The gods protect us, Henry Kissinger is back!
Henry Kissinger was President Richard Nixon’s National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State. He also held the latter position under President Gerald Ford. While it would be unfair to characterize him as someone who never gave a piece of good advice (he did encourage Nixon to engage in Detente with the Soviet Union), his record weighs heavily on the side of unwise counsel. As we will see he is back in exactly that role, plying bad advice that, in this case, could further erode America’s already messed up intelligence agencies.
Kissinger was originally an academic. His doctoral dissertation was on the diplomacy of two early 19th century statesmen, Britain’s Viscount Robert Castlereagh and Austria’s Prince Klemens von Metternich. These men were major players at the great Congress of Vienna that took place after the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815. At that meeting Metternich argued for returning Europe to its pre French Revolution political status. Pursuing that impossible end, he backed repressive policies and regimes. One gets the impression that the history of Kissinger’s public service was, at least in part, an effort to achieve the stature of a Metternich. Toward this end Kissinger would pursue “realpolitik” which, more often than not in its American manifestation, entailed the backing of repressive policies and regimes.
Here are some of the things Kissinger espoused: the bombing of North Vietnam in order to achieve “peace with honor;” support for the murderous, Fascist regime of Ernesto Pinochet in Chile, and the equally bloody military dictatorship in Argentina; acquiescence in the annexation of East Timor by the Indonesian dictator Suharto, which was followed by genocidal massacres; acquiescence in the Serb and Croat wars against the Bosnian Muslims; support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq; and last but certainly not least, active lobbying for the admittance into the U.S. of the ailing Shah of Iran (yet another American supported dictator) which led immediately to the hostage taking of U.S. diplomats in 1979 and the continuing animosity and tension between America and Iran. I saved this piece of bad judgment till last because it of a piece with Kissinger’s latest excursion into playing the great statesman by pushing folly.
So what would Dr. Kissinger have us do now? Well, according to a report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Kissinger has sent a letter to President Obama “urging him to commute the prison term of Jonathan Pollard, who is serving life term for spying for Israel.” Kissinger claims that he has consulted with others such as former Defense Secretary Weinberger, former Secretary of State George Schultz and former CIA Director Woolsey (all of whom are supporters of Israel) and found their “unanimous support for clemency compelling.” Kissinger’s letter follows on a lobbying effort by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has made an official request to Obama for the same granting of clemency. Here is what Netanyahu had to say, “Both Mr. Pollard and the Government of Israel have repeatedly expressed remorse for these actions [of spying], and Israel will continue to abide by its commitment that such wrongful actions will never be repeated.” There is something almost childish in this approach. Caught with Israel’s hand in the cookie jar, the spies and their handlers say ‘Oh I’m sorry. If you commute the punishment we promise to be good from now on.’ Actually, in the world of espionage, such promises aren’t worth the paper they are written on. Thus, in 2004 the FBI caught another government employee,, spying for Israel and using the Zionist American lobby AIPAC as the conduit through which to pass the stolen information. So much for promises of future good behavior.
What Kissinger and the rest Pollard’s supporters seem not to find compelling, or even noteworthy, is the fact that ever since the 1987 trial that sent Pollard away for life, the career officers in the American intelligence services have quietly threatened mass resignation if this Zionist spy went free. Keep in mind that ever since George W. Bush and his neo-conservatives wrecked havoc with the CIA in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, the one Kissinger so obligingly supported, the intelligence agencies of this country have found their morale at the sub-basement level. If Obama commutes Pollard’s sentence it will be yet another blow to their professional well-being.
But what does Dr. Kissinger care about a bunch of government employees? In his realpolitik version of reality neither government servants nor ordinary citizens are worth much. Here are a couple of Kissinger quotes to show what I mean. Having helped condemn the Chilean people to16 years under the murderous rule of Ernesto Pinochet, Kissinger rationalized the decision this way, “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.” And, as to the career analysts in the various intelligence agencies, most of whom really are experts in the countries they study, Kissinger just dismisses that expertise as inconsequential. “Most foreign policies that history has marked highly,” he tells us, “have been originated by leaders who were opposed by experts.” Well, that is all the “experts” except Dr. Kissinger.
The real Henry Kissinger, who implausabily received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, borders on being a war criminal. That should tell us what his advice is really worth. President Obama would be a fool to listen to a man whose blood stained career should have long ago come to an ignoble end.
LAWRENCE DAVIDSON is professor of history at West Chester University in West Chester PA.