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by Mirco Reimer

Introduction: The Phenomenon Kissinger

“If you don’t know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere.”- Henry A. Kissinger

Henry A. Kissinger is a unique figure in United States foreign relations history. Kissinger’s career is unusual in at least three aspects: He is an intellectual, who spent most of his adulthood at a university; he became the first foreign-born Secretary of State; and he is a Jewish war refugee, a German, but also an American. 1 Also, Jeremy Suri has noted that Kissinger’s career is about “the rise of fascism, the Holocaust, and democratic responses… ethnic identity, education, and social networking”, but most importantly, about his thinking that “exemplifies the role of ideas, memories, and prejudices in daily life.”2 To others, Kissinger is “the quintessential American icon, a great American success story” since he, after all, is a Jewish-German immigrant who narrowly escaped the Holocaust and ended up serving at the highest level of U.S. government, as Hanhimäki has noted.3

Indeed, Kissinger is a phenomenon, which is also due to his extreme popularity while serving in office. In 1972, Kissinger ranked fourth in Gallup’s “Most Admired Man Index”, and in 1973 he ranked first—never before had a Secretary of State or any presidential advisor been placed on Gallup’s list. From this day and onwards, Kissinger has been a larger than life figure. Another poll illustrates this: In May 1973, 78 percent of Americans were able to identify Kissinger4 while in comparison, in 2007 only 65 percent could recall the name of Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State at that point, despite of the technologically facilities citizens now could utilize. 5

The rationale behind writing about Kissinger is, partly, that personalities matter in the conduct of policy.6 In the 1960s, a study of the Institute for Defense Analysis concluded that “the force of personality tends to over-ride procedures.”7 Kissinger’s own writing also subscribes to this notion. However, this rationale does not mean that personality is the only determinant of policy outcomes. Kissinger certainly did not formulate and implement American foreign policy completely by himself during his time in office. Still, this essay assumes that Kissinger’s policy decisions cannot be understood without considering Kissinger’s own ideas and personal influences before he entered the Nixon administration.

The literature on Kissinger is packed, literally shelves of books have been written about Kissinger, but surprisingly few works have combined two important aspects when examining his life: The time before he went to Washington and became a member of the Nixon administration, and his relationship to his native country, Germany. One reason might be that Kissinger never was much identified with Germany and German politics in the U.S.—despite his origin and accent.8 During his time in academia, Kissinger was primarily viewed as a nuclear strategist, not an expert on the German question—even though he did consultative work for the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations on that particular question. Another reason might be that most research focuses on Kissinger’s time in the Nixon and Ford administrations where Germany was not at the center of attention. Rather, the issues of the day centered around Kissinger’s involvement in détente with the Soviet Union, the ‘opening of China’, the Vietnam War, Kissinger’s controversial involvement in the American intervention in Chile, and his ‘shuttle diplomacy’ in the Middle East. These works are numerous and range from admiring Kissinger to almost despising him.9

While these works are important, of course, it is one’s belief that in any serious effort to understand how Kissinger has handled American foreign policy, it is necessary to understand how his ideas formed during his writings and personal experiences in the decades prior to his entry in governmental positions.10 Some academic and journalistic works have tried to shed light on these features. Dickson, Weber, and Cleva have provided detailed accounts on the European and German intellectual tradition and the influence these traditions had on Kissinger’s Weltanschauung, with particularly focus on Kissinger’s Harvard honors thesis and his subsequent dissertation at Harvard.11 But few have blended Kissinger’s early intellectual development and tied it to his ideas about his native country Germany before he entered the Nixon administration.

Consequently, what this essay will try to achieve is to address Kissinger’s main conceptual ideas, in particular his views on Germany before he entered the Nixon administration. An essay of this length will have to compromise, as does any piece of scholarship. Therefore, it is also important to emphasize what this essay will not try to emphasize. This essay will not deal with `private` Kissinger, and his extensive writing on nuclear weapons and other foreign policy issues, unless these things can be connected to the essay’s overarching theme which is Kissinger’s views and relationship with Germany prior to his entrance in the Nixon administration. Also, while the essay tries to highlight what influenced Kissinger’s thinking on Germany, it will not compare his views to those of other professionals. This essay is, quite frankly, about one man only: Henry A. Kissinger.

