The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Henry Kissinger

Henry Kissinger
Henry Kissinger

Henry Alfred Kissinger, (born May 27, 1923), United States Secretary of State in the Nixon and Ford Administrations and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, played a dominant role in foreign affairs between 1969 and 1977. He pioneered the policy of détente, began strategic arms reduction talks, "opened" China, ended the protracted Vietnam War, maintained strong diplomatic relationships with anti-Communist military governments in the Southern Cone, approved of CIA intervention in Chilean politics, and ended the U.S. doctrine of undifferentiated containment of the Soviet Union through direct military intervention. Kissinger's foreign policy record has made him a highly respected figure in the international community, although some critics from the left and right endure.


Personal background

Kissinger was born in Fürth, Germany as Heinz Alfred Kissinger into a family of Jewish religion. In 1938, fleeing Adolf Hitler's persecution his family moved to New York, New York. Kissinger was naturalized a U.S. citizen on June 19, 1943.

He spent his high school years in the Washington Heights section of upper Manhattan but never lost his pronounced German accent. Kissinger attended George Washington High School at night and worked in a shaving-brush factory during the day. While attending City College of New York, in 1943, he was drafted into the army and became a German interpreter for the 970th Counter Intelligence Corps .

Henry Kissinger received his BA degree summa cum laude at Harvard College in 1950. Urban legend has it Kissinger is the only person to receive a perfect grade point average from Harvard, but in fact he received one 'B' in his senior year, while others have gotten perfect GPAs, though it is exceptionally rare. He received his MA and Ph.D. degrees at Harvard University in 1952 and 1954, respectively. His doctoral dissertation was titled A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace 1812–22. It is often said that his Ph.D. dissertation is the longest among Harvard Ph.D. dissertations.

A liberal Republican and keen to have a greater influence on American foreign policy, Kissinger became a supporter of and advisor to New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who sought the Republican nomination for President in 1960, 1964 and 1968. After Richard Nixon won the presidency in 1968, he offered Kissinger the job of national security adviser.

Political History

On , , Egyptian Foreign Minister meets with and Henry Kissinger about a week after fighting ends in the
On October 31, 1973, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmi meets with Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger about a week after fighting ends in the Yom Kippur War

Kissinger was Nixon's National Security Advisor (1969-73) and later his Secretary of State (1973-74). He also stayed on as President Gerald Ford's Secretary of State from 1974-77.

While working for Nixon, Kissinger established the policy of détente with the Soviet Union. He also negotiated the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (culminating in the SALT I treaty) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. In July and October 1971, Kissinger made two secret trips to the People's Republic of China to confer with Premier Zhou Enlai and to set the stage for the groundbreaking 1972 summit between the PRC and the US as well as the normalization of relations between the two countries. Today, Kissinger is often called by Chinese leaders "the old friend of the Chinese people." His talk with Zhou Enlai was highly secretive. Recently declassified documents show that the talk highly focused on the Taiwan issue.

Kissinger was awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize along with Le Duc Tho of Vietnam for their work on the Vietnam peace accords. Kissinger and Nixon had come to office in 1968 on a promise of a quick end to the Vietnam War, but the intervening years saw an escalation in conflict as well as the extension of the US bombing campaign (overseen by Kissinger) in Laos and Cambodia. Le Duc Tho refused the prize on the grounds that there was as yet no peace.

In 1973, Kissinger negotiated the end of the Yom Kippur War, which began with Egypt's invasion of the Sinai and Syria's invasion of the Golan Heights.

Kissinger may have played a role in the September 11, 1973, coup by Augusto Pinochet against the government of Chilean President Salvador Allende. Documentary evidence shows CIA interest in promoting a coup, but Kissinger says he reversed his initial position supporting a coup well before it happened.

Despite occasional allegations of underhanded dealings in foreign countries, Kissinger was largely popular with the public and became one of the better-liked members of the increasingly unpopular Nixon administration. Kissinger had little involvement with the Watergate scandal that would eventually bring down Nixon and many of his closest aides – a fact which greatly increased Kissinger's reputation as the "clean man" of the bunch. At the height of his popularity he was even regarded as something of a sex symbol and was seen dating starlets such as Jill St. John, Shirley MacLaine, and Candice Bergen.

In December 1975, Kissinger and Ford met with President Suharto of Indonesia; on that occasion they gave their approval for his invasion of East Timor, which led to the massacre of 200,000 Timorese. Until the release of documents confirming his foreknowledge of the invasion, Kissinger claimed that he was unaware of Suharto's intentions when he left Jakarta. Kissinger still maintains that the nature and influence of his "approval" of the invasion are presented radically out of context. He argues that the invasion was already a foregone conclusion planned well in advance, and was not simply something that he convinced Suharto to do on the spot. However, Kissinger's apparent strong dislike of discussing the issue remains a source of controversy (see below).

