From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"Under Carter the US largely gave up the practice of helping rightwing regimes to make war on their own liberals. Under Reagan, especially if Kissinger makes a comeback, that sordid brand of Realpolitik might well be resumed." --Glued to the Box (1983) by Clive James
"Once you've been to Cambodia, you'll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands... Witness what [he] did... and you will never understand why he's not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milošević."--A Cook's Tour (2001) by Anthony Bourdain
"It will become clear [...] that this is written by a political opponent of Henry Kissinger. Nonetheless [...] I am concerned only with those Kissingerian offenses that might or should form the basis of a legal prosecution: for war crimes, for crimes against humanity, and for offenses against common or customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap, and torture."--The Trial of Henry Kissinger (2001) by Christopher Hitchens
"Henry Kissinger was the Secretary of State under President Nixon, and he didn’t believe in a world of good and evil. What drove Kissinger was a ruthless, pragmatic vision of power in the world. With America’s growing political and social chaos, Kissinger wanted the country to give up its ideological battles. Instead, it should come to terms with countries like the Soviet Union, to create a new kind of global interdependence. A world in which America would be safe.
HENRY KISSINGER, Interviewed 1975: I believe that with all the dislocations we know— now experience, there also exists an extraordinary opportunity to form, for the first time in history, a truly global society, carried by the principle of interdependence. And if we act wisely and with vision, I think we can look back to all this turmoil as the birth pangs of a more creative and better system.
VO: Kissinger had begun this process in 1972, when he persuaded the Soviet Union to sign a treaty with America limiting nuclear arms. It was the start of what was called “détente.” And President Nixon returned to Washington to announce triumphantly that the age of fear was over.
PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON, June 1, 1972: Last Friday, in Moscow, we witnessed the beginning of the end of that era which began in 1945. With this step, we have enhanced the security of both nations. We have begun to reduce the level of fear, by reducing the causes of fear—for our two peoples, and for all peoples in the world.
VO: But a world without fear was not what the neoconservatives needed to pursue their project. They now set out to destroy Henry Kissinger’s vision. What gave them their opportunity was the growing collapse of American political power, both abroad and at home. The defeat in Vietnam, and the resignation of President Nixon over Watergate, led to a crisis of confidence in America’s political class. And the neoconservatives seized their moment. They allied themselves with two right-wingers in the new administration of Gerald Ford. One was Donald Rumsfeld, the new Secretary of Defense. The other was Dick Cheney, the President’s Chief of Staff. Rumsfeld began to make speeches alleging that the Soviets were ignoring Kissinger’s treaties and secretly building up their weapons, with the intention of attacking America.
And the man who would give the Islamists that opportunity would be Henry Kissinger. As part of his attempt to create a stable and balanced world, Kissinger had persuaded President Sadat to begin peace negotiations with the Israelis. To Kissinger, the ruthless pragmatist, religious divisions and hatreds were irrelevant."--The Power of Nightmares (2004) by Adam Curtis
Henry Kissinger (1923 – 2023) was an American politician who served as United States secretary of state and national security advisor under the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
Kissinger's legacy is a polarizing subject in American politics. He has been widely considered by scholars to be an effective Secretary of State and condemned for ordering to use "anything that flies on anything that moves" in the bombing of Cambodia, and turning a blind eye to war crimes committed by American allies due to his support of a pragmatic approach to politics called Realpolitik. For his actions negotiating a ceasefire in Vietnam, Kissinger received the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize under controversial circumstances.
Realpolitik and toleration of war crimes
Due to his adherence to an approach to politics called Realpolitik, which prioritizes pragmatic geopolitical considerations over moral or ideological values, Kissinger has been criticized for turning a blind eye to war crimes committed by American allies during his tenure.
A number of activists and human rights lawyers have sought to prosecute him for war crimes committed by American allies during his tenure. Kissinger has been associated with such controversial policies as the U.S. bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War, U.S. involvement in the 1973 Chilean military coup, a "green light" to Argentina's military junta for their Dirty War, and U.S. support for Pakistan during the Bangladesh Liberation War despite a genocide being perpetrated. Some have blamed Kissinger for injustices in American foreign policy during his tenure. In September 2001, relatives and survivors of General Rene Schneider filed civil proceedings in federal court in Washington, DC, and, in April 2002, a petition for Kissinger's arrest was filed in the High Court in London by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, citing the destruction of civilian populations and the environment in Indochina during the years 1969–1975. British-American journalist and author Christopher Hitchens authored The Trial of Henry Kissinger, in which he called for the prosecution of Kissinger "for war crimes, for crimes against humanity, and for offenses against common or customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap, and torture". Anthony Bourdain famously wrote in A Cook's Tour: "Once you've been to Cambodia, you'll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands... Witness what [he] did... and you will never understand why he's not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milošević."
Historians Robert D. Kaplan and Niall Ferguson have disputed these notions and argued that there is a double standard in how Kissinger is judged in comparison to other political figures. They have defended Kissinger by arguing that American power to advocate for human rights in other nations is often counterproductive and limited, that taking into consideration geopolitical realities is an inevitable part of any effective foreign policy, and that there are utilitarian reasons to defend most of the decisions of his tenure. Ferguson states that accusing Kissinger alone of war crimes "requires a double standard" because "nearly all the secretaries of state ... and nearly all the presidents" have taken similar actions. Ferguson adds "this is not to say that it's all OK."