Born May 27, 1923
U.S. secretary of state and
national security advisor
G erman-born Henry Kissinger was a major influence on U.S. foreign policy through most of the Cold War. He worked as an author and as a consultant to various federal agencies and later became national security advisor and secretary of state. He was the architect of détente, the policy of easing tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. He led the effort to reestablish formal relations with communist China, and he was a key negotiator of the peace settlement in the Vietnam War (1954–75). He was awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for facilitating the peace agreement. Kissinger also negotiated the first strategic arms limitation treaty (SALT I) with the Soviet Union, which was signed in 1972.
An international beginning
Henry Kissinger was born in Fürth, Germany, in 1923 to an Orthodox Jewish family. In 1938, the family emigrated from Germany to escape persecution of Jews by the Nazi Party (known primarily for its brutal policies of racism). The Kissingers first went to England and then to New York City. Kissinger attended City College in New York and worked in a shaving brush factory to support himself. In 1943, during World War II (1939–45), Kissinger became a naturalized U.S. citizen and was drafted into the U.S. Army. He was assigned to an intelligence, or information-gathering, unit. After the war, he was briefly assigned to a district administrator position in occupied Germany.
Upon returning to the United States, Kissinger entered Harvard University in 1946, where he earned an undergraduate degree with honors in 1950. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in international relations in 1954. In his dissertation, or graduate essay, he analyzed political strategies that had historically been used in Europe and began forming his own ideas on how foreign policy should be conducted. In 1954, Kissinger joined the Harvard staff as an instructor and worked with the Council on Foreign Relations. The council explored alternative foreign policy strategies—that is, strategies that would not involve the massive nuclear retaliation promoted by then–U.S. secretary of state John Foster Dulles (1888–1959; see entry). The council proposed a strategy that included limited use of nuclear weapons and increased spending for conventional forces; this strategy was designed to give the United States more flexibility in responding to crises. In 1957, Kissinger published a book on this subject. Titled Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, the book established Kissinger as a leading authority on U.S. strategic foreign policy.
Foreign affairs consultant
During the 1950s, Kissinger was a consultant on foreign issues for New York governor Nelson A. Rockefeller (1908–1979) during Rockefeller's unsuccessful bids for the Republican presidential nomination. In 1961, Kissinger published another book, The Necessity for Choice. In this work, he further spelled out his concepts of a flexible response, which emphasized a more balanced development of military capabilities with sufficient conventional forces and smaller nuclear weapons in response to more limited hostilities. President John F. Kennedy (1917–1963; served 1961–63; see entry) adopted Kissinger's ideas in forming his Cold War strategies in early 1961. Around this time, Kissinger became a full professor at Harvard.
At Harvard, Kissinger was involved in various foreign policy development groups, and he acted as a consultant for several federal agencies from 1955 to 1968. From 1959 to 1969, he directed Harvard's Defense Studies Program. From 1961 to 1967, he was a consultant for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. For the Kennedy administration, he was also advisor to the National Security Council (NSC). Under the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908–1973; served 1963–69; see entry), Kissinger was a consultant to the State Department. During that period, he traveled to South Vietnam to assess the war and determine whether any new strategies could be employed. He returned convinced that the war was necessary to contain communism; he believed that any hasty withdrawal of U.S. forces would lead to a loss of U.S. credibility in the world.
After Republican Richard M. Nixon (1913–1994; served 1969–74; see entry) won the presidential race in November 1968, he recruited Kissinger to be his national security advisor. Over the next few years, Kissinger and Nixon would work very closely together and discover that they shared many of the same perspectives on foreign policy. Nixon required that all information from his secretary of defense and secretary of state come through Kissinger. As a result, Kissinger became the most powerful person in the administration other than the president himself.
Ending the Vietnam War
A top priority for Nixon and Kissinger was to end U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Vietnam had been one of several French colonies in an Asian peninsula called Indochina, which extends from the southeastern border of China into the South China Sea. Following World War II, Ho Chi Minh (1890–1969; see entry) led communist rebel forces in ongoing battles to end French domination in Vietnam. By 1954, the French forces were defeated. As a result of a meeting in Geneva, which included the United States, China, and the Soviet Union, Vietnam was partitioned temporarily into North Vietnam and South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh's forces controlled North Vietnam, with support from the Soviet Union and communist China. South Vietnam was under Western control.
The Geneva agreement called for national elections to be held in 1956 to establish a single unified government for Vietnam, as well as the other Indochina countries of Laos and Cambodia. The agreement also prohibited any of the three countries from joining military alliances or allowing foreign military bases within their borders. However, the United States objected to communist control of the north and refused to observe the ban on military assistance to South Vietnam. A separate South Vietnamese government was established in 1955, and the United States offered its support.
In response, North Vietnam, along with South Vietnamese rebel forces known as the Vietcong, conducted a civil war to try to gain control of South Vietnam; North Vietnam wanted to unify the country under communist rule. U.S. military assistance to South Vietnam escalated dramatically through the 1960s. By 1967, the United States had over five hundred thousand troops in Vietnam, and U.S. casualties averaged five hundred per week. The war had become highly unpopular among American citizens; peace protesters and staunch supporters of the war clashed in large, nationwide demonstrations. By 1968, it was obvious that the war was not winnable for the United States. Hoping to avoid a humiliation for the United States, Kissinger sought to negotiate a settlement with North Vietnam. However, the North Vietnamese would not accept Kissinger's terms, which included formal recognition of South Vietnam's government. Instead, North Vietnam chose to continue with the war, still hoping to reunify the country.
After the peace talks failed, Kissinger introduced a strategy called Vietnamization. Under this plan, the United States began withdrawing troops and turned the ground war over to the South Vietnamese army. The United States continued to provide training supplies and air power. To give the South Vietnamese forces a boost, Kissinger approved secret bombings of North Vietnamese supply camps in Cambodia. Then, U.S. and South Vietnamese troops entered Cambodia to destroy enemy sanctuaries, or safe places normally protected from attack. Almost all of Kissinger's aides resigned in protest; they were appalled by this congressionally unauthorized invasion. Kissinger's aggressive military tactics damaged his relationships with academic colleagues and members of Congress. He gained a reputation for being arrogant and became a target of antiwar protests.
By 1972, most U.S. troops had been withdrawn from Vietnam. But with the presidential election approaching in November, Nixon insisted that Kissinger achieve a settlement in the war. Nixon hoped that ending the war would increase his chances for reelection. While intense bombing continued, Kissinger reached an apparent agreement in late October. Kissinger made the surprise announcement only days before the election, and Nixon won the election handily. However, the South Vietnamese leaders rejected the agreement, and further talks with North Vietnam broke down in December. Nixon ordered renewed intensive bombing of North Vietnamese cities for eleven days through late December; these are known as the "Christmas Bombings."
By early January, North Vietnam renewed the peace talks, and a cease-fire settlement, very similar to the earlier agreement, was reached. This time, Nixon put pressure on South Vietnam to agree as well. The last U.S. combat troops left Vietnam in late March 1973. Later that year, in October, Kissinger and North Vietnamese negotiator Le Duc Tho (1911–1990) were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. However, Le Duc Tho refused to accept the award on principle because it was offered by a Western country. Despite the settlement, fighting soon resumed between the North Vietnam and South Vietnam forces, which led to the victory in the North in 1975 and reunification of Vietnam under communist rule.
Renewed relations with China
During the first year of Nixon's presidency, the United States and the Communist People's Republic of China (PRC) agreed to pursue improved relations. In July 1971, Kissinger secretly traveled to China to arrange a visit by Nixon. Kissinger was the first U.S. official to visit the Chinese communists since the PRC government was formed in October 1949. At the time of the communist victory, the over-thrown noncommunist Chinese leaders fled to the island of Taiwan and formed a new government called the Republic of China (ROC). For the next few decades, the United States recognized the noncommunist ROC, not the PRC, as the official government of China. During his visit to China, Kissinger indicated that the United States was willing to recognize the noncommunist ROC government as part of one China. The recognition meant the United States did not consider the ROC as a truly independent nation but only part of the greater China that was governed by the PRC; this was a major shift in U.S. perspective and a major victory for the PRC. President Nixon journeyed to the PRC seven months later, in February 1972, to begin the process of renewing official relations.
Détente with the Soviets
Kissinger believed that the United States and the Soviet Union should begin working more closely together. After establishing better U.S. relations with the PRC in 1972, he was determined to ease tensions even further by achieving a balance of power between the two superpowers. Kissinger wanted the United States to move away from its policy of massive retaliation in case of conflict. He preferred Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), a military strategy in which the
threat of catastrophic damages by a nuclear counterstrike would deter any launch of a first-strike attack. This strategy recognized that both superpowers had sufficient nuclear weapons to destroy each other. The effectiveness of MAD hinged on the superpowers agreeing to hold the same number of nuclear weapons. The balance would deter nuclear war, because any nuclear aggression by either side would be, in effect, assured suicide. Kissinger had begun negotiating a strategic arms limitation agreement in November 1969, hoping to maintain nuclear balance.
Kissinger secretly traveled to Moscow in 1972 with the goal of scheduling a summit meeting between President Nixon and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev (1906–1982; see entry) that May. When Nixon arrived in May, he signed several agreements with the Soviets, including SALT I, the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty that Kissinger had initiated in 1969. The other agreements involved cultural and scientific exchanges. Kissinger indicated that if the Soviets could help persuade the North Vietnamese to negotiate for peace, the United States would sign a trade agreement to provide the Soviets much-needed grain. After the Soviets traveled to North Vietnam, Kissinger negotiated a grain sale agreement in September. In October, Nixon and Brezhnev signed another arms control agreement, the ABM Treaty, which restricted defensive antiballistic missile systems. In 1973, Brezhnev journeyed to the United States to further the improved relations between the two superpowers.
