Henry Kissinger, who served as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, believes that The United States could be on the brink of war with China and Russia.
Kissinger, 99, is one of the most important figures in American foreign policy of the 20th century. His resolutely anti-communist policies led him to inflict brutal violence on civilian populations through Asia and Latin America. The secret Cambodia bombing campaign endorsed by Kissinger away from the public eye and Congressional oversight led to the dropping of half a million bombs between 1969 and 1973, resulting in at least one hundred thousand civilian deaths.
The former foreign policy chief is considered a political realist, an ideology defined by his theory of state behavior and based on four main pillars: central force states play in international politicsthe anarchic nature of the international systemthe rationality of self-interested politiciansand the priority of the state to acquire the power that can ensure their self-preservation.
Kissinger’s particular realism is also deeply linked to political legitimacy, which he describes as “nothing more than international agreement on the nature of workable arrangements and on the permissible aims and methods of foreign policy.” He also said that legitimacy “should not be confused with justice”. In a sense, justice could threaten legitimacy because it is Kissinger’s belief that if enough world powers agreed that the international system was legitimate, it was. On the other hand, if one or more powers began to question the legitimacy of the arrangements, a a dangerous “revolutionary” era would emerge. Throughout his career, Kissinger has been driven by these ideas, and the costs of such orthodox thinking across the foreign policy apparatus have been enormous and persistent throughout the 21st century.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Kissinger, a person who ran the State Department, said that the “current period [of US diplomacy] has a lot of trouble defining a directionand that he is “very reactive to the emotions of the moment”. The retired chef criticized modern diplomatic strategy of the United States for what it sees a lack of engagement with political opponents. For critics of Kissinger’s violent legacy, these comments are a little ironic, given that the leader oversaw strategy during the Vietnam War, which historians call a proxy war between the US and USSR. . In particular, the Cold War opposed the United States and the USSR, two countries which refused to engage directly for decades.
Kissinger’s view of the prospects for a possible US war with Russia and China is easy to understand because realism is not a hard ideology to break. The United States wants to retain its status as a global hegemon. Russia and China want to dethrone the United States. If all states are all rational, self-serving power-seekers, we have ourselves a game of chicken. Each side continues to push the limits of the others. The United States sells arms to Ukraine in light of the war and threats from Russia, China supports the Russian economy, and the United States responds by sending the third American official to Taiwan.
What Realism Leaves Out
However, there are other interests, aside from those motivated by a desire for greater global power, it informs the behavior of political actors and institutions. Realists don’t pay much attention to political actors. Instead, the state itself assumes the central unit of analysis. States exist in time, and rather than being made up of individuals, for realists, the state is a unitary and autonomous entity that can speak with one voice. Realists also focus on state military capabilities and how they react to anarchy or lack of central authority to enforce the rules within the international system.
China and the United States are major economic partners, and a war would upset the economies of both countries and the whole world. Good shipments to the United States could collapse and trade revenues for China would drop significantly. Economic interests motivate the actions of states and political actors in very significant ways. NATO countries have compiled red lines with Russia in their aid to Ukraine to avoid an all-out war, which could leave many EU countries with a significant and, more dangerous, energy deficit. threatens civilians with nuclear war.
The terror left in Kissinger’s wake
Although Kissinger’s official leave from government came in 1977, he continued to serve as an adviser to numerous presidents and diplomatic leaders. Presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in her memoir of Kissinger, even linking his legacy and that of the Obama administration to her own.
Listening to leaders like Kissinger and those who speak fondly of his record, it is essential to remember the devastating consequences for humanity that his realistic vision has created. Three million Cambodians were murdered after Pol Pot, and the Khmer Rouge seized power in the vacuum created by tthe secret US bombing campaign that led to the ousting of Prince Sihanouk.
Famous people, like the late Anthony Bourdain, have made their opinion of Kissinger very clear. In Bourdain’s 2001 book Visit of a cookwhile writing about Cambodia, he said that once one visits the country, they “Stop beating Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands.”
Years later, Bourdian doubled down on his comments in a Tweet saying “Often I have come to regret things I have said. This, from 2001, is not one of those times.”
Kissinger also participated in the coup of socialist Salvador Allende in Chile, who was replaced by far-right authoritarians. Augusto Pinochet. This authoritarian regime killed more than 3,500 dissidents and tortured more than 29,000. Kissinger strongly supported Pinochet and even worked to undermine the Carter administration’s response to the regime murdering the former Ambassador to the United States under Allende’s government in Washington DC in 1976.
To refute the arguments made by those on the left, liberals would be wise to part ways with the legacy of an actor who undermined the democratic will of countless populations. For the liberals, there should be nothing more appalling than the overthrow of a democratically elected governmenteven when such an event threatens their power on the international scene. As a realist, Kissinger is able to ignore such liberal constraints, but for those like Hillary Clinton and others, support for Kissinger is a red flag that speaks to the motivations and intentions of American foreign policy.across political parties over the past fifty years.