Kissinger is updated on the latest situation in on , , one day before its government falls.
Kissinger is updated on the latest situation in South Vietnam on April 29, 1975, one day before its government falls.

Kissinger left office when Jimmy Carter defeated Ford at the 1976 elections. He played a relatively minor role in the Reagan (1981-89) and first Bush (1989-93) administrations, mainly because the neo-conservative groups which dominated the Republican Party by 1981 considered Kissinger's detente policy to have been a form of appeasement of the Soviet Union. He continued to participate in policy groups such as the Trilateral Commission and to do political consulting, speaking, and writing.

In 2002, President George W. Bush appointed Kissinger to chair a committee to investigate the events of the September 11 attacks. His appointment led to widespread criticism, generally taken from the position that Kissinger has never been supportive of the public's right to know, but also because some vocal groups have alleged that some of his actions undertaken in the Nixon and Ford administrations were war crimes (see "Accusations Against Henry Kissinger," below).

In response, Congressional Democrats insisted that Kissinger file financial disclosures to reveal any conflicts of interest. Both Bush and Kissinger claimed that Kissinger did not need to file such forms, since he would not be receiving a salary. When Congressional Democrats insisted, however, Kissinger resigned from the commission. On December 13, 2002, he stepped down as chairman, citing conflict of interest with his clients.

With his first wife, Ann Fleischer, he had two children, Elizabeth and David. He currently lives with his second wife, Nancy Maginnes Kissinger, in Kent, Connecticut. He is the head of Kissinger and Associates, a consulting firm.

Accusations against Henry Kissinger

In recent years, there has been increasing criticism of controversial actions approved by Kissinger while in office. Much of this new discussion was sparked by charges against Kissinger levied by journalist Christopher Hitchens.

In The Trial of Henry Kissinger (2001), Hitchens accuses Kissinger of conspiracy to commit murder and war crimes. The February and March 2001 issues of Harper's Magazine feature a series by Hitchens on the case for charging Kissinger with war crimes. Hitchens argues that (1) on at least one occasion, Henry Kissinger conspired to commit murder, and (2) on numerous other occasions, Kissinger was the primary force behind certain acts that Hitchens claims constitute war crimes.

Hitchens's primary allegations against Kissinger are that through secret diplomacy in 1968, he convinced the South Vietnamese government to not sign a peace treaty with North Vietnam thus unnecessarily extending the war for 4 years. He also states that Kissinger's involvement in expanding the war into Cambodia constitutes a war crime as thousands of peasants died from both civil war and U.S. bombing. Critics of Hitchens's analysis, such as National Review contributors William F. Buckley and John O'Sullivan, claim that such war crimes charges are absurd; O'Sullivan in particular states that the South Vietnamese refused to sign a peace treaty in 1968 because the North refused to come to reasonable terms. Other supporters of Kissinger claim that spreading the war into Cambodia was justified, as Khmer Rouge-dominated territory allowed safe havens from which the Viet Cong could operate.

Documents released in late 2001 regarding East Timor revealed that Kissinger had given Suharto support for the invasion of East Timor (in which as many as 200,000 people may have died) during a visit to Indonesia in 1975, refuting his claim in a 1999 interview that he had not discussed the matter in advance and only found out about it as he was leaving the country. Although it was illegal for the arms that the US supplied to Indonesia to be used for offensive purposes, the documents revealed that Kissinger was unconcerned over the illegality of their use; his primary concern was over manipulating the public perception of what happened. "We would be able to influence the reaction in America if whatever happens, happens after we return", he was quoted as saying.

Kissinger has refused to respond to Hitchens's charges point by point. He claims that in attempting to create a war crimes charge, Hitchens uses selective quotations and documents without taking into account the context and the situation in which those documents were written. Further, Kissinger claims that Hitchens ignores the significant advances in world peace that were taken under his tenure, such as the Anti-Ballistic Treaty, détente and arms reduction treaties with the Soviet Union, the opening to China, and the withdrawal from Vietnam. He adds that Hitchens's charges are nothing more than the politics of revenge and that they cheapen and mock the concept of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Perhaps encouraged by Hitchens' book and movie, as of May 2002, Chilean Judge Juan Gúzman declared an interest in questioning Kissinger regarding possible U.S. involvement in the country's 1973 coup. Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón, who engaged in a failed attempt to get former Chilean military junta Chairman Augusto Pinochet extradited from the United Kingdom for questioning, also attempted to convince British authorities to allow him to question Kissinger, who was due to attend a convention in Britain, on possible U.S. involvement in Operation Condor and the 1973 coup. British authorities refused his request.