While Kissinger was busy improving relations with the PRC and the Soviet Union, U.S. relations with Western European allies were deteriorating. The Western European countries felt left out of the negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union and feared their security was being threatened. They were concerned that discussions would lead to reductions in U.S. forces as well as support for Western Europe, potentially leaving them vulnerable to future Soviet attack if the Soviets reneged on their deals with the United States.
Cold War elsewhere
In 1973, Nixon appointed Kissinger as secretary of state. Kissinger maintained his position as national security advisor as well. Kissinger had firm control over foreign affairs while Nixon was becoming increasingly consumed with the growing domestic Watergate situation. This was a scandal that began on June 17, 1972, when five men were caught burglarizing the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. This led to a cover-up, political convictions, and, eventually, Nixon's resignation.
In October 1973, Kissinger convinced Nixon to provide support to Israel during its war with Egypt despite protests from Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger (1929–). Meanwhile, Kissinger and Brezhnev tried to negotiate a cease-fire between the two countries. The United States and the Soviet Union were involved because the United States had supported Israel since it declared formation of the Jewish state and the Soviets strongly courted Egypt's friendship. They both had desires to hold control of the Middle East and the oil-rich areas there. Despite U.S. and Soviet intervention, negotiations broke down as Israel gained the advantage on the battlefield. In reaction, Nixon threatened a nuclear attack. To ease the situation, the United Nations obtained a cease-fire resolution and placed a peacekeeping force in the region.
Kissinger soon began what was called "shuttle diplomacy," flying back and forth between Israel and Egypt to work out a peace settlement. As a result, the United States and Egypt reestablished formal relations, which had been broken off in 1967. These events formed the foundation for a historic treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1978, while Jimmy Carter (1924–; served 1977–81; see entry) was president. However, U.S. support of Israel during the conflict led to an oil embargo, or legal restriction of trade, by other Arab nations. They refused to ship oil for several months (December 1973–March 1974), causing high oil prices, inflation, and increased trade deficits, and making Kissinger very unpopular with many on the home front.
In Latin America, Kissinger secretly supported a military coup, or government overthrow, of Chile's elected leader, Salvador Allende (1908–1973; see entry). Allende embraced socialism, a system in which the government owns or controls all means of production and all citizens share in the work and products. Allende was nationalizing industries and introducing land reform to restructure the Chilean economy and ease the nation's poverty. Nationalism refers to the strong loyalty of a person or group to its own country. Previous U.S. owners of these nationalized companies were not compensated for their losses. The United States did not want Allende to be Chile's president because neither Nixon nor Kissinger believed that Chile should have a socialist government. They worried that Chile could be the first of many South American governments to fall to communism.
In 1973, Allende was overthrown and replaced with a military dictator named Augusto Pinochet (1915–). Pinochet would proceed to establish a brutal regime over Chile's citizens, leading to much criticism of Kissinger's efforts. The United States worked with harsh and dictatorial regimes such as Pinochet's because these regimes shared the U.S. government's anticommunist views. The United States preferred to support strong central governments, even brutal ones, rather than let communist influences take hold in struggling Latin American countries.
Kissinger's role in the secret bombing of Cambodia and the coup of Allende raised questions about the legality of his actions and the extent of his power. Nonetheless, Kissinger persevered and was spared formal challenges by Congress. Meanwhile, as Nixon became increasingly entangled in the Watergate scandal, his future as president was in doubt. Noting these developments, the Soviets became less interested in discussions with the faltering administration, and détente suffered by late 1973. Nixon resigned as president on August 9, 1974.
The Ford administration
New president Gerald R. Ford (1913–; served 1974–77) kept Kissinger as national security advisor and secretary of state. However, conservative critics attacked détente policies, charging that Kissinger was selling out to the Soviets. In addition, liberals complained about Kissinger's disregard for human rights issues—certain economic and political freedoms that all people, simply by being human, deserve—which he had neglected to consider when establishing pro-U.S. military dictatorships in Latin America. President Ford removed Kissinger as national security advisor in November 1975 in an effort to satisfy the critics.
The high point of détente came in 1975 with the Helsinki Accords, an agreement signed by thirty-five nations including the United States and the Soviet Union. The historic international agreement addressed many topics, including the recognition of post–World War II national boundaries and the promotion of human rights. For thirty years, the Soviets had sought official recognition of the postwar boundaries of Eastern European countries under their influence. With the Helsinki Accords, they finally achieved that goal (see box).
But the Helsinki Accords provided another target for conservative critics of Kissinger's détente policies. During his 1976 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, former California governor Ronald Reagan (1911–; see entry) charged that Kissinger and the Ford administration had caved in to Soviet demands. In addition, Reagan attacked U.S. acceptance of the PRC. During the national election that fall, Democratic presidential candidate Jimmy Carter attacked the policies of Kissinger as well.
Life after public office
When Carter took office as president in January 1977, Kissinger left his post as secretary of state and went back to work as a consultant; he also continued writing books and presenting lectures. His later books include several memoirs: The White House Years (1979), For the Record (1981), and Diplomacy (1994). Kissinger's stature as an elder statesman and an expert on U.S. foreign policy enabled him to form his own foreign policy consulting firm in Washington, D.C., called Kissinger Associates, Inc. Many of his clients were international corporations.
In 1983, President Reagan appointed Kissinger to lead the Central American Policy Committee. In 1987, Kissinger traveled to Moscow to consult with Soviet leader Gorbachev. In 1988, Kissinger advised Vice President George Bush (1924–; see entry) on foreign matters during Bush's successful campaign to succeed Reagan as president. During Bush's presidency, Kissinger encouraged the president to work more closely with Gorbachev and support new Soviet reforms. In later years, Kissinger remained a respected though still controversial foreign affairs expert sought at times by both public officials and the news media for his perspectives on national security issues.
For More Information
Bell, Coral. The Diplomacy of Detente: The Kissinger Era. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1977.
Isaacson, Walter. Kissinger: A Biography. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992.
Kissinger, Henry. Diplomacy. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.
Kissinger, Henry. The White House Years. Boston: Little, Brown, 1979.
Szulc, Tad. The Illusion of Peace: Foreign Policy in the Nixon-Kissinger Years. New York: Viking, 1979.
Thornton, Richard C. The Nixon-Kissinger Years: Reshaping America's Foreign Policy. New York: Paragon Books, 1989.
Gerald R. Ford Library and Museum.http://www.ford.utexas.edu (accessed on September 8, 2003).
The Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace.http://www.nixonfoundation.org (accessed on September 8, 2003).
While Henry Kissinger was serving as national security advisor for President Richard Nixon, one of his main foreign policy goals was to reduce political and military tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. This goal was achieved—even exceeded—at a meeting of thirty-five nations in Helsinki, Finland, in August 1975. Kissinger was no longer serving as national security advisor at that time, but his earlier efforts—and several years of discussions between the United States and the Soviet Union—had led up to the event, which was called the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). The participating countries included the Soviet Union and the rest of the Western and Eastern European nations, the United States, and Canada. On August 1, these nations signed what became known as the Helsinki Accords. By signing the accords, each nation agreed to:
- Continue pursuing the policies of détente
- Recognize the rights of independent nations to choose their political systems
- Denounce the use of threat of force and support of terrorism
- Respect the fundamental individual freedoms of thought and religious belief
- Work toward increased international trade
- Encourage a freer flow of ideas
The Helsinki Accords did not have the force of law or the same obligation as a more formal treaty. Instead, the agreement represented a mutual moral commitment to seek these common goals. Most important, from the Soviet perspective, the accords provided official recognition of European postwar boundaries by allowing communist Eastern European nations to sign the treaty as well. The Soviet-controlled Eastern European nations now had a much higher level of international recognition.
In the following years, the United States, particularly under President Jimmy Carter's administration, would stress the human rights elements of the accords. This would cause increased friction with Eastern European governments and the Soviet Union. The Soviets believed that the United States was interfering in the domestic affairs of the Soviet Union and Eastern European nations. A second CSCE summit was held in Paris in November 1990 to formally mark the end of the Cold War. At that session, participating nations, which included the Soviet Union, represented by Mikhail Gorbachev (1931–; see entry), signed a sweeping arms reduction treaty for Europe and made a formal commitment to support democracies based on human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Kissinger, Henry 1923-
Henry Kissinger is a political scientist who served as national security adviser (1969–1975) and secretary of state (1973–1977) during the presidencies of Richard M. Nixon (1913–1994) and Gerald R. Ford (1913–2006).
Born Heinz Alfred Kissinger on May 27, 1923 in Fürth, Germany, Kissinger and his family escaped Nazi persecution by immigrating to New York City in 1938. Kissinger joined the U.S. army during World War II, and later earned his BA, MA, and PhD in government at Harvard University. After joining the Harvard faculty, in 1955 and 1956 Kissinger served as director of a study group set up by the Council on Foreign Relations to analyze the influence of nuclear arms on international relations. Although he served as a consultant to the Democratic administrations of John F. Kennedy (1917–1963) and Lyndon B. Johnson (1908–1973), Kissinger tried but failed to secure a major, influential position under either Kennedy or Johnson. Generally indifferent to party affiliations, Kissinger also served as a foreign and defense policy adviser to Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York (1908–1979), a liberal Republican with presidential ambitions during the 1960s.
Partly because Kissinger was identified with the Rockefeller faction of the Republican Party, President Richard M. Nixon appointed Kissinger national security adviser in 1969. Kissinger perceived the United States to be experiencing a period of relative decline in its international power during the 1970s. He believed that U.S. foreign policy needed to adapt to this relative decline by practicing “power politics,” or the politics of “realism,” by reducing its ideological hostility and distrust of the Soviet Union and mainland China and protecting U.S. interests through the creation and maintenance of a balance of power and spheres of influence among major world powers. Kissinger had studied and developed the ideas of “realism” in international relations since he was a student at Harvard. His application of “realism” in Nixon’s and Ford’s foreign and defense policies was evident in the gradual U.S. military withdrawal from Vietnam, the negotiation and signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) with the Soviet Union in 1972, and Nixon’s diplomatic visit to Communist China in 1972. For their efforts in negotiating and securing a peace treaty to end the Vietnam War, Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, a North Vietnamese diplomat, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.