As the essay will try to tease out, Kissinger’s outlook prior to 1969—when he became National Security Advisor—has changed little in the last fifty plus years.12 Stephen Walker has emphasized: “Kissinger’s academic works reflect his personal philosophy of history and his political philosophy which strongly influenced the policies that Kissinger advocated while on office.”13 John Stoessinger, a graduate student at Harvard with Kissinger in the 1950s, has also highlighted that Kissinger’s diplomacy as Secretary of State was deeply rooted in the insights of the young doctoral student Kissinger at Harvard a quarter century ago: ”We are witness here to a unique experiment in the application of scholarship to statesmanship, of history to statecraft.”14 Since Kissinger’s writing and decision making reflects an element of continuity it is even more interesting to examine his early thoughts on Germany.15 In order to do so, we need to go seventy-five years back in time. Our destination is New York City where the main protagonist of this essay was about to arrive on a ship from Europe with his family.

Coming to America

In 1938, the Kissingers had been forced to flee their native country Germany due to their Jewish belief and the horrors of Nazi Germany and arrived in New York City on a ship. The new life in America proved to be a thrilling experience for the young Henry Kissinger, fifteen years old at that point. Kissinger later recalled:

“I always remembered the thrill when I first walked the streets of New York City. Seeing a group of boys, I began to cross to the other side to avoid being beaten up. And then I remembered where I was.”16

Kissinger’s first encounters with America proved fruitful. The young Kissinger was ambitious, focused, and serious in his attempt to assimilate himself into his new American society.17 While many German-Jewish immigrants were content with their new-won social and cultural environment—which, obviously, was way more comforting than the tyranny of Nazi Germany—the young Jewish refugee tried to assimilate himself and succeeded, partly, because he became independent earlier than many of his peers. Kissinger noted later: “If I assimilated quicker, perhaps it was because I had to go work when I was sixteen.”18 For a sixteen year old today this might sound noteworthy, but in 1939, and with a father who was struggling to earn the income necessary to feed his family, it was not unusual that a boy like Kissinger had to work. Indeed, Kissinger’s experiences were not unique but what seemed to be unique was what Kissinger “made of them, and the way in which once formed, he entered so forcefully into his adopted country’s history”, as Mazlish has observed.19 While working in a brush factory, Kissinger also attended the tuition-free City College of New York after having graduated with excellent marks from high school. The financial situation was tense for his parents, but for the young Kissinger it seemed an obvious step to go to college if he wanted to climb up the social ladder. Ultimately, though, it was not the time at City College—home to such pivotal figures in American history like Daniel Bell, Sidney Hook, and Irving Kristol—that proved to be pivotal. Rather, it was Kissinger’s experiences in a non-educational branch that turned to be decisive.

Germany Revisited: Kissinger’s time in the Army

History was about to take a different, decisive, step for the young Kissinger. In 1943, Kissinger was drafted for the U.S. army. Not only was this a radical departure from anything that previously had been familiar to Kissinger, twenty years old at that point, but it also marked the first step away from his familiar German-Jewish environment. Kissinger’s time in the army `Americanized` him20 and Kissinger himself later remarked: “I was never made to feel like a foreigner…I actually thought I had lost my accent when I was in the army.”21 Although this seems to be a willful exaggeration, Kissinger’s army experience surely created a foundation for Kissinger and gave him the feeling to belong to American society.22

The army did not only leave Kissinger with the chance of fighting for his new country—which was of particular significance for young emigrants who wanted to assimilate themselves in the United States—but gave him also the chance to enhance his step up the social ladder. The G.I. bill of 1947 made higher education possible for a larger segment of the American population, in particularly for promising students like Kissinger. It was also during his time in the army that Kissinger’s confidence in his intellectual ability grew. But most importantly, Kissinger got the chance to go back to his native country.

