Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kissinger really was a bastard
Tom Smith

You had to be there to appreciate it, and I'm glad I was.  But the great moral relativism between the West and Communism that Kissinger exemplified really would have doomed us.  It took Pearl Harbor to wake us up to the peril of fascism.  But strangely, the long twilight struggle of the Cold War had lulled us into a weird, fatigued acceptance of the evil empire that respectable people were not allowed to call evil.  Kissinger was part of all that.  I don't think he deserves to be admired. He's a figure of historical importance, but he was a bad influence.  That he should speak callously of Jews going to gas chambers does not surprise me at all.  You can't imagine Reagan doing any such thing or tolerating anybody who did.  Kissinger and his ilk are not really realists because they fail to appreciate the reality of the moral dimension of the life of individuals, peoples and nations.

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Tom Smith
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Comments

Our present Wilsonian crusade to save the world for democracy, or freedom, or truth, justice, and the American way, is as poorly conceived (if opposite) as Kissinger's amoral political understandings.

Posted by: james wilson | Dec 14, 2010 9:00:35 PM

As Tom Lehrer noted, "Irony died the day they awarded Kissinger the Nobel Peace Prize."

Posted by: Jimbino | Dec 14, 2010 9:09:20 PM

Tobin alludes to the parallel between Detente "realists" who rejected moral concerns in the context of our struggle against the Soviets, and today's conservative "realists" who think that the liberation of Iraq was not worth the American lives and money that it cost. Both "realist" groups have a defeatist outlook and undervalue the long-term strategic benefits to us of promoting freedom worldwide.

Posted by: Jonathan | Dec 14, 2010 9:14:13 PM

thanks so much admin

Posted by: dizi izle | Dec 15, 2010 3:58:22 AM

Rectify the names. "Realist," used as to spin isolationism and pacifism as rational, was a cynical canard. Let us recall how humanity's long struggle against the Hell's work we called "Communism" wound up in the end.

The so-called "realists," at least those who were not enemy sympathizers, were the the dreamers, dwelling in a fool's paradise. In the end, the verdict of history has to be that it had been the anti-Communists whose paradigm best approximated reality.

Posted by: Lou Gots | Dec 15, 2010 4:43:48 AM

Tom, I think you've got Kissinger all wrong. He wasn't a moral relativist at all, and detente wasn't a statement of moral equivalence between the superpowers. Kissinger's realism was (as all realism should be) about means, not ends: he saw the US and Soviet Union in the midst of a struggle for world domination, and was unwilling to let high-minded moral principle get in the way of waging this struggle in the most effective way he knew how. All of his strategies--including "detente", the opening to China, his Middle East diplomacy, turning a blind eye to numerous human rights catastrophes, and many others--were devoted to a single goal: American victory in the Cold War. And there's no doubt in my mind that he played America's extremely weak Vietnam-era hand about as brilliantly as can be imagined. The collapses of the Carter era cannot be blamed on him, nor do Reagan's successes, which were achieved using a different strategy--one suited to the radically different circumstances of his era--detract from Kissinger's.

Now, it's possible that Kissinger's reasons for pursuing American advantage via cynical means were purely chauvinist, or careerist, or egotistical. But I think the more likely explanation is that he believed--as do many conservative foreign policy thinkers today--that American victory against totalitarian movements with global ambitions is ultimately the best guarantor of peace and prosperity for both America and the world. Obviously, one can argue with this premise, but its genuine idealism cannot be disputed.

Posted by: Dan Simon | Dec 16, 2010 11:45:03 PM

You had some nice points here. I done a research on the topic and got most peoples will agree with your blog.

Posted by: wholesaler | Dec 17, 2010 2:04:06 AM

Dan, I'm all for victory in the struggle against communism, but how did K help achieve it? Didn't RR's victory rest on a reversal of K's approach? What I object to is (my perception of) K's goal of a stable carving up of the world between us and them. Am I wrong about this?

Posted by: Tom Smith | Dec 17, 2010 8:56:10 AM

Tom, Kissinger adhered to the doctrine of "containment", which advocated the use of balance-of-power realpolitik, not simply to create a stable long-term equilibrium, but rather to limit the Soviet Union's drive for imperial expansion until its "internal contradictions" succeeded in destroying it from within. (This phrasing comes directly from Kennan's original formulation of "containment" doctrine.) Kissinger often characterized his goals in these terms, making it clear that he understood the Soviet threat and the need to protect against it, long after Kennan himself had gone "soft" on the subject.

I agree with you that the Reagan doctrine (going beyond "containment" to attempt actual "rollback" of Soviet hegemony) was a far more successful strategy than containment. However, it's important to understand that Kissinger was not operating in Reagan's political environment, following the Iranian hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (among other massively aggressive Soviet adventures during the 1970s). During the Nixon-Ford era, the domestic American political debate was not (as it was during the 1950s, and again during the 1980s) between advocates of "containment" and "rollback", but rather between advocates of "appeasement" and "containment".

Don't forget--Kissinger himself was, and still is, routinely vilified for "widening" the Vietnam war to Cambodia (more precisely, pursuing North Vietnamese troops as they withdrew into their havens in Cambodian territory); later ordering a massive bombing campaign against Cambodia (more precisely, supporting the Cambodian government against the Vietnamese-supported Khmer Rouge); and "engineering" a military coup against a democratically elected Chilean government (more precisely, quietly approving of the Chilean army's removal of a nascent Cuban-style pro-Soviet dictatorship). To this day, he's considered an arch-war criminal on the left for his aggressive defense against Soviet expansionism. If there were any politically feasible moves he could have made to that end that he failed to make, they don't come readily to mind.

Posted by: Dan Simon | Dec 17, 2010 5:14:59 PM

OK Dan, all fair points. I would want more assurance on the containment until collapse point. I suspected Bush I and realists like Snowcroft of actually fearing Soviet collapse and being willing to take some steps to prop them up, but this is just suspicion left over from what was in the air in DC in the Bush I years.

Posted by: Tom Smith | Dec 18, 2010 1:18:09 PM

I do recall some trepidation among certain foreign policy realists regarding the fall of the Soviet Union at the time--something along the lines of a "chaotic" Russia being potentially more dangerous than the status quo. It was a stupid point of view, and can't imagine that Kissinger subscribed to it for even a microsecond.

Posted by: Dan Simon | Dec 18, 2010 10:07:01 PM