Kissinger, however, found the practice of “power politics” to be more difficult in the Middle East. Oil-producing nations in the Middle East imposed an embargo on oil exports to the United States, and U.S.-Soviet relations were strained because of U.S. support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Nonetheless, Kissinger’s diplomacy helped to achieve cease-fire agreements between Israel and Egypt and Israel and Syria. During the 1976 presidential election, Kissinger’s “realism” was criticized by Democratic presidential nominee Jimmy Carter (b. 1924) for neglecting human rights and lacking a moral purpose.
After leaving the Ford administration in 1977, Kissinger headed an international consulting firm, lectured, wrote his memoirs, and occasionally advised Presidents Ronald W. Reagan (1911–2004) and George H. W. Bush (b. 1924) on foreign policy. In 1983 Seymour Hersh, an American journalist, published The Price of Power, in which he implicated Kissinger in several controversial decisions of Nixon’s foreign policy such as the 1970 invasion of Cambodia, the massive U.S. bombing of North Vietnam in 1972, and the 1973 overthrow of President Salvador Allende of Chile. During the 1990s more national security documents and other government sources pertaining to Kissinger’s roles as national security adviser and secretary of state were made available to researchers. Using some of these primary sources, Christopher Hitchens, a British journalist, published The Trial of Henry Kissinger (2001), denouncing Kissinger as a war criminal. In particular, Hitchens argued that Kissinger’s influence on U.S. foreign policy prolonged the Vietnam War, violated human rights and international law, and contributed to politically motivated mass murders in Chile, Cambodia, East Timor, and elsewhere.
Kissinger refused to publicly comment on Hitchens’s book. He continued to lecture, write, and manage his consulting firm, Kissinger and Associates. He briefly served as chairman of the 9/11 Commission in 2002, but resigned after Democrats claimed that there were conflicts of interest between his chairmanship and consulting firm.
Kissinger, Henry. 1979. White House Years. Boston: Little, Brown.
Hersh, Seymour. 1983. The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House. New York: Summit.
Hitchens, Christopher. 2001. The Trial of Henry Kissinger. London: Verso.
Isaacson, Walter. 1982. Kissinger. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Sean J. Savage
Born: May 27, 1923
German-born American government official
Aleading expert on international relations since the 1950s, Henry Kissinger was secretary of state under Presidents Richard Nixon (1913–1994) and Gerald Ford (1913–). His impressive career also includes becoming the cowinner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.
Early life and education
Henry Kissinger was born Heinz Alfred Kissinger on May 27, 1923, in Furth, Germany. He was the first of the two sons of Paula Stern Kissinger and Louis Kissinger. His father was a teacher who lost his job and career when the Nazis, carrying out the orders of Adolf Hitler (1889–1945), began persecuting (causing people to suffer for their beliefs) Jewish people in Germany. (The Nazi party was in control of the government of Germany from 1933 to 1945.) As a boy Kissinger loved sports but was a better student than athlete. When German anti-Semitism (hatred of Jewish people) increased, the family decided to leave Germany in 1938, moving first to England and then several months later to the United States. The family settled in New York City, where Kissinger completed high school and began taking night classes at City College with the intention of becoming an accountant. While attending college he worked at a factory during the day.
During World War II (1939–45; a war involving the United States and many other countries in the world in which millions of people lost their lives) Kissinger joined the military and served in Germany, working in Army Intelligence. He also became an American citizen during the war. Following the war Kissinger remained in Europe as an instructor at the European Command Intelligence School in Germany. In 1947 he returned to the United States and enrolled at Harvard University. He graduated in the class of 1950 with a degree in government. He continued his studies as a graduate student, earning his master's degree in 1952 and his Ph.D. in 1954, while also teaching at the university.
An expert on international affairs
Between 1952 and 1969 Kissinger directed the Harvard International Seminar, a type of study in which advanced students, led by a professor, conduct research, share their findings, and contribute to discussions. The seminar was held during the summer months. In this position, he was visited by many international figures with whom he would later deal as a foreign-affairs official. As part of the Council on Foreign Relations he published Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, which added to his reputation as a leading expert on international relations and national defense policy. For eighteen months beginning in 1956 he was director of a Rockefeller Brothers Fund special studies project—a program developed to investigate possible domestic and international problems. In 1957 he became a lecturer (public speaker) at Harvard. He was promoted to professor in 1962.
Kissinger served as a consultant (one who gives professional advice) to the National Security Council, to the Arms Control Disarmament Agency, and to the Rand Corporation. From 1962 to 1965 he worked full time at Harvard. In 1965 he became a consultant to the State Department on Vietnam. He visited Vietnam several times between 1965 and 1967. Most of 1968 he spent working on the unsuccessful bid of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller (1908–1979) for the Republican nomination for the presidency. In spite of Rockefeller's defeat by Richard Nixon, at Rockefeller's urging Nixon considered and appointed Kissinger to head the National Security Council.
Kissinger did not agree with the U.S. foreign policy toward the Soviet Union that had been developed under former presidents. He thought their positions had been inconsistent and too friendly. Kissinger viewed the Soviet Union as the main opponent of the United States in international affairs, but he had respect for the role of the Soviet Union as one of the superpowers. His attempts to ease tensions, known as détente (day-TAHNT), improved relations between the Soviet Union and the United States. As a result, one of Kissinger's early successes during this period of détente was the completion of talks on the Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty (SALT). SALT was an agreement between the Soviet Union and the United States to limit the number of nuclear weapons in each country. The discussions lasted for nearly three years and ended with the signing of an agreement in Moscow, Russia, by President Nixon and Soviet Communist Party Chief Leonid Brezhnev (1906–1982).
Kissinger also played an important part in the settlement of the Quadripartite Agreement on Berlin, Germany, in September 1971. Berlin had been the source of problems between the East and West for many years, particularly after the creation of the Berlin Wall by the East German government in 1961 to prevent people from leaving the country. Through official negotiations (giveand-take discussions to settle an issue) handled by Ambassador Kenneth Rush (1910–1994), and secret negotiations directly involving Kissinger, an agreement was made to make it easier to travel between East and West Berlin. This agreement also improved relations between the United States and the former Soviet Union.
China, Vietnam, Middle East
Another of Kissinger's successes (and one that caught the media by surprise) was the organization of Richard Nixon's approach to China. The United States had refused to recognize the People's Republic of China following the civil war that left Communists under Mao Zedong (1893–1976). Communists believe in revolution to establish a system in which the means of production—land, factories, mines, and so on—are owned by all people in common. Early in Nixon's first term as president, efforts were made to allow interaction between China and the United States. Taking advantage of international conditions and moving secretly with the help of Pakistani President Yahya Khan (1917–1980), Kissinger flew to China and arranged for an invitation for Nixon to make an official state visit. Nixon's visit to China in 1972 provided guidelines for the establishment of U.S.-China relations. During his eight years in the National Security Council and State Department, Kissinger flew to China a total of nine times.
Kissinger was criticized most and forgiven least for his handling of the fighting in Southeast Asia. The U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War (1955–75) had driven President Lyndon Johnson (1908–1973) from office, and it had been the desire of the Nixon administration to seek "peace with honor." The Vietnam War was a war in which the government of South Vietnam, with U.S. assistance, fought against a Communist takeover by North Vietnam. Kissinger's approach was to negotiate from a position of strength. The direct U.S. involvement in Vietnam reflected this position, but the secret bombing of Cambodia—referred to as the "secret war"—was criticized as an excessive use of military strength to force U.S. opponents to agree to end the war. All U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia was an attempt to keep Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos from becoming controlled by Communist groups. The secret bombing of Cambodia was eventually stopped by actions of Congress. Kissinger successfully negotiated a truce with his North Vietnamese counterpart Le Duc Tho (1911–1990) in Paris and shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 with him.
Kissinger had gone along with the wishes of Secretary of State William Rogers (1913–2001) while on the National Security Council. Following his appointment as secretary of state in 1973, he changed his hands-off policy toward the Middle East. During the three years he was secretary of state, Kissinger conducted what became known as "shuttle" diplomacy (negotiations between nations). He served as the middleman in negotiations to restore peace among Middle Eastern nations. Kissinger would often fly from Egypt to Israel to Syria or elsewhere and back again as he worked to help develop agreements to secure peace. In all, Kissinger made eleven "shuttle" missions, the longest lasting nearly a month.
Out of office
After leaving office following Ford's loss to Jimmy Carter (1924–) in the 1976 presidential election, Kissinger was self-employed as the director of a consulting firm dealing with international politics. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest award given to a civilian (nonmember of a military, police, or fire-fighting unit), in 1977. He also received the Medal of Liberty, an award that was given only once, in 1986, to ten foreign-born American leaders.
Kissinger produced two books of memoirs (accounts of his experiences) to explain events that had happened while he was in office. These explanations did not change the views of many critics, who believed that Kissinger had made major mistakes in developing U.S. foreign policy. In 1997 former Secretaries of State Kissinger and Alexander Haig (1924–) came under fire for their roles in helping U.S.-China trade. Some said that they stood to profit from contracts with the Chinese and that some of their dealings put the United States in a vulnerable (open to attack or damage) position. In 2001 Kissinger was named chancellor (president) of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.
For More Information
Isaacson, Walter. Kissinger: A Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.
Kalb, Marvin, and Bernard Kalb. Kissinger. Boston: Little, Brown, 1974.
Kissinger, Henry. The White House Years. Boston: Little, Brown, 1979.
Kissinger, Henry. Years of Upheaval. Boston: Little, Brown, 1982.
Kissinger, Henry. Years of Renewal. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.
Born May 27, 1923
U.S. secretary of state and foreign policy expert
"There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full."
