Every year, or at even shorter intervals, a book about Kissinger is being published, which mostly shows him in the darkest colors on the part of his critics. So now with Bernd Greiner: Henry Kissinger. Guardian of the Empire. A biography /Henry Kissinger. Wächter des Imperiums. Eine Biografie (C.H. Beck Verlag, Munich 2020).
The FAZ reports:
“There is hardly a politician of the 20th century outside of heads of state and government about whom political scientists, historians and investigative journalists have worked more intensely than on Henry Kissinger. He left none of his biographers untouched. Some condemn the former security advisor and Secretary of State of the United States as a cynical power politician and self-promoter, while others celebrate him as an over-statesman and world-champion. In „The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House“, the journalist Seymour Hersh disguised him for his Vietnam policy in 1983, his colleague Christopher Hitchens even accused him of numerous war crimes in 2001 in „The Kissinger Files“. The British historian Niall Ferguson 2016 in “Kissinger: The Idealist”, however, only covers the years from 1923 to 1968 on 1120 pages – the time before he entered government. Should Ferguson continue to write with similar attention to detail, he should even trump Kissinger’s three volumes of memoirs totaling 4,000 pages, at least quantitatively.
With Bernd Greiner, a historian at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research for three decades, Kissinger has no chance – not as a person, not as a scientist, and certainly not as a foreign policymaker. With the three major chapter headings “Apprentice”, “Employee” and “Pensioner” he distances himself from his protagonist, who sees himself as a thought leader, designer and eternal advisor to the powerful. As a prelude, Greiner shows how the Fürth Jew Heinz Alfred Kissinger, who fled the Nazis to America, through hard work, irrepressible intelligence, self-confidence and self-expression, but also through the right sponsors and through flattery at a young age, ascened into the top of the foreign policy community of his new home. The newborn world power is desperately looking for people who can devise strategies and guide politicians during the Cold War. Kissinger quickly makes a name for himself as a hardliner who resolutely opposes Moscow and Beijing and wants to use battlefield nuclear weapons if necessary.
From Harvard, which trains this internationalist elite with verve and money from government and business, Kissinger stretches his tentacles deeper and deeper into the halls of power: as the author of politically relevant studies, as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the water heater for political participation eager academics, as short-term contributors to John F. Kennedy’s National Security Council. Greiner portrays Kissinger as a self-centered megalomaniac, exploitative boss and unprincipled careerist, who has offered himself to various masters until Richard Nixon finally brought him to the White House in 1969. The new president takes over a country torn by the Vietnam War, mistrusts bureaucracies and the establishment to the point of paranoia, is conflict-averse and needs constant confirmation: all circumstances that Kissinger quickly became Nixon’s central foreign policy advisor, and when he sank into the swamp of Watergate , become the linchpin of Washington’s relationship with the world.
Greiner thinks this is a catastrophe. There is hardly a character deficit that Kissinger does not attest: unscrupulousness, addiction to fame, vanity, ignorance, arrogance, overconfidence, tearfulness, egomania, weather agility. „
It is obvious that there are hardly any more publications and productions about US politicians in the Western literature and media than there are about JFK and Henry Kissinger. As if Kissinger had been president then and would still rule today. It seems traumatic. At that time it was-according to this logic- not Nixon who ruled or thought by himself, but his NSC advisor and Foreign Minister Kissinger, who whispered everything to him and manipulated him. According to this logic, Nixon would never have gone to China without Kissinger and the US would have got rid of its new superpower competitor today. Kissinger as a (Jewish) conspiracy spider in the web of a political cabal that pulls all strings, not only then but also today once met with Trump and allegedly had influenced his China policy. At best, Kissinger has tried to dissuade Trump from his confrontational course or to slow him down, but he has not convinced him, nor is he the mastermind of Trump’s China policy. In any case, US presidents no longer seem to be responsible or self-thinking, but only executive agents of their alleged masterminds Kissinger and Brzezinski, even if they have been out of office for years.
No Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, George W. Bush senior or junior, Obama or even Trump have as many quota as JFK and Kissinger. Whereby JFK stands for the good, shining, clean America, while Kissinger as its shadow, dark side of power, abyss of morality and prince of darkness. So also Greiner’s biography, whereby he seems to focus on the allegedly rotten character of Henry Kissinger, as if the attributes assigned to him were really a unique selling point of Kissinger and not otherwise widespread in society and politics, whereby the question is, to what extent these provide information about his worldview of realism / realpolitik and the associated foreign policy of the USA. When Kissinger critics write books about his politics, they often have a more moral than an analytical framework, Kissinger is portrayed above all as a war criminal, prince of darkness from a gloomy realm of shadows and monsters, as was the case in 2016 in Greg Grandin “Kissinger’s Long Shadow “ / Kissingers langer Schatten von Greg Grandin (C.H. Beck Verlag, 2016)
Admittedly, Kissinger was a realpolitician who had no morale scruples about wars, military dictatorships, coups, and assassinations. But: He was by far not the only politician who used these normal political instruments and would not stand out so much if he had not been foreign minister of the greatest world power, the USA, especially since the Soviet Union and its KGB acted even more unscrupulously France, Great Britain and many Asian and Middle Eastern regimes were and are not restrictive with their choice of means. Many critics of Kissinger always forget that he was dealing with very unscrupulous and violent opponents and that the international community did not consist of pacifist scout organizations who only want to do one good work every day, while only the evil Henry prevented them from doing so , thwarted these noble world spirits and prevented the daily world peace as the real super villain.
