Henry Kissinger and his complex legacy in American foreign policy

2023-11-30 17:20:44, Kosova & Bota CNA
Henry Kissinger and his complex legacy in American foreign policy
Henry Kissinger, former National Security Advisor and former Secretary of State

Henry Kissinger, the former national security adviser and former secretary of state whose global influence continued for decades after he held those posts in President Richard Nixon's administration, has died at the age of 100 at his home in Connecticut. The death announcement was made by his consulting firm which did not disclose the cause of death. Voice of America correspondent Cindy Saine reports on the life and legacy of an influential but controversial American statesman.

Henry Kissinger was born on May 27, 1923, in Fyrth, Germany with the birth name Heinz Alfred Kissinger. He and his Jewish family fled to the United States to escape the Nazis.

He joined the US Army during World War II. After the war, he continued his studies at Harvard, where he received his doctorate and then became a professor at that university.

In 1969 President Richard Nixon selected Mr. Kissinger as his national security adviser. He was later appointed Secretary of State, becoming the first person to hold both positions at the same time.

He became known for his 'realpolitik' approach focused on making practical diplomatic decisions rather than those rooted in a moral framework.

Aaron David Miller has served for several Republican and Democratic administrations, but not under Mr. Kissinger.

"His opponents estimate that he was wild and heartless. Some say he should be considered a war criminal for what he did with Cambodia and Laos and for his policies towards Bangladesh in the early 1970s. But the reality is that he also influenced diplomacy in ways that were extraordinary," says Aaron David Miller of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

Mr. Kissinger kept secret the United States' bombings of Cambodia and Laos in 1969, which escalated the Vietnam War, by not informing Congress or the American public about them.

Mr. Kissinger also met dozens of times with Vietnamese diplomat and politician Le Duc Tho to negotiate an end to the war, for which they were both awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973. Mr. Le Duc Tho refused to accept the award.

Mr. Kissinger made two trips to China before accompanying President Nixon on the first visit by an American president to Beijing in 1972, to meet with Communist leader Mao Zedong.

The visit was hailed as one of Mr. Kissinger's triumphs, but Jarrod Hayes of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, takes a different view, saying he was a master of creating a certain public profile.

“He changed foreign policy through his practice of 'round trip diplomacy' by making it interesting. This gives him a special place in American foreign policy through the creation of a certain image. But beyond form, if you look below the surface, his foreign policy positions have not served the United States that well," says Jarod Hayes, professor of international relations at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

Mr. Kissinger went on to advise every American president since President Nixon, except President Joe Biden, who did not invite him to the White House.

His influence over such a long time is unparalleled, says history professor Michael Kimmage. He does not believe, however, that Mr. Kissinger's philosophy of 'Realpolitik' has come to dominate American foreign policy.

"I think he himself was aware that what dominated American foreign policy is the liberal internationalism associated with President Woodrow Wilson, who founded the League of Nations and engaged in World War I with the slogan, 'make the world safe for democracy'. That's really the dominant tradition of American foreign policy, and Mr. Kissinger was kind of an opponent of that," says Michael Kimmage of the Catholic University of America.

Former US Secretary Henry Kissinger caused more controversy in 2022, when he hinted that Ukraine should be ready to make territorial concessions to end Russia's aggression./ VOA

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