H enry Kissinger, who immigrated to the United States as a teenager, was one of the most powerful American officials during the presidencies of Richard M. Nixon (1913–1994; served 1969–74) and Gerald R. Ford (1913–; served 1974–77). He is widely credited with negotiating an end to the Vietnam War (1954–75), as well as opening a new era of improved relations with the Soviet Union (a country made up of fifteen republics, the largest of which was Russia, that in 1991 became independent states) and the People's Republic of China. Critics of Kissinger, however, also blamed him for supporting the brutal anticommunist policies of governments in South America that resulted in violations of human rights. Kissinger, who came to the United States as a child refugee from Nazi Germany in 1938, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for his work in ending the Vietnam War.
Beginnings in Germany
Alfred Heinz (Henry) Kissinger was born in Füurth, Germany, in 1923, the son of a Jewish schoolteacher. In 1933, the Nazi Party led by Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) came to power in Germany, partly on the strength of the party's strong anti- Jewish program. Soon, Jews were prohibited from certain professions, including teaching, and the Kissinger family fled Germany for the United States in 1938, just ahead of the brutal Holocaust that ended with the killing of millions of Jews in Europe. Kissinger was fifteen when he and his family left their native country.
The Kissinger family resettled in New York City, where young Henry went to high school, attending classes at night while working in a shaving-brush factory during the day. In 1941, Kissinger enrolled in the City College of New York as an accounting student while still working full time. He was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II (1939–45), and he was assigned to deliver lectures to American troops on the objectives of the United States in the war. As a result of his talks, Kissinger was recruited to become a member of the Army's intelligence division. He later worked with American troops occupying Germany after the defeat of the Nazi government.
After the war, in 1947, Kissinger enrolled in Harvard University, where he graduated in 1950. He later earned advanced degrees, including a doctorate in philosophy (in 1954) at Harvard, and joined the university's faculty. In the 1960s, Kissinger began consulting with New York governor Nelson A. Rockefeller (1908–1979), who was seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 1968. Rockefeller lost out to Richard Nixon, who then defeated Vice President Hubert Humphrey (1911–1978) in the general election. Nixon asked Kissinger to become his national security advisor. (A national security advisor is an expert in foreign affairs who works in the White House rather than at the State Department.) Under Nixon, Kissinger became more influential than the secretary of state in formulating American policy at a time when competition with the Soviet Union was at the heart of U.S. policy.
It was also a time when the United States seemed to be in a stalemate with communist rebels in Vietnam, and Nixon had promised in his successful 1968 election campaign to end the war. Negotiating an end to the conflict fell to Kissinger.
Nobel Peace Prize
The Vietnam War became a turning point in American history. Starting gradually with a few troops in the early 1960s, the involvement by the United States in trying to prevent domination of South Vietnam by communist troops from the North had become a full-scale war by the late 1960s. The war was highly unpopular with the American public, and Nixon had been elected president in 1968 on a promise to negotiate an end to the fighting. In fact, it took Kissinger more than four years to conclude a peace treaty with North Vietnam, and not long afterwards, communist forces took control over the entire country. By any measure, American policy had failed.
Nevertheless, Kissinger shared the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize with his North Vietnamese counterpart, Le Duc Tho (1911–1990), in 1973. In his acceptance speech for the prize, Kissinger declared: "To the realist, peace represents a stable arrangement of power." The United States had in fact lost the war in Vietnam, and the loss pointed Kissinger in a new direction in American foreign policy, particularly in relations with the Soviet Union and China, which was ruled by the Chinese Communist Party.
Henry Kissinger and the Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Foundation of Oslo, Norway, annually awards the Nobel Peace Prize to diplomats or world leaders who, in its opinion, have contributed to the cause of world peace. Ironically, the prize is funded from the fortune of Alfred Nobel (1833–1896), who invented dynamite. In 1973, the peace prize was shared by Henry Kissinger of the United States and Le Duc Tho, the foreign minister of North Vietnam, for their role in negotiating an end to the fighting in the long Vietnam War.
The Nobel Committee, in presenting the prize, observed that "we are under no illusion that the differences between systems and ideologies can be ignored [that is, between the communist North Vietnam and the capitalist United States]; but the Nobel Committee has been anxious to emphasize that in a world yearning for peace, no one can assume the right to force his particular system on others by armed might. Nations with different systems of government must be able to live together in peace and solve their controversies [differences] by negotiation."
In his acceptance speech, Kissinger seemed to reflect the same idea: "To the realist, peace represents a stable arrangement of power."
Kissinger's remark struck some people as a distinct departure for American foreign policy, which seemed to have been based on a belief of what was thought to be "right": the idea of democratically elected governments, guarantees of free speech, and freedom to own property. Kissinger seemed to be saying that in diplomacy, what mattered was "power," which might be based on the force of arms (such as by the police) rather than on the will of the people. It was, to many, a viewpoint that seemed more at home in Europe than in the United States. It was also a viewpoint that helped turn the United States toward a policy of negotiating peaceful arrangements with governments that held power, rather than refusing to deal with such governments (as in the case of China) because of their political beliefs or the manner in which they achieved power (through violence, for example, rather than through elections).
Prior to Vietnam, American foreign policy had been dedicated to the notion of combating communism wherever the political philosophy gained power. The United States and the Soviet Union, the world's most powerful communist government, had been engaged in a back-and-forth struggle for world power and influence since 1945, the end of World War II. American policy towards China had been hostile since the victory of communist fighters in China in 1948; in fact, the United States officially maintained that the legitimate government of mainland China was situated on the Pacific island of Taiwan, a province of China where anticommunist Chinese had fled.
Kissinger introduced a new concept to American foreign policy: dealing with governments as they existed, while effectively dropping a long-standing crusade against communism. Consequently, it was partly as a result of Kissinger's urging that President Nixon, who had made his early political reputation as a strong anticommunist in the late 1940s and 1950s, made a surprise diplomatic visit to China in 1972, and a separate trip to the Soviet Union later the same year. Nixon's visit to China led directly to the opening of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries, and his visit to the Soviet Union led to a treaty under which the two countries agreed to control their buildup of nuclear weapons.
Nixon sank into political problems as a result of a scandal called Watergate, in which agents of Nixon's reelection campaign had broken into the headquarters of the opposition Democratic Party in June 1972. Kissinger emerged as a stable leader of the government in foreign policy. After Nixon resigned office in the face of almost certain impeachment (the formal accusation of a public official charged with misconduct and the trial that follows), Kissinger continued in his role of secretary of state under Nixon's successor, Gerald Ford.
Kissinger the man
Kissinger brought a distinctive personality to his job. He had never lost a distinctive German accent while speaking English, and his slow, careful delivery of heavily accented English was unique. Presiding over American foreign policy at a time of domestic political chaos made Kissinger seem like a figure of stability in government.
His style did not prevent him from becoming a highly controversial figure, however. Although Kissinger's world policy was based on the notion that the Soviet Union should be allowed to dominate other communist countries, in cases where communists tried to gain influence elsewhere, such as in Chile, Kissinger was swift to take action to maintain what he regarded as the American sphere of influence. When communists appeared to be gaining too much influence over Chile's government for Kissinger's taste, the United States secretly supported the military takeover of the government in Santiago in 1973. The president of Chile, Salvador Allende (1908–1973), who had been elected democratically, was killed. Kissinger was roundly criticized for supporting an antidemocratic coup d'état, or the violent overthrow of a government by a small group, in the South American country.
Out of office
In 1976, Democrat Jimmy Carter (1924–; served 1977–81) of Georgia defeated Gerald Ford in the presidential election, and Kissinger left office. Although he was consulted after later Republicans Ronald Reagan (1911–; served 1981–89) and George Bush (1924–; served 1989–93) were elected in three consecutive elections (1980, 1984, and 1988), Kissinger did not return to office. Instead, he established a consulting firm for large American corporations doing business overseas.
Kissinger enjoyed enormous prestige while in office. In later years, however, Kissinger's reputation was mixed. On the one hand, he negotiated a peace agreement with North Vietnam; on the other hand, communist Vietnamese soon afterwards seized control of the entire country, making the Vietnam War, and the fifty-five thousand American deaths in the war, seem pointless. The American role in aiding the bloody military takeover of Chile's government, which had been democratically elected, seemed to contradict the country's long vision of itself as the defender of democracy over military dictatorships.
Kissinger was also widely credited for maintaining the stability of American foreign policy during the period when his boss, President Nixon, was under increasing political attack for the Watergate affair. Kissinger's defenders credit him with persuading Nixon to adopt a more realistic attitude towards the world's most populous nation, China, and towards the other nuclear-armed superpower, the Soviet Union, thereby helping promote more stable international relations.
—James L. Outman
For More Information
Isaacson, Walter. Kissinger: A Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.
Israel, Fred L. Henry Kissinger. New York: Chelsea House, 1986.
Kissinger, Henry. Years of Renewal. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.
Kissinger, Henry. Years of Upheaval. Boston: Little, Brown, 1982.
Schulzinger, Robert D. Henry Kissinger: Doctor of Diplomacy. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.
"Getting Out Is Never Easy." The Economist (March 1, 2003).
Hersh, Seymour. "The Price of Power, Kissinger, Nixon and Chile." The Atlantic (December 1982): p. 31.
Hitchens, Christopher. "The Case Against Henry Kissinger." Harper's Magazine (March 2001): p. 49.
Lacqueur, Walter. "Kissinger and His Critics." Commentary (February 1980): p. 57.
Chaundy, Bob. "Henry Kissinger: Haunted By His Past." BBC News.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/uk/2000/newsmakers/1952981.stm (accessed on March 18, 2004).
"Henry Kissinger—Biography." Nobel e-Museum.http://www.nobel.se/peace/laureates/1973/kissinger-bio.html (accessed on March 18, 2004).
PBS. "The Trials of Henry Kissinger." Now with Bill Moyers.http://www.pbs.org/now/politics/kissinger.html (accessed on March 18, 2004).