Already during his time at Camp Claiborne, LA, Kissinger had lectured his fellow comrades on Nazi Germany, but whenever the talk came to center around his own thoughts and German background, Kissinger remained quiet. As one comrade recalled, Kissinger “never talked about his childhood in Germany, but it was clear that he knew everything about the Nazis.”23 It seems as if the young Kissinger, understandably, still had to come to terms with his childhood experiences, both emotionally and especially rationally.24 Even though Kissinger was thriving in his new country at that point, the Jewish refugee still had a feeling that he would “always be German.”25 Coming back to Germany, as a member of a powerful army, was important for the development of Kissinger’s mindset. It also gave him the chance to come clear with the past, at least partly. Scholars like Ward have maintained that Kissinger felt “a sense of regret of having had to flee from Hitler,”26 while Landau has noted that Kissinger was not among those refugees from Hitler Germany who looked back “with discomfort and bitterness; he was instead one of those refugees who regretted having to leave their country behind.”27

One of the reasons that Kissinger regretted that he had to leave Germany was that he felt “an overwhelming affinity for the greater historical and cultural tradition into which he had been born” in Germany.28 This tradition had been taken away from him when Adolf Hitler transformed the culturally rich country into a warmongering and racist Kriegsmaschine.  Consequently, Kissinger’s time in the army and his prolonged stay in Germany after the end of the war proved pivotal towards giving him the chance of coming to terms with the past. Kissinger himself noted in an interview with the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel in 1998:

“The Germany that I remember best, the Germany that shaped me and finally formed my affection to the country and its population is not the Germany where I was brought up but the one that I experienced after the end of the war.”29

Furthermore, while in the army, Kissinger developed a personal relationship that became crucial for his ideas on Germany. During his time at Camp Claiborne, Kissinger became close friends with Fritz Kraemer, a German émigré, who also had fled Nazi Germany and, like Kissinger, was drafted in the American army in 1943. Kraemer was significantly older than Kissinger, eighteen years, and was about to have a profound impact on Kissinger’s subsequent career and thinking, as several Kissinger biographers have noted.30 Kraemer himself has noted that his first impression of Kissinger was that Kissinger “as yet knew nothing but he understood everything. He had the urgent desire not to understand the superficial thing but the underlying causes.”31 Kraemer turned out to be the ideal mentor for the young Kissinger who later recalled that “out of this encounter grew a relationship that changed my life.”32

Their relationship became like professor and student and it was, unsurprisingly, also Kraemer who convinced Kissinger to pursue an academic career at Harvard University instead of becoming an accountant. During their time in the military the two had lengthy conversations—in German—which introduced Kissinger to the works of Kant, Spengler, and other German intellectuals. These talks did not fundamentally alter Kissinger’s worldview, however. They refined Kissinger’s outlook rather than “instilling it”, as Klitzing has highlighted.33 Among the notions that Kissinger had encountered through Kraemer and would elaborate during his studies at Harvard were the primacy of foreign policy over domestic policy, the primacy of power in politics (at the neglect of economic factors), and the significance of great statesman within the historical process. Kraemer was, however, not the last person to have a important influence on Kissinger’s thinking.

The making of an intellectual: Kissinger at Harvard

In the summer of 1947, Kissinger left Germany and began his undergraduate studies at Harvard University. Due to his good grades he was assigned a tutor who proved to be a second great benefactor for Kissinger’s intellectual development.34 The tutor was William Y. Elliott, who previously had been a member of Roosevelt’s Brain Trust and Vice President of the War Production Board in Charge of Civilian Requirements during World War II.

While Kraemer had helped Kissinger to discover European and particularly German thinkers like Homer, Spinoza, Kant and Hegel, Elliott built upon these foundations.35 What Elliott liked in particular about Kissinger was that he was “not like the stupid behaviorists… he was not blind to the epic nature of history.”36 Like Kraemer, Elliott saw history as a “panacea against nihilism and mass conformism”, an attitude Kraemer and Elliott fused with a notion of elitism and a Hegelian notion about the role of the individual in history.37 Kissinger came to embrace this world view as well and Elliott proved to be another inspiring force, leading Kissinger to write in the acknowledgements of his dissertation that he owed more to Elliott “both intellectually and humanly, than I can ever repay.”38 Still, it is important to note that Kissinger did not completely assume Elliott’s mindset. Rather, he blended it with his own experience and developed his own conceptual framework.