Hitchens's book inspired a feature-length documentary, "The Trials of Henry Kissinger", directed by Eugene Jarecki, which also highlighted the charges against Kissinger.

A suit was filed on September 10, 2001, by the family of Gen. Rene Schneider, former Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Army, accusing Kissinger of arranging his 1970 murder for opposing a military coup. [1] There is no evidence linking Kissinger to the crime, but there are questions about the extent of CIA involvement in the failed 1970 coup attempt that claimed Schneider's life. See: Chilean coup of 1973 for related information.

Kissinger and Argentina

Recently declassified documents obtained by the National Security Archive show that Henry Kissinger did not raise objections to the practices of the dictatorial Argentine military junta; the junta was exercising total authority over combatting active Marxist guerrilla groups such as the Montoneros and ERP. It is known to have "disappeared" approximately 10,000 to 30,000 Argentines, many believed to be nonviolent dissidents, and tortured thousands more at documented secret detention centers.

In a meeting, Kissinger urged Argentine Foreign Minister César Augusto Guzzetti to finish quelling guerrilla violence quickly and to get back to "normal procedures" before the U.S. Congress had a chance to consider sanctions for the junta's human rights record.

Business interests and public service

He has his own consulting company Kissinger and Associates, and also Kissinger McLarty Associates with Mack McLarty, former Chief of Staff to President Clinton. He also serves on various boards of directors including Hollinger International.

In 1998 Kissinger became a Citizen of Honour of his hometown Fürth. During his whole life he has been a supporter of the football club Spielvereinigung Fürth . In 2004, he visited his hometown again.

He has served as Chancellor of the College of William and Mary since February 10, 2001.

Partial bibliography

  • Foreign policy
    • Rescuing the World: The Life and Times of Leo Cherne by Andrew F. Smith, Henry A. Kissinger (2002) ISBN 0791453790
    • Does America Need a Foreign Policy?: Toward a Diplomacy for the 21st Century (2001) ISBN 0684855674
    • Diplomacy (1994) ISBN 067165991X
    • On Men and Power: A Political Memoir by Helmut Schmidt, Henry Kissinger (1990) ISBN 0224027158
    • Observations: Selected Speeches and Essays 1982-1984 (1985) ISBN 0316496642
    • For the Record: Selected Statements 1977-1980 (1981) ISBN 0316496634
    • American Foreign Policy: Three Essays (1974) ISBN 0393055256
    • A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace, 1812-22 (1973) ISBN 0395172292
    • The Troubled Partnership: A Re-Appraisal of the Atlantic Alliance(1965) ISBN 0070348952
    • The Necessity for Choice: Prospects of American Foreign Policy (1961) ISBN 0060124105
    • Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (1957)
  • Memoirs
    • Crisis: The Anatomy of Two Major Foreign Policy Crises: Based on the Record of Henry Kissinger's Hitherto Secret Telephone Conversations (2003) ISBN 0743249100
    • Vietnam: A Personal History of America's Involvement in and Extrication from the Vietnam War (2002) ISBN 0743219163
    • Kissinger Transcripts: The Top Secret Talks With Beijing and Moscow by Henry Kissinger, William Burr (1999) ISBN 1565844807
    • Years of Renewal (1999) ISBN 0684855712
    • Years of Upheaval (1982) ISBN 0316285919
    • The White House Years (1979) ISBN 0316496618
  • Biographies
    • The Flawed Architect: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy by Jussi M. Hanhimaki (2004) ISBN 0195172213
    • The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens (2001) ISBN 1859846319
    • Kissinger: A Biography by Walter Isaacson (1992) ISBN 0671663232
    • The Nixon-Kissinger Years: Reshaping of America's Foreign Policy by Richard C. Thornton (1989) ISBN 0887020518
    • The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House by Seymour Hersh (1983) ISBN 0671447602
    • Kissinger by Marvin L. Kalb, Bernard Kalb (1974) ISBN 0316482218
    • Kissinger on the Couch by Phyllis Schlafly (1974) ISBN 0870002163
    • Kissinger: Portrait of a Mind by Stephen Richards Graubard (1973) ISBN 0393054810

External links

|- style="text-align: center;" | width="30%" |Preceded by:
William P. Rogers | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |United States Secretary of State
1973—1977 | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
Cyrus Vance

Last updated: 06-01-2005 23:33:39
Last updated: 08-17-2005 22:26:42