Kissinger, Henry Alfred
KISSINGER, HENRY ALFRED
KISSINGER, HENRY ALFRED (1923– ), U.S. secretary of state, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family in the Bavarian town of Furth, and named Heinz Alfred, Kissinger immigrated to New York in 1938. He attended high school at night, working during the day at a shaving brush company. He went to the City College of New York at night for a degree in accounting, which was his father's occupation. In 1943 his schooling was interrupted when he was drafted into the Army. While serving at Camp Claiborne, La., Kissinger met and came under the influence of Fritz Kraemer, a German refugee who was 35 and had European doctorates in law and political science. For many years, Kraemer, a conservative of a Central European background, was Kissinger's guide and mentor, and helped forge his fundamental political beliefs. After getting out of the Army, Kissinger, on Kraemer's recommendation, enrolled at Harvard University, where he wrote an appreciative dissertation on the diplomacy of the 19th-century Austrian statesman Prince Metternich, who was famous for his policy of suppressing any movement threatening the existing dynastic order. Kissinger's academic years, in which he helped set up the Harvard International Seminar, provided a base for his career in world politics. The seminar brought aspiring younger leaders to Harvard for a summer of study under his direction and provided him with a network of contacts around the world in years to come. He headed the seminar from 1951 to 1969. He also founded and edited a quarterly magazine on foreign affairs, Confluence, which lasted six years.
While still at Harvard, he obtained an appointment as staff director of a study group on nuclear weapons and foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. His first book, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, published in 1957, argued against the doctrine of massive retaliation, which implied full-scale nuclear war, and in favor of a "limited nuclear war" that would not escalate into total destruction. The book became a bestseller. The council received all the royalties, Kissinger all the credit. Kissinger then became the director of a Special Studies Project to define the nation's critical choices. The project was sponsored by Nelson Rockefeller. In the report that emerged from the study, International Security: The Military Aspect, in 1958, Kissinger lent his name to the doctrine that it was necessary to develop tactical nuclear weapons in order to prepare to fight a limited nuclear war. Kissinger later backed away from that view, and in 1961, in The Necessity for Choice, he declared that a limited nuclear war was untenable in practice, and he supported a doctrine of conventional warfare, with the use of nuclear weapons as a last resort. Kissinger received tenure at Harvard in 1959 and the rank of full professor of government in 1962. Although he was a Democrat, he also served as a part-time consultant to Rockefeller, a Republican, who in 1959 had become governor of New York. Kissinger had a small role in the administration of John F. Kennedy as a part-time consultant, but when Rockefeller sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1964, Kissinger worked as an adviser.
In 1965, Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge asked him to visit South Vietnam as a consultant. For the United States, the Vietnam War was in an early stage. Although Kissinger came away deeply pessimistic, he supported the war anyway. He believed the United States could not win, but neither could it withdraw. It was necessary, he believed, to negotiate a way out. Kissinger did not say how that was to be accomplished. As the war proceeded, poorly for the United States, Kissinger became increasingly critical, and he called it a "disaster," but he urged only an assessment of the procedures and concepts that had gotten the United States involved. In 1968, the president-elect, Richard M. Nixon, unexpectedly chose Kissinger to be his national security adviser. At the time, the two did not know each other. Kissinger was an ally of Rockefeller, who was disdainful of Nixon. There are several conflicting views, including Kissinger's own account, Nixon's, and those of other biographers, of how the two hooked up. The net result is that Kissinger became knowledgeable in the ways of Washington and soon had complete access to the Oval Office. Lawrence Eagleburger, a long-time close aide to Kissinger and acting secretary of state, told a Kissinger biographer: "Kissinger and Nixon both had degrees of paranoia. It led them to worry about each other, but it also led them to make common causeon perceived mutual enemies. They developed a conspiratorial approach to foreign policy management."
In 1973 Nixon appointed Kissinger secretary of state, the first Jew and the first person not of American birth to get such an appointment. He took the oath of office on a Saturday with his hand on a Christian Bible, a matter to which the Jewish community paid considerable attention. With the conclusion of the Vietnam War, Kissinger played a leading role in trying to solve the thorny problems of the Middle East, especially after the Yom Kippur War. For a period of 72 hours, the fate of Israel during the Yom Kippur War depended on an American president who was pro-Israel but who had frequently expressed antisemitic views, an American secretary of defense, James Schlesinger, who had become a Christian while at Harvard, and the first American secretary of state of Jewish origin, to use a term common then. Kissinger used the incomplete victory of Israel as an opportunity to defuse the Arab-Israeli conflict and establish a countervailing American presence in the Arab world that would serve as a check on, and ultimately a diminution of, Soviet influence in the area. He succeeded in bringing the fighting to a halt by means of a six-point cease-fire plan, face-to-face negotiations between Egypt and Israel, a peace conference in Geneva, and the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cairo and Washington.
Kissinger retained Nixon's loyalty, by most accounts, by being obsequious to the president. Kissinger wrote that it was "almost suicidal" to challenge Nixon and that "Nixon's favor depended on the readiness to fall in with the paranoid cult of the tough guy." In his memoirs, Kissinger explained that Nixon had a "powerful tendency to see himself surrounded by a conspiracy reaching even among his Cabinet colleagues." One Kissinger biographer, Walter Isaacson, told of how Nixon and Kissinger conspired to exclude, humiliate, or deceive Secretary of State William Rogers, Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, and others. Nixon's presidency was pathological, Isaacson said, and his book shows that Kissinger was part of that pathology. The wiretaps of colleagues and friends that were secretly authorized or abetted by Nixon and Kissinger "ultimately led to the plumbers, which led to Watergate," Isaacson said. And Watergate, the break-in at the Democratic campaign headquarters and the cover-up orchestrated by the White House and top Cabinet officials, led Nixon to resign in 1974 before he would have been impeached. During that crucial period in the White House, Nixon got on his knees to pray, and Kissinger joined him.
Kissinger played a key role in all the foreign policy events of the Nixon administration: the negotiations with North Vietnam in Paris to end the war, the opening of China to the West, the overthrow of the regime of Salvador Allende Gossens in Chile, the invasion and secret bombing of Cambodia, the arms control agreements, and the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
In the early 1970s, Kissinger became involved in negotiations in Paris with Xuan Thuy and Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam to end the war in Vietnam that had dragged on for years. To the North Vietnamese, the goal was to get the United States to withdraw its forces from Vietnam while the North Vietnamese kept their forces in the South. The main achievement of the negotiations was effective capitulation to the North Vietnamese terms. To achieve this deal, Isaacson wrote, it was necessary to engineer the "appalling betrayal" of the South Vietnamese regime. When Nguyen Van Thieu, the South Vietnamese leader, refused to go along with his own political suicide and upset the deal, Kissinger advocated bombing North Vietnam to get amendments to the agreement that would appease the South Vietnamese. As Isaacson wrote: "Hanoi was bombed in order to force changes in a treaty that the U.S. had already seen fit to accept. The modifications for which these lives were lost were so minor that neither Nixon nor Kissinger would adequately remember what they were." The months and years of the negotiations, carried out in secrecy, were Kissinger's way of cutting out the State Department and the rest of the United States government from the negotiations, Isaacson said.
Later, Kissinger declared that the Watergate scandal had so weakened the Nixon presidency that it could not effectively continue the war for as long as he thought might be necessary. In 1973 Kissinger and Tho were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The award was so fatuous that Kissinger, in Years of Upheaval, the second volume of his memoirs, felt "ill at ease," he wrote, when he learned of it.
After Nixon was driven from office and Gerald Ford took his place, Kissinger urged the United States to become re-engaged in Vietnam, despite a vote in Congress to stop all aid. In 1975, when Ford brought the war to an official end, he concealed his public announcement from Kissinger, then still secretary of state. Nixon and Kissinger also engaged in elaborate secrecy in their negotiations with China. While the foreign ministries of China, Pakistan, Romania, and the Soviet Union all knew about the American initiative, the U.S. State Department did not.
In 1970 Chile elected a leftist, Allende, as president. Kissinger actively participated in plans to prevent him from taking office. Before the election, Kissinger had told the American ambassador "to reinforce with the [Chilean] military the serious consequences of an Allende presidency" and to "reiterate the assurances of continued American military assistance" if the military moved against him. Allende was the victim of a bloody military coup, after which a right-wing dictatorship under Gen. Augusto Pinochet seized power. Kissinger denied any responsibility for the coup on the ground that the Chilean military leaders had not consulted the United States in advance.
Kissinger hoped his cultivation of Soviet and Chinese leaders would pay off in greater success in handling regional crises, but this did not happen. The Communist regimes had no intention of reining in their Third World allies, and their continued aggression gradually undermined Kissinger's credibility. By 1976 he had become an electoral liability for President Ford, who had to fight accusations from both left and right that his secretary of state was pursuing an immoral foreign policy.
Kissinger also had a knack for cultivating the press and frequently granted exclusive or off-the-record interviews to favored journalists and columnists. He appeared on the cover of Time magazine 21 times during his heyday. In 1973 he came out first in a Gallup Poll of the most-admired Americans. That same year the contestants in the Miss Universe Pageant voted him "the greatest person in the world today."
After leaving Washington and returning to New York in 1977, Kissinger formed Kissinger Associates and gave advice on foreign policy to private corporations. He and the company undertook diplomatic assignments for clients like American Express, the Chase bank, Coca-Cola, and others and served as a foreign policy adviser to their chairmen. He also served as an eminence-gris for foreign affairs specialists. All of the more than two dozen national security advisers after Kissinger either worked for him or worked directly for someone who did, and by the early years of the 21st century Kissinger's followers had essentially become the modern foreign policy establishment.
J. Hanhimaki, The Flawed Architect: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy (2004); W. Isaacson, Kissinger: A Biography (1992); S. Hersh. The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House (1983).
[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]
Henry Alfred Kissinger
Henry Alfred Kissinger
Henry Alfred Kissinger (born 1923) was secretary of state during the second Nixon administration and the Ford administration, chief of the National Security Council (1969-1973), professor at Harvard University (1952-1969), and co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize (with Le Duc Tho) in 1973.