Kissinger had a conservative skepticism when it came to attempts of social engineering, but he also embraced the importance of ideas for the historical process. This conceptual development is exemplified in Kissinger’s 380 plus page honor’s thesis The Meaning of History where Kissinger put forward his own philosophy of history, which was both shaped by his personal experiences, of course, and the German intellectual tradition.39 In his thesis, Kissinger seemed to look for a spiritual answer to the meaning of history, a question that had puzzled Kissinger since he fled Germany in 1938. Given his own personal experiences, Kissinger put forward a worldview, which made confidence in human progress impossible:

“The generation of Buchenwald and the Siberian labor-camps cannot walk with the same optimism as its fathers. The bliss of Dante has been lost in our civilization. But this merely describes a fact of decline and not its necessity… The experience of freedom enables us to rise beyond the sufferings of the past and the frustrations of history. In this spirituality resides humanity’s essence, the unique which each man imparts to the necessity of life, the self-transcendence which gives peace.”40

In particular the pessimistic ideas expressed by Spengler, emphasizing that men would be unable to sustain creativity and the motif of the “irreversibility of life and the momentariness of the individual in history, as well as civilizations” left lasting impressions on Kissinger.41 His intellectual sense for tragedy, at least partly developed due to his own personal experience that saw the collapse of his secure and stable world, became central features in Kissinger’s outlook and distinguished him from most of his American countrymen. While most Americans had a pragmatic and optimistic take on history and saw history characterized by a notion of progress and the thorough overcoming of injustice and evil, Kissinger saw history as “a tale of efforts that failed.”42 These divergent views were at the core of the controversy that was about to follow Kissinger during his time as an intellectual and subsequent politician.43 Kissinger was concerned with what he perceived as American naivety in foreign affairs, also towards Germany. Accordingly, in 1961, he noted: “Nothing is more difficult for Americans to understand than the possibility of tragedy.”44 For Kissinger, this tragedy had characterized most of his early childhood.

It was Immanuel Kant who got the main focus of Kissinger’s attention in his undergraduate thesis. Especially Kant’s supposition that events moved in an inescapable course which ultimately denied human freedom puzzled Kissinger. The undergraduate student denounced Kant’s notion because he distinguished between history and the realm of freedom.45 While Kant, arguably an idealist, posited the rule of law in international relations, Kissinger, in a more ‘realist’ notion, perceived relations between states above all determined by power and a state’s national interest.46 That Kissinger rejected the notion of moral progress, which Kant championed, is understandable when considering his personal experiences. As one biographer has noted: “Auschwitz made it impossible for Kissinger to believe in universal moral principles and eternal values that formed the basis for Kant’s faith in human progress.”47

Rather, Kissinger championed Max Weber’s idea of Verantwortungsethik. To Kissinger, some evil was acceptable if it helped to minimize an even more destructive development in the long run. Later, Kissinger put this idea in more blunt terms, writing in his memoirs White House Years: “Leaders are responsible not for running public opinion polls but for the consequence of their actions.”48 Consequently, the most important thing to Kissinger became the preservation of the existing international order.49 In general, Kissinger suggested that if he had to choose between justice and disorder or injustice and order, he would always advocate for the latter.50 His early views on Germany reflect this sort of thinking and outlook.

Hitler’s Calamity: Kissinger on Nazi Germany

The particular ‘European feature’ in Kissinger’s thinking was, according to Mazlish, that he could “accept the tragic necessity of having to act, and to act in a seemingly amoral or immoral way to achieve a higher historical morality: the preservation of stability and order through the use of power” (emphasis in original).51 Ralph Blumenfeld has also highlighted Kissinger’s unique thinking, arguing that Kissinger has a view of the world that “a born American could not have.”52

Kissinger’s excellent standing on the German question also had a cultural dimension. Even though Kissinger’s religious belief did not figure prominently in his thinking, it is important to remember that Kissinger was a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany and had lost numerous family members during the Holocaust. But Kissinger held no grudges and approached the sensible subject of Germany before and after Hitler with an astonishing rational attitude and pragmatism that made him extremely popular in academic circles. As Klitzing has noted: “Kissinger had not only survived, he now thrived and, even more so, seemed to hold no grudges about what had happened.”53

