Henry Kissinger: Good or Evil?

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tags: Henry Kissinger



When Niall Ferguson’s Henry Kissinger, 1923 to 1968: The Idealist (excerpted here in Politico Magazine) came out last month, it sparked a new discussion about the controversial statesman’s role in shaping the history of the 20th century: Whether Henry Kissinger—for so long considered an iconic realist of our era—all this time has been, as Ferguson suggests, a misunderstood idealist. But the book also reinvigorated another, more timeless debate: Is Kissinger, idealist or not, worthy of the continued praise that gets heaped on him in certain Washington and international circles?

Politico Magazine decided to ask top historians and Kissinger experts to evaluate the statesman, his role in history and his legacy. Is he best characterized as America’s greatest statesman, capable of making smart sacrifices for the greater good? Or has he been a careless and callous leader, responsible for perpetuating war and great crimes against humanity to the detriment of U.S. national security? Is Kissinger simply a vastly overrated diplomat—no more original in his ideas than any other Cold War intellectual? And, ultimately, has he been a force for good—or for evil? Here’s what they had to say.

‘Henry Kissinger is one of the worst people to ever be a force for good.’
By Nicholas Thompson, editor of newyorker.com and author of The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan and the History of the Cold War

Henry Kissinger is one of the worst people to ever be a force for good. He manipulated colleagues and nations. He faked the beginning of a nuclear war in order to advance some perverse personal game theory. He callously perpetrated international crimes. But he was a man of ideas at the center of an American strategy that ultimately benefited the world in some grand sense. His China policy was one of America’s great Cold War achievements. He deserves to be honored and to be given a medal—but one with the image of a man who is scowling and holding a knife. Henry Kissinger was a success—a true, American success—but he can only be called an idealist if he can be called despicable too. ...




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