Henry Kissinger was the chief foreign policy adviser to Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford between 1969 and 1974, a tumultuous period for the United States in its dealings in Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. The use of secret negotiations (based in large part on a fundamental distrust of bureaucracies—most notably that of the State Department) led to agreements on arms limitations (SALT I), the reopening of relations with the People's Republic of China after more than 20 years of non-recognition following the assumption of power by the Communists in 1949, and "shuttle diplomacy" involving attempts to secure peace among Middle-Eastern nations. Other work involved the secret bombing of Cambodia, a secret war with Cambodia that was ultimately halted by actions of Congress, cessation of hostilities between South and North Vietnam (and ultimately the collapse of the U.S.-supported South Vietnamese government), and the sharing of the Nobel Peace Prize with Le Duc Tho, the North Vietnamese negotiator at the Paris Peace Talks. While Kissinger's memoirs contained his interpretation of the aforementioned events, his critics did not soften their conclusion that Kissinger often made critical mistakes in developing U.S. foreign policy.
Despite his detractors, Kissinger enjoyed a reputation of being an intellectual in the Nixon administration. While often criticized for some of his personal characteristics, he was also praised for his wit and charm. In addition to his distrust of bureaucracies, Kissinger distrusted the media— particularly the press—and was reputed to berate subordinates who leaked information. In his own interactions with the media he worked closely (and off the record) with foreign affairs correspondents so his viewpoint would be presented favorably.
Kissinger's view of the world—dominated by a setting of bi-polarization—both coincided with that of President Nixon's and colored his interactions with others in the conduct of foreign affairs. His view was deemd "European" because he was born and spent his formative years in Germany and because of his attention to important European actors in history (in his senior thesis and doctoral dissertation—both completed at Harvard). It was a worldview that perceived the necessity for maintaining an equilibrium between the two world powers—the United States and the Soviet Union—and of arguing and negotiating from a position of strength. Thus it is possible to see the opening of relations with China for the first time after World War II as related to containment of the Soviet Union— particularly as this transpired when open hostilities between the U.S.S.R. and China were taking place. This was also evident when Kissinger justified secret bombings in Cambodia (on the grounds that there were sanctuaries and transportation routes being used by the North Vietnamese) in an attempt to get the North Vietnamese to negotiate a settlement.
An Expert on International Affairs
Kissinger was born May 27, 1923, in Furth, Germany, with the name Heinz Alfred. His mother, Paula Stern Kissinger, was from Fanconia in southern Germany. His father, Louis, was a teacher who lost his job and career during the Nazi reign and persecution of the Jews in Germany. The family (a younger brother, Walter Bernhard, was born a year after Henry Kissinger) left Nazi Germany in 1938, moving first to England and then several months later to the United States. The family settled in New York City where Kissinger began high school and after a year switched to night school, working days in a factory. During World War II Kissinger joined the military and served in Germany, working ultimately in Army Intelligence. Following the war Kissinger remained in Europe as a civilian instructor at the European Command Intelligence School at Oberammergau, Germany. In 1947 he returned to the United States and enrolled as an undergraduate at Harvard University. He graduated in the class of 1950 (in three years because he entered as a sophomore) summa cum laude and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He continued his studies as a graduate student at Harvard, earning his masters degree in 1952 and his Ph.D. in 1954.
Kissinger served in a variety of roles prior to his entrance into the Nixon administration as chief of the National Security Council. Between 1952 and 1969 he directed the Harvard International Seminar, which was held during the summer months. In this capacity, he was visited by many international figures with whom he would later deal as a foreign affairs official. As part of the Council on Foreign Relations he published Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, a book that was widely read and well accepted. For 18 months beginning in 1956 he was director of a Rockefeller Brothers Fund special studies project—a program developed to investigate potential domestic and international problems. In 1957 he became a lecturer at Harvard, ultimately being promoted to full professor in 1962. Kissinger served as a consultant to the National Security Council (until February of 1962, when he left because of policy differences), to the Arms Control Disarmament Agency (until 1967), and to the Rand Corporation (until 1968). From 1962 to 1965 he worked full time at Harvard. In 1965 he became a consultant to the State Department on Vietnam. He visited Vietnam several times between 1965 and 1967. Most of 1968 was spent working on New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller's unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for the presidency. In spite of Rockefeller's defeat by Richard Nixon, it was at Rockefeller's urging that Nixon considered and appointed Kissinger to head the National Security Council.
Kissinger was critical of U.S. foreign policy toward the Soviet Union developed under the preceding Kennedy and Johnson administrations. He considered their stances inconsistent and too conciliatory; it was these criticisms that had led to Kissinger's departure from McGeorge Bundy's National Security Council in the Kennedy administration. Kissinger viewed the Soviet Union as the principal opponent of the United States in international affairs. Nonetheless, Kissinger accepted as legitimate the role of the Soviet Union as one of the super powers. This approach, known as "détente," facilitated the easing of relations between the Soviet Union and the United States.
As a consequence, one of Kissinger's early successes during this period of détente was the completion of negotiations on the Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty (SALT) with the Soviet Union. The negotiations, highly technical and conducted in part by sophisticated negotiating teams and in part by Kissinger himself, lasted for nearly three years. They culminated in the signing of an agreement in Moscow by President Nixon and Soviet Communist Party Chief Brezhnev.
Kissinger also was influential in the settlement of the Quadripartite Agreement on Berlin (September 3, 1971). A thorn in relations between the East and West for many years, particularly after the Berlin Wall, an agreement was sought to facilitate travel between East and West Berlin. Through regular (official) negotiations, handled by Ambassador Kenneth Rush, and secret negotiations directly involving Kissinger, an easing of relations between the United States and the former Soviet Union was facilitated by the normalization of relations between the four nations that had controlled Berlin since World War II.
China, Vietnam, Middle East
Another of Kissinger's successes (and one that caught the media by surprise) was the organization of Richard Nixon's approach to China. The United States had refused to recognize the Peoples Republic of China following the civil war that left Communists under Mao Tse-Tung in control after World War II. Early in Nixon's first term efforts were made to allow interaction between the Chinese and the United States. Capitalizing on international conditions and secretly moving through the good auspices of Pakistani President Yahya Khan, Kissinger flew to China and met with Chou En-lai, arranging for an invitation for Nixon to make an official state visit. The resultant Shanghai Communique of 1972 provided guidelines for the establishment of U.S.-China relations. During his eight years in the National Security Council and State Department, Kissinger flew to China a total of nine times.
Kissinger perhaps was criticized most and forgiven least for his conduct of the war(s) in southeast Asia. The U.S. involvement in Vietnam had driven Lyndon Johnson from office, and it had been the intention of the Nixon administration to seek "peace with honor." The Kissinger approach was characteristic: negotiate from a position of strength. Thus not only was U.S. direct involvement in Vietnam reflective of this position, but the bombing of Cambodia—the "secret war"—was an attempt to use military strength to force the hands of U.S. opponents to agree to terminate the war. All efforts, of course, were an attempt to keep Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos from becoming controlled by Communist factions. Kissinger successfully negotiated a truce with Le Duc Tho (over the strong protests of the South Vietnam government) in Paris and shared the Nobel Prize in 1973 with him. However, many considered Kissinger's policies excessive attempts to make right with might.
Following his assumption of power as secretary of state in 1973—which he held through the completion of Gerald Ford's administration—Kissinger abandoned his policy of hands-off the Middle East (it was the one area where he had deferred to Secretary of State William Rogers while Kissinger was with the National Security Council). During the three years he was secretary of state, Kissinger conducted what became known as "shuttle diplomacy," where he served as the facilitator of negotiations to restore peace among Middle-Eastern nations. Kissinger would often fly from Egypt to Israel to Syria or elsewhere and back again as he played the middleman role in developing agreements to secure peace. In all, Kissinger made 11 "shuttle" missions, the longest lasting nearly a month.
After his departure from office following the 1976 electoral defeat of Gerald Ford at the hands of Jimmy Carter, Kissinger was self-employed as the director of a consulting firm dealing with international political assessments. In addition to advising a variety of clients on the political climate at any given moment, he produced two books of memoirs to explain the evolution of history while he was in office.
In 1997 former Secretaries of State Kissinger and Alexander Haig caused controversy through their role in facilitating U.S.-China trade. Some say the two stood to profit from contracts with the Chinese and that some of their dealings put the United States in a "vulnerable position."
Henry Kissinger produced two volumes of his memoirs: The White House Years (1979) and Years of Upheaval (1982). One may also read about Kissinger from Marvin and Bernard Kalb in Kissinger (1974). Seymore M. Hersh wrote The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House (1983). There are numerous other books about different aspects of Kissinger's years in office. See also: Timothy W. Maier, "Lion Dancing with Wolves," Insight on the News, vol. 13, no. 14, April 21, 1997. □
Kissinger, Henry Alfred
KISSINGER, Henry Alfred
(b. 27 May 1923 in Fürth, Germany), diplomat, political scientist, and principal architect of American foreign policy at the end of the 1960s.
Kissinger, born Heinz Alfred Kissinger, was the first of two sons of Louis Kissinger, a teacher, and Paula Stern, a homemaker. He grew up in a predominantly Jewish community in southern Germany. In 1938 he fled Nazi persecution with his parents and younger brother, Walter, re-settling in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City. He started college at City College of New York before being drafted and becoming a naturalized citizen in 1943. He spent five years in the army, including three years in occupied Germany, before returning to the United States to continue his studies. He attended Harvard University, earning a B.A. in 1950, an M.A. in 1952, and a Ph.D. in 1954, all in government. While at Harvard he married Anneliese Fleischer, on 6 February 1949 (divorced August 1964); they had two children. In 1974 he married Nancy Maginnes; they have no children.