One must also see that Kissinger played a valuable role in the relationship between China and the USA and for the Chinese. A documentary was shown on the Bavarian televison BR that made it clear where China stood at Mao’s death in 1976. Nobody knew where it was heading towards. The Gang of Four around Jiang Qing considered reviving the Cultural Revolution, visited Pol Pot in Cambodia and publicly considered abolishing the money and evacuating the cities in the People’s Daily. The Gang of Four thought of the Cambodian genocidal way. Without the Kissinger / Nixon visit, China would hardly have had a perspective of getting out of its foreign policy isolation. Deng Xiaoping was the consequence of Kissinger’s policy: more freedom than under Mao, at the same time economic reforms and rapprochement with the West. That was Kissinger’s historic achievement. In contrast, imagine a Pol-Pot-like and isolated China. Those are the stories that are not written in the Kissinger-bashing books. Kissinger is accordingly more valued in China than in the Western hemisphere. Hundreds of millions of Chinese, who make up a significant part of humanity, know what they owe him. Today, after the euphoria in China has vanished, Kissinger is more likely to be accused of having made the new main rivals of the USA acceptable and strong and enabled China to rise to become a competing world power. At that time, the development prospects of the then developing country China were viewed differently and could not yet be foreseen.
Furthermore, it was Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy between Israel and the Arab states, especially Egypt, that led to an end of the Yom Kippur War and set the course for Camp David, i.e. the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. So, if one judgse Kissinger, one should do this against the background of the Cold War, also his actions in Indochina, Chile, East Timor, Angola and Portugal, Spain, as well as with the assassination of Aldo Moro in Italy, to prevent the “historical Alliance ”between Italy’s Christian Democrats and the Euro-Communist Party of Italy and also look at his merits. .
Kissinger was also a supporter of East Policy (Ostpolitik) and the CSCE process, which allowed groups such as Charter 47, Solidarnosc and all human rights groups in the Eastern Bloc to take root, which then bore fruit under Reagan’s policy of confrontation with the Soviet Union and ensured a peaceful revolution and the overthrow of communism instead of a world war.
Critics of Kissinger in the USA also come mostly from the right-wing corner, who accuse him of his policy of détente, of „betraying Taiwan and Vietnam“, claiming that he was soft on communism and especially alluding to his Jewish origins and inciting anti-Semitic rumors, also inflate his well-known connections to David Rockefeller, the Bilderbergers, the Chase Manhattan Bank and the Council on Foreign Relations to conspiracy theoretic stories of a secret NWO-UNO world government under a shadow world ruler Kissinger. Kissinger for the left is the fascist, the immoral, inhuman cynic of power, a Metternich, Richilleau and monster all in one and for the right the Jewish-liberal-communist world conspiracy in persona. For these critics, Kissinger is a cipher for this and all evil in the world, but not the real politician he was.
His main interest was always the „balance of power“ between the great powers, so that there could not be unwanted escalations or even a world war. This realpolitik, oriented towards balancing power politics, was criticized by the Republicans who brought up Reagan, because Kissinger shied away from escalation and the Reagan people thought that Kissinger and Nixon were too soft on communism towards the Soviet Union and only Reagan’s armament confrontation and a war threat strategy in the sense of the then NSC author Colin S-Gray, according to which wars between the USA and the Soviet Union were „feasible, limited and winnable“ was successful.
While Kissinger supported George Bush senior’s Iraq war in 1990, as it had realistic goals and the involvement and support of a broad international UN coalition, he rejected the 2003 Iraq war under George W. Bush Jr. and his neocons, as these were missionary and completely unreal goals as the democratization of the Greater Middle East by means of the lighthouse Iraq, which then should enlighten the region, had no international support, split NATO into the Old and New Europe and, especially, would make the entire region more unstable, just as the USA would weaken itself and make its opponents stronger .
Similarly, Kissinger is now under general suspicion under the Trump government, since his involvement with China only brought about the rise of China and one should no longer have to rely on „balance of power“, but rather on direct confrontation with China from trade war to financial war and military strength. Kissinger explained in a conversation at Harvard University with the author of the book „Is the US destined for war with China?“ Professor Graham Allison that the USA should continue to engage with China and should also become part of China´s New Silkroad and should invest in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The engagement policy towards China is not only finished under Trump, but also the Democrats and the Republicans are at best to be had for Congagement in order to prevent containment or even a direct rollback. Kissinger stood and stands for realpolitik, balance of power and engagement with China – that is totally over and brings him even more hostility. Among other things, through the new Realpolitik school of offensive realism by John Mearsheimer, who attacks the defensive realism of Kissinger head-on and also relies more on confrontation with China instead of engagement. All Kissinger critics on the left should be told that there are more radical factions within the USA than the eternally scolded Kissinger.