How the intellectual Kissinger interpreted the Nazi era is particularly interesting.54 His interpretation highlighted the need to differentiate between Hitler and the German people as a whole. With this approach Kissinger tried to ease the burden of the German population and save their pride as a people and country. This approach was also in accordance with Kissinger’s own view of history that focused on ‘great men’.55

Both Kissinger’s undergraduate thesis on German intellectuals and the meaning of history and his dissertation on Metternich, Castlereagh and the problems of peace after the Napoleonic Wars in 1814 focused on the special role that powerful leaders had had in world history and Kissinger applied this interpretation to the horrors of Hitler’s rule as well. He saw Hitler not only as the central driving force in Germany’s force to war and the abyss of modernity but also described him as the incarnation of evil. For example, Kissinger later wrote in his book Diplomacy:

“The orgy of killing and devastation that it unleashed was the work of one demonic personality…It is no small irony that the twentieth-century—the age of popular will and of impersonal forces— should have been forged by so few individuals, and that its greatest calamity might have been avoided by the elimination of one single individual…the largest land war in history of mankind was unleashed, in effect, by the will of one man.”56

Even though one has to be careful with these kind of assessments, Kissinger’s public utterances seem to suggest that he was trying to resign as little blame as possible against the Germans as a whole for Nazi Germany’s transgressions. Furthermore, Kissinger warned against dismissing the brutalities of Nazi Germany as a national peculiarity. Rather, Kissinger maintained, the horror had come about due to a complex interaction of specific German conditions, such as the lost war, and the cultural phenomena of modern society.

Although Kissinger clearly distanced himself from “the collective German amnesia”, he did not abstain from criticism towards the (self-serving) German attitude and behavior.57 This did not mean that Kissinger engaged in any lengthy discussions on the legal and moral legitimacy of German grievances. Instead, Kissinger viewed them as a reality that had to be dealt with from an American point of view. Consequently, according to Kissinger, the official American `propaganda line` should state that the U.S. was “well aware” of Germany’s difficulties. Kissinger, due to his transatlantic understanding while simultaneously understanding American interests, was therefore in his dealing with Germany ready to accept that Germans had to “gain some voice in their destiny” as he noted in a letter to his parents in 1952.58

Kissinger was, however, not interested in discussions of the German past, apart from a superficial concern with the psychological, social and moral effects the war had had on the German psyche. He harbored a fundamental pessimism about the German capacity to move beyond narrow nationalism and a shortsighted perception of the country’s interests. But as with so much else, time proved to be a healing factor. Looking back, Kissinger noted in 1995:

“Particularly remarkable with the German economic miracle were the courage and the power of the Germans who did not resign after the catastrophe. I still feel close to this post-war Germany today, not to the Germany of the thirties.”59

Kissinger appeared to be sincere in his understanding for Germany’s difficult dealing with the past, underlining consequently that Hitler, not the whole population, was to blame for the evils of Nazi Germany. But even though Kissinger continued to have a staunch pro-German attitude, this notion was second in line to Kissinger’s overarching rationale, a stable balance of power, fostering stability.

Preserving the balance: Kissinger on post-war Germany

Kissinger always saw the German question within its larger European and geopolitical context.60 During his Harvard studies, he had not only developed his own meaning of history but also arrived at some more fundamental views about Germany. First, keeping the Federal Republic in the Western alliance constituted an essential American interest. Second, in order to achieve the first, the U.S. needed to shift the blame for German division towards the Soviet Union. Third, any American endorsement of the status quo — German division — might generate a new wave of German nationalism, which Kissinger feared more than anything else.61 Therefore, Kissinger always argued forcefully, that any discussion of Western defense policy remained incomplete without taking the political context and the German questions into account: “Whenever Europe is considered, one comes up inevitably against the problem of the future of Germany.”62 Germany was the centerpiece in Kissinger’s European Cold War chessboard because Germany, ultimately, was the defining actor that could tip the balance of power on the continent.63 Pointing out the historical dimension of Germany’s importance for regional and geopolitical stability, Kissinger observed that “arrangements in Germany have been the key to the stability of Europe for the last three centuries.”64 The ideal situation, Kissinger wrote, “would be a Germany strong enough to defend itself but not strong enough to attack.”65