His studies in government were preparation for a life in international affairs. He spent much of his time as a graduate student and postgraduate networking with important global officials. He edited the foreign affairs journal Confluence (1952–1958), worked for the Council on Foreign Relations (1952–1959), and published Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (1957), a fourteen-week best-seller. Harvard employed him as a lecturer—a position that was considered a fast track to tenure—and as assistant director of the Center for International Affairs (CFIA), working under Robert Bowie.
Kissinger spent most of the 1960s as a foreign policy theorist rather than a practitioner. He gained tenure at Harvard in 1959 as an assistant professor and was promoted to full professor in 1962. He was a popular teacher, though he taught only part-time. His classes were well attended as students gravitated to his charismatic teaching style. Kissinger continued his work for the CFIA as a secondary role at Harvard and ran the summer Harvard International Seminar (beginning in 1952) as well. He used these positions to network with politicians and policy makers as he angled for a larger role in government affairs. He also published his ideas, almost exclusively in Foreign Affairs magazine, hoping to bring his ideas for conducting foreign policy to the attention of those who made it.
While he was not a full-time official, Kissinger did serve as a foreign-affairs consultant in various capacities for most of the 1960s. In 1961 McGeorge Bundy hired Kissinger as a national-security consultant, based largely on his limited war/flexible response theory, outlined in his book Necessity for Choice: Prospects of American Foreign Policy (1961). The timing of the publication with President John F. Kennedy's election was not coincidental—some considered it a job application. Kissinger resigned a year later because he disagreed with the plan to create a multilateral force within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. His disagreement became the subject of his next book, The Troubled Partnership: A Reappraisal of the Atlantic Alliance (1965). Other agencies he assisted include the Arms Control Disarmament Agency (1962–1967) and the Rand Corporation (1962–1968). Kissinger also consulted with New York's governor, Nelson Rockefeller, on foreign policy matters for his 1964 and 1968 presidential campaigns.
Kissinger got his chance to be a practitioner when President Richard Nixon hired him in 1969 as a national security assistant and executive secretary of the National Security Council, at the urging of Henry Cabot Lodge, the U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam. Although Kissinger and Nixon had met only once, they quickly developed a close and effective working relationship. Kissinger believed that foreign policy should be based on power, particularly a balance of power between select nations. He also understood that power, not personality or feelings, best directed foreign affairs.
Under Nixon and Kissinger, foreign policy came mostly from the National Security Office, circumventing the State Department and its bureaucracy. Freed from constraints, Kissinger devoted his office to changing America's overall approach to cold war diplomacy. Instead of competing against the Soviet Union and China, he sought ways to cooperate and ease tensions (détente). Some of his early successes with this approach were the opening of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) in 1969 and the first arms agreement with the Soviets, SALT I (1972). Détente also opened the door for Nixon's historic visit to China in 1972 and the normalizing of relations between the United States and China (an idea Kissinger first had proposed to Rockefeller during his 1968 campaign).
For all his successes, there was the Vietnam War. His first involvement had been when Lodge, who was then ambassador to Vietnam, invited Kissinger to visit in 1965. Kissinger believed in the overall effort, preventing the spread of Communism to other countries in Asia, but not in the tactics employed. He also understood that while the United States might not win the war, it could not withdraw but had to negotiate an end. He first proposed this idea in an article in Look, "What Should We Do Now" (9 August 1966), which became the basis of his diplomatic efforts in Vietnam. In June 1967 he arranged secret negotiations with North Vietnam (code name Pennsylvania) through a Paris acquaintance.
While these negotiations faltered, they provided the opportunity for Kissinger to conduct the secret Paris Peace Talks (1968–1972) to achieve Nixon's "peace with honor" campaign promise. He attempted to negotiate from a position of power, conducting secret bombings of North Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos and secret invasions of Cambodia and Laos. The negotiations led to the Paris Peace Accords, signed 25 January 1973. The accords earned the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for Kissinger and North Vietnam's negotiator Le Duc Tho, even though the peace they achieved proved tenuous.
Many of Kissinger's contemporaries were critical of his methods, even when praising the results. His power-based policies led some to feel that he was amoral and ignored developing countries and human rights issues. Nixon and Kissinger angered the State Department and Congress by shifting policy making to the National Security Council, effectively removing policy from congressional oversight. Kissinger appeared to have difficulty with the nuances of America's open democratic system. Leslie Gelb, Kissinger's student at Harvard, wrote that Kissinger was "devious with peers, domineering with subordinates, obsequious to his superiors."
For all his critics, Kissinger was highly popular and an effective policy maker. A 1973 Gallup Poll listed him as the most admired man in America, likely a result of his wit and charm with the public and the press. In 1973 Nixon named Kissinger secretary of state, the first foreign-born person to hold the position. He held the office until 1977, when he returned to teaching and consulting. During the 1970s Kissinger left his imprint on American foreign policy with his efforts in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, the Soviet Union, and China, but it was during the 1960s that he refined and tested the theories that made him one of the most influential men in American foreign policy.
Kissinger recorded his official life in his memoirs, White House Years (1979) and Years of Upheaval (1982). Full-length biographies include David Landau, Kissinger: The Uses of Power (1972); Seymour Hersh, The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House (1983); and Walter Isaacson, Kissinger: A Biography (1992). See also Michael Roskin, "Henry A. Kissinger and the Global Balance of Power," in Frank G. Merli and Theodore A. Wilson, eds., Makers of American Diplomacy: From Benjamin Franklin to Henry Kissinger (1974), for an in-depth look at Kissinger in the 1960s.
Michael C. Miller
Kissinger, Henry Alfred
KISSINGER, HENRY ALFRED
As a scholar, adviser, and U.S. secretary of state, Henry Alfred Kissinger was an important figure in international affairs in the late twentieth century. The German-born Kissinger became a U.S. citizen in the 1930s; emerged as a leading theorist at Harvard in the 1950s; advised presidents during the 1960s; and defined the course of U.S. foreign policy for much of the 1970s. He won great acclaim for his pragmatic vision of foreign policy as well as for his skills as a peace negotiator. In 1973, he shared the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in securing a cease-fire in the vietnam war. However, criticism followed public revelations about his involvement in secret U.S. military and espionage operations, and he left public office in 1976 with a controversial record.
Born May 27, 1923, in Fürth, Germany, and given the first name Heinz, Kissinger was the son of middle-class Jewish parents who fled Nazi persecution while he was a teenager. The family emigrated to the United States in 1938, and Kissinger became a U.S. citizen in 1943. Service in the U.S. Army took Kissinger back to Europe during world war ii. Following combat and intelligence duty, he served in the post-war U.S. military government in Germany from 1945 to 1946. Decorated with honors and discharged from the service, he earned a bachelor of arts degree summa cum laude in government studies at Harvard College in 1950, then added a master's degree and, in 1956, a doctorate.
While teaching at Harvard in the 1950s, Kissinger came to national attention with his book Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (1957). The book was a bold argument against narrow cold war views of military strategy. It took aim at the reigning defense doctrine of the day, which was an all-or-nothing approach holding that the United States should retaliate massively with nuclear weapons against any aggressor. Kissinger proposed a different solution based on the approach of Realpolitik, the German concept of an intensely pragmatic, rather than idealistic, vision of international relations. The United States should deploy nuclear weapons strategically around the world as a deterrent, he argued, while relying on conventional, non-nuclear forces in the event of aggression against it. The idea gradually took hold over the next decade.
"A conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerilla army wins if it does not lose."
Rising to the top of his field, Kissinger became a driving force behind Harvard's efforts
in the area of foreign policy. He took increasingly higher positions in the school's Center for International Affairs and directed its Defense Studies Program. Kissinger became much sought after by politicians, diplomats, and government defense specialists in the 1960s. He counseled Presidents john f. kennedy and lyndon b. johnson on foreign policy. In 1968, he advised Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, of New York, in Rockefeller's unsuccessful campaign for the republican party nomination for president. After the election, the new president, richard m. nixon, was quick to hire away his opponent's adviser.
The two terms of Nixon's presidency elevated Kissinger's power. Named first to the position of assistant for national security affairs, a high-level post, he soon eclipsed the president's secretary of state, William P. Rogers, in visibility and influence. Indeed, by the end of Nixon's first term, Kissinger was the acknowledged architect of U.S. foreign policy. His rise to preeminence was complete in 1973, when Nixon made him secretary of state.
Under Nixon, Kissinger had a string of historic successes. He arranged Nixon's breakthrough visit to China in 1972, which ended years of hostile relations between the two nations. Also in 1972, at the strategic arms limitations talks (SALT 1), he helped to broker the anti-ballistic-missile treaty, the landmark agreement to limit nuclear proliferation, signed by the United States and the Soviet Union. Traveling widely in what came to be known as "shuttle diplomacy," Kissinger conducted peace negotiations between the United States and Vietnam en route to the signing of a cease-fire in 1973. In recognition of his efforts, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, with the chief North Vietnamese negotiator, Le Duc Tho. Kissinger also engineered cease-fires between Arab states and Israel after their 1973 war, and he persuaded Nixon to ready U.S. forces around the world in order to deter Soviet intervention.
In 1973, Kissinger also came under harsh attack. Throughout the Vietnam conflict, antiwar critics had targeted him. New public revelations about the White House's secret conduct of the war in Southeast Asia led to criticism. It was revealed that in 1969, Kissinger had won Nixon's approval to expand the war into Cambodia, a
neutral country, with bombings and subsequent ground incursions by U.S. troops. Critics eventually blamed Kissinger and Nixon for the destruction of Cambodia after the country fell to Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, whose forces systematically murdered millions of Cambodians. On the political left, some commentators branded the president and his secretary of state war criminals.
When Nixon's 1974 resignation resulted in the succession of gerald r. ford as president, Ford kept Kissinger as both secretary of state and national security adviser. But Kissinger faced mounting criticism in the media and Congress. More revelations came to light: Kissinger had secretly authorized central intelligence agency operations to overthrow the government of Chile and to support rebels in Angola. He was also attacked for having used wiretaps of federal employees in order to stop security leaks. Whereas Congress had listened attentively to Kissinger during the Nixon administration, the allure of his Realpolitik was fading in the more cautious, less interventionist post-Vietnam era. He left office in 1976 with his influence at an all-time low.
