Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the thick-glassed, rattling-voiced diplomat who led foreign policy as the United States withdrew from Vietnam and broke down barriers with China, died Wednesday, his consulting firm announced. He was 100 years old.
With his brusque yet commanding presence and behind-the-scenes power manipulation, Kissinger exerted extraordinary influence on world affairs under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, winning both slander and the Nobel Peace Prize. Obtained. Decades later, his name still sparks heated debates about foreign policy milestones from long ago.
Kissinger’s power increased during the turmoil of Watergate, when politically aligned diplomats assumed roles akin to co-presidents of a weakened Nixon.
“There is no doubt that my vanity was stimulated,” Kissinger later wrote of his growing influence. “But the prevailing feeling was a premonition of catastrophe.”
Kissinger was a Jewish man who fled Nazi Germany with his family as a teenager, and in his later years he became a respected speaker, advised both Republicans and Democrats, and ran a global consulting business. He gained fame as a politician. He has appeared numerous times at President Donald Trump’s White House. But documents and tapes from the Nixon era have trickled out over the years, many in Kissinger’s own words, sometimes yielding revelations that cast him in a harsh light.
Kissinger was never without his detractors, and after leaving office Kissinger was dogged by critics who argued that he should be held accountable for his policies in Southeast Asia and support for repressive regimes in Latin America. Ta.
Kissinger worked on a wide range of major foreign policy issues for eight non-stop years, first as National Security Adviser, then as Secretary of State, and with an interim period in which he held both titles. He conducted the first “shuttle diplomacy” with the aim of peace in the Middle East. He used secret channels to pursue ties between the United States and China, ending decades of isolation and mutual hostility.
He initiated the Paris negotiations, which ultimately provided what he called a face-saving means to withdraw the United States from the costly war in Vietnam, an “appropriate spacing.” Two years later, Saigon fell into communist hands.
And he pursued a policy of détente with the Soviet Union, leading to arms control agreements and raising the possibility that Cold War tensions and nuclear threats need not last forever.
At 99 years old, he was still on a tour to publish a book on leadership. Asked in a July 2022 interview with ABC whether he wished he could have reversed his decision, Kissinger replied: “I’ve been thinking about these issues all my life. It’s my profession as well as my hobby. So the suggestions I made were the best I could do at the time.”
Even then, he had mixed feelings about President Nixon’s record, saying that “his foreign policy held up and he was very competent in domestic policy,” but that the disgraced president ” “He allowed himself to be involved in a number of measures that were inappropriate for the nation.” It’s the president. ”
As Kissinger turns 100 in May 2023, his son David told The Washington Post that his father’s 100th anniversary was “a tribute to those who knew his strength of character and love of historical icons. For some, it may feel like an inevitability.” Not only did he outlive most of his colleagues and notable detractors and students, he remained active throughout his nineties. ”
In a CBS interview on the eve of Kissinger’s 100th birthday, Kissinger was dismissive when asked about people who viewed his long-standing foreign policy practices as some kind of “criminal act.”
“This reflects their ignorance,” Kissinger said. “It wasn’t thought of that way. It wasn’t done that way.”
Kissinger was a practitioner of realpolitik, using diplomacy to achieve practical ends rather than promoting lofty ideals. His supporters argued that his pragmatic leanings served U.S. interests. Critics considered the Machiavellian approach to be contrary to democratic ideals.
He was accused of authorizing the wiretapping of the phones of reporters and National Security Council officials to prevent news leaks from President Nixon’s White House. He was denounced on campus in April 1970 for the bombing of Cambodia and the Allied invasion intended to destroy North Vietnam’s supply lines to communist forces in South Vietnam.
This “invasion,” as Nixon and Kissinger called it, was blamed by some for contributing to Cambodia’s fall to Khmer Rouge rebels who later massacred some two million Cambodians.
Kissinger criticized in 2007 what he called a “pervasive myth” that Kissinger and Nixon reconciled in 1972 on peace terms they could have agreed to in 1969, thereby unnecessarily prolonging the Vietnam War. I made it my mission to expose that. At the cost of tens of thousands of American lives.
He argued that the only way to accelerate the withdrawal would have been for the United States to agree to Hanoi’s demands to overthrow the South Vietnamese government and replace it with communist-led leadership.
Stocky and disheveled, Kissinger acquired a reputation as a ladies’ man out of proportion to the stolid Nixon administration. Kissinger, who divorced his first wife in 1964, called women “a pastime, a hobby.” She and Jill St. John were often together. However, his real love object turned out to be Nancy McGuinness, a Nelson Rockefeller researcher, whom he married in 1974.
In a 1972 Playboy Club Bunnies poll, the man nicknamed “Super K” by Newsweek magazine ranked first as the “man most wanted to go on a date.”
Kissinger explains: “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac”
However, Kissinger was criticized by many Americans for his wartime diplomatic actions. In 2015, an appearance by the 91-year-old Kissinger before the Senate Armed Services Committee was disrupted by demonstrators demanding his arrest on war crimes charges and condemning his actions in Southeast Asia, Chile and elsewhere. .
Heinz Alfred Kissinger was born on May 27, 1923 in Fürth, Bavaria, the son of a schoolteacher. His family left Nazi Germany in 1938 and settled in Manhattan, where Heinz changed his name to Henry.
Kissinger had two children, Elizabeth and David, from his first marriage.
The late Associated Press diplomatic correspondent Barry Schweid contributed to this report.