, because he mattered. And as more records are released by the National Archives, we’ll continue to debate his impact on our nation and our world.
‘Asking whether Kissinger is either a realist or an idealist misses a more interesting aspect of Kissinger’s philosophy of history: his radical subjectivism.’
By Greg Grandin, professor of history at New York University and the author of Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesmen.
Niall Ferguson is correct to identify Henry Kissinger as influenced by the idealist philosopher Immanuel Kant. But he misses how Kissinger revised Kant to embrace a relative, rather than an absolute, morality. The point is made in a story from Kissinger’s graduate schools days at Harvard that didn’t make it into Ferguson’s lengthy book. Kissinger’s adviser, William Elliott, often urged his protégé to live his life by Kant’s famous ethical imperative: “treat every human being, including yourself, as an end and never a means.” During one seminar in 1953, Elliott pushed Kissinger to acknowledge that “reality,” and hence ethics, must exist.
“Well, now wait a minute, Henry,” Elliott said, in reaction to Kissinger’s argument that there was no such thing as truth, “There must be a metaphysical structure of reality which is the true structure.” Kissinger’s responded by quoting Kant’s moral imperative back to Elliott, with an addendum: “What one considers an end, and what one considers a mean, depends essentially on the metaphysics of one’s system, and on the concept one has of one’s self and one’s relationship to the universe.” This is a complete perversion of Kant, a standing of Kant on his head.
Asking whether Kissinger is either a realist or an idealist misses a more interesting aspect of Kissinger’s philosophy of history: his radical subjectivism, his belief, first voiced as a young scholar and repeated throughout his career (including in his latest book, World Order), that there is no such thing as absolute truth, no truth at all other than what could be deduced from one’s own solitary perspective. “Meaning represents the emanation of a metaphysical context,” he wrote; “every man in a certain sense creates his picture of the world.” Humans create their truth, they come to understand their “purpose” (a very Kissingerian concept) though action. Such subjectivism had policy implications.
For instance, Kissinger’s five year bombing of Cambodia (which, by credible estimates, killed 100,000 civilians), along with his “savage” (Kissinger’s word) bombing of North Vietnam, was motivated by the opposite of realism: to try to bring about a world Kissinger believed he ought to live in (one in which he could, by the force of military power, bend peasant-poor countries like Cambodia, Laos and North Vietnam to his will) rather than reflect the real world they did live in: one in which, try as he might, he was unable to terrorize weaker nations into submission. “I refused to believe that a little fourth-rate power like North Vietnam does not have a breaking point,” Kissinger once complained.
It should be pointed out that Ferguson shares Kissinger’s relativism. Though Ferguson won’t deal with the many crimes Kissinger is accused of committing until the second volume of his biography, in the introduction to his first volume he concedes that Kissinger’s policies resulted in a high body count. But, Ferguson argues, any moral judgment one might make of Kissinger’s means must be balanced by the greater good of his ends, and by weighting the relative value of lives in “important” countries to those found elsewhere. Ferguson writes: “Arguments that focus on loss of life in strategically marginal countries—and there is no other way of describing Argentina, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chile, Cyprus, and as Timor—must be tested against this question: how, in each case, would an alternative decision have affected U.S. relations with strategically important countries like the Soviet Union, China, and the major Western European powers?”
The bottom line is for the people to regain their original, moral principles, which have intentionally been watered out over the past generations by our press, TV, and other media owned by the Illuminati/Bilderberger Group, corrupting our morals by making misbehavior acceptable to our society. Only in this way shall we conquer this oncoming wave of evil.
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