Kissinger was awarded the presidential Medal of Freedom in 1976 and the Medal of Liberty in 1986. In private life, Kissinger continued to be active in international affairs. He taught, served as a consultant, and often commented in the media on foreign policy, while also writing two popular memoirs: White House Years (1980) and Years of Upheaval (1982). President ronald reagan briefly lured Kissinger back into public life in 1983, appointing him to head a commission to make policy recommendations on Latin America. In 1994, Kissinger published Diplomacy which analyzed modern foreign relations, including the strategies employed during the Vietnam War, and in 2003 he published Ending the Vietnam War: A Personal History of America's Involvement in and Extrication from the Vietnam War.
Kissinger's record of public service continues to be the subject of scrutiny. In 2002, a film called The Trials of Henry Kissinger, based on a similarly-titled book by journalist Christopher Hitchens, used previously unpublished documents to make the argument that Kissinger should be tried as a war criminal for his involvement in the secret bombing of Cambodia by the United States, the overthrow of democratically elected President Salvador Allende in 1973, and the use of U.S.-supplied weapons in the Indonesian massacre of thousands of civilians in East Timor in 1975. In November 2002, Kissinger was appointed by President george w. bush to chair the commission that had been convened to investigate the september 11th attacks. Two weeks later, Kissinger announced his resignation from the commission in order to avoid possible conflicts of interest with persons and organizations that employed his consulting firm, Kissinger Associates.
Anderson, John. "Kissinger: Peacemaker or War Criminal?" 2002. Newsday (September 23).
Brigham, Robert K. "Siege Mentality." 2003. Washington Post (March 2).
Henry Kissinger rose to prominence in the late 1960s and into the 1970s, when he established himself as one of the most influential people in international affairs.
Heinz Kissinger was born on May 27, 1923, in Germany. His Jewish family fled Germany in 1938, just before the Holocaust . They initially found safety in London, England, but immigrated to the United States several months later. Kissinger became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1943.
Young Kissinger changed his first name to Henry upon arriving in New York City. There he worked during the day to help support his family and attended high school at night. He studied accounting at the City College of New York in 1941 and was drafted into World War II (1939–45) in 1943. After the war, he took a teaching job at the European Command Intelligence School.
Kissinger returned to America and entered Harvard University as a sophomore on several scholarships in 1947. He eventually received a doctorate in 1954. He accepted a job teaching at Harvard that same year and was a lecturer from 1957 to 1959. From 1959 to 1962, he was an associate professor; from 1962 to 1971, he was a professor of government. He served Harvard as a faculty member in the Center for International Affairs from 1957 to 1971 and was director of the Defense Studies Program from 1958 to 1971. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Kissinger was an unofficial advisor to the administrations of Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969; served 1953–61), John F. Kennedy (1917–1963; served 1961–63), and Lyndon B. Johnson (1908–1973; served 1963–69). During these years, he wrote and published books on policy.
Kissinger was an advisor and speechwriter for presidential candidate Nelson Rockefeller (1908–1979) in 1968. Although Rockefeller did not win the Republican nomination, he recommended Kissinger to President Richard Nixon (1913–1994; served 1969–74) and suggested he be named director of the National Security Council. It was in this position that Kissinger became more influential than even some of the senior cabinet members. While director, he also served as special assistant to the president. In this capacity, he conducted secret negotiations with North Vietnam, China, and the Soviet Union. While his Republican colleagues wanted the United States to be the dominant superpower in global relations, Kissinger sought more of a balance of power in the hopes of maintaining stable international relations.
After Nixon was reelected in 1973, he named Kissinger his secretary of state. The Arab-Israeli War erupted that same year, and Kissinger was immediately thrust into the conflict. Although he had previously remained neutral regarding Middle Eastern conflicts, he became integrally involved as secretary of state. He visited diplomats and government officials often in Egypt, Syria, and Israel to help those leaders wage peace. Even after Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal , Kissinger stayed on as secretary of state for President Gerald R. Ford (1913–2006; served 1974–77).
After the White House
Kissinger left his position in the federal government after Ford was defeated in his bid for reelection by Jimmy Carter (1924–; served 1977–81) in 1976. Kissinger established his own consulting firm and took a post as professor of diplomacy in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He served as a paid senior fellow at the Aspen Institute, an advisor to Goldman Sachs brokerage firm, and a consultant to Chase Manhattan Bank. He also toured the country as a lecturer.
Although busy with these responsibilities, Kissinger longed to be involved in government again. He served as an unofficial advisor to President Ronald Reagan (1911–2004; served 1981–89) and was believed to be the mastermind behind Reagan's Middle East policy. Despite the absence of an official title, Kissinger traveled to China and met with the country's leaders. This led to criticism in the 1990s, however, when some reporters accused Kissinger of using his political clout to forge ties for clients of his private firm.
In addition to writing books on policy, Kissinger has written three memoirs chronicling his years with Nixon and Ford. These autobiographies provide details of the inside workings of contemporary history, and two of them were on the best-seller list. There had never before been a foreign policy maker with the level of power and influence Kissinger enjoyed, and there has not been one since. Even his critics recognize his genius.
Kissinger married Ann Fleischer in 1949, and he and his wife had a son and daughter. The couple divorced in 1964. In 1974, he married Nancy Maginnes. Although still consulted from time to time in politics even in the twenty-first century, Kissinger largely remained uninvolved, although he did endorse Republican candidate John McCain (1936–) for president in the 2008 election.
(b. May 27, 1923) Secretary of state during the Nixon and Ford administrations, national security adviser during the Nixon administration, and architect of U.S. foreign policy.
As a Harvard University government professor, national security adviser to President Richard Nixon, and as secretary of state for both Nixon and President Gerald Ford, Henry Kissinger was an influential architect of U.S. policy during the Cold War (1946–1991). Born in Fürth, Germany, Kissinger immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1938 to escape the Nazi regime. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Kissinger enrolled in Harvard University in 1947. For the next twenty-five years, Harvard would be the base of his influence over U.S. foreign policy.
The ideas that formed the core of Kissinger's thinking on international relations took shape in his doctoral dissertation on Metternich, Castlereagh, and the Congress of Vienna, written for Harvard's Government Department and published in 1957 as A World Restored. Though his topic seemed far removed from the Cold War, Kissinger saw a direct connection. In it he argued that the European nations of the early nineteenth century, though faced with a revolutionary and expansionist government in Napoleon's France, were able to establish a generation of stability and peace through a careful balancing of national interests. This work articulated Kissinger's belief in the realistic tradition of U.S. foreign policy that places primary emphasis on the pursuit of national interest rather than morality and idealism in international affairs.
Kissinger's second book, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, criticized the massive retaliation policies then used by the Eisenhower administration to contain Communism. This strategy, Kissinger argued, limited too severely the response the United States might make to international problems. Instead, the nation had to develop the capability to respond to a wide range of threats to its national security, including "limited nuclear war." Kissinger's book, together with his work for the Council on Foreign Relations, brought him to the attention of national politicians, especially New York governor Nelson Rockefeller. In Richard Nixon's administration (1969–1973), Kissinger wielded his greatest influence over U.S. foreign policy.
As national security adviser during Richard Nixon's first term as president, Kissinger was, next to the president, the administration's most influential foreign policy maker. Nixon and Kissinger together worked out the intellectual design for détente with the Soviet Union and China. Both American leaders recognized that the widening division between the two Communist super-powers by 1969 created bold new opportunities for U.S. foreign policy. Their policy of détente assumed that by improving relations with the USSR and China, the United States could establish a triangular relationship that would reduce tensions in the Cold War. Through secret negotiations in Moscow and Beijing, Kissinger laid the foundation for the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT), which Nixon signed with the Soviets in 1972, and for the president's surprise visit to China in 1972. In both cases Kissinger received wide acclaim for making important contributions to the first significant "thaw" in the history of the Cold War.
During his White House years Kissinger also proved to be an adept negotiator in two other important venues. In an effort to end the U.S. war in Vietnam honorably, Nixon dispatched Kissinger to Paris in August 1969 to begin what would be three years of secret negotiations with the North Vietnamese. By October 1972 Kissinger and his North Vietnamese counterpart, Le Duc Tho, had hammered out the basis for a cease-fire and the return of U.S. prisoners of war, an agreement that was finally signed in January 1973. For their role in ending the long U.S. war, Kissinger and Le Duc Tho were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973. Later that year, following the October Arab-Israeli conflict, Kissinger's negotiating skills would be applied again, this time in an attempt to broker a Middle East peace settlement. Engaging in "shuttle diplomacy" that had him traveling back and forth repeatedly between Cairo and Jerusalem, Kissinger ultimately failed to achieve a comprehensive accord but did manage to persuade Israel to pull its troops out of Arab territory.
Kissinger became secretary of state in 1973, a post he continued to hold when Gerald Ford became president in August 1974. During the Ford years Kissinger continued to work on behalf of détente. He played a key role in negotiating a second SALT accord with the Soviets in 1974, only to see the U.S. Senate refuse to ratify that treaty. In 1975 Kissinger and Ford negotiated the Helsinki Agreement with the Soviet Union, in which the Cold War adversaries agreed for the first time to recognize the national boundaries in Europe established after World War II. After leaving office, Kissinger continued to influence U.S. foreign policy as a private consultant.
Isaacson, Walter. Kissinger: A Biography. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992.
Kissinger, Henry. White House Years. Boston: Little, Brown, 1979.
Kissinger, Henry. Years of Upheaval. Boston: Little, Brown, 1982.
Morris, Roger. Uncertain Greatness: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy. New York: HarperCollins, 1977.
Schulzinger, Robert D. Henry Kissinger: Doctor of Diplomacy. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.
John W. Malsberger