Furthermore, Kissinger was concerned about the subject of German division, noting that “it is against all probability that a large and dynamic country can be kept divided indefinitely in the center of the continent that gave the concept of nationalism to the world.”66 European defense was for Kissinger, “inconceivable without full participation of Germany, politically and military.”67 To achieve a stable balance of power, Germany needed to be a willing partner of the Atlantic community. This, Kissinger claimed, was not only important to Germany’s future but “even more vital to the peace of the world.”68 Atlantic unity was ultimately seen as the key to resistance and resolution to the German question69 and Kissinger noted:

“Only a united Atlantic Alliance facing jointly the issue of Germany’s future can minimize the danger of sharp conflict between Germany’s national goals and its Atlantic ties. The effort to devise a common German policy is essential not only in order to retain Germany as a willing member of the Alliance, but also for the peace of Europe as well.”70

In the end, Kissinger knew, the issue of German unification had to stay on the political table if the good relationship with the Federal Republic was to be maintained.71 Therefore, Kissinger vehemently argued that German unification, or at least the rhetorical promotion of such, was an American interest and needed to be pursued: “If the West understands its interest, it must advocate German unification despite the experience of two world wars and despite the understandable fear of a revival of German truculence”.72

At the same time, Kissinger never left the American interest and his obsession with a stable balance of power out of sight. The United States had to keep German ambitions in check because any failure to do so could have hazardous implications, Kissinger noted: “A national policy for Germany has historically been a disaster for Europe, partly because if its geographical position, and partly because of the special traditions of German foreign policy.”73 For Kissinger, the German question always had two dimensions. First, the question was how to bring about unification. Second, how could the United States curb the force of German nationalism? To Kissinger, ideas rather than material conditions were the essential guidance for human aspirations and dealing with these questions. His first and foremost thought when it came to the Germany question was always whether the Federal Republic might cause international instability. As Hans Wilhelm Gatzke has noted, Kissinger had become “thoroughly and loyally American. The fact that he was never accused of being either pro- or anti-German speaks well for him.”74

Conclusion: Kissinger’s Legacy

“It is an illusion to believe that leaders gain in profundity while they gain experience. As I have said, the convictions that leaders have formed before reaching high office are the intellectual capital they will consume as they continue in office. There is little time for leaders to reflect.” – Henry A. Kissinger75

Kissinger always emphasized Germany’s central role in the international system and how Germany’s past constituted a problem for erecting a stable world order. However, ever the Realpolitiker, Kissinger tirelessly argued for a German role in the world that was in accordance with its economic, military, and political might. This is as true today as it was more than half century ago, when Kissinger began to establish and develop his own ideas on the meaning of history and his outlook. In other words, Kissinger always adhered to the same approach when it came to the issue of Germany: The United States should accept and accommodate Germany’s reasonable and legitimate pursuit of its national interests as long as this was in requirement with European stability. This would ultimately be consummate with stability. If the United States tried to deny these interests to Germany, the country might be driven into short-sighted nationalism and challenge the international order. As a consequence, the costs for the United States might prove disastrous.76

Kissinger always sought to influence transatlantic relations on a conceptual level rather than giving policy recommendations. He focused on ideas and tried with his first-hand knowledge and background to explore the fundamentals in the German-American relationship. Through his writings, Kissinger tried to enlighten his American audience and highlight to them that the world looked fundamentally different from the European continent than it did from the United States. If the United States wanted to have fruitful relationships with their Western European allies, they needed to account for the Europeans’ attitudes and perceptions and consider them in their analyses and decision making, Kissinger preached. On the other side of the Atlantic, Kissinger intended to enlighten European decision-makers, in particular the Germans, with the American point of view. Hence, Kissinger tried to make a personal contribution and serve as a medium between the Atlantic, ultimately working towards the development of a prosperous German-American relationship.77

Like few others, Henry Kissinger symbolizes the infusion of European ideas into American politics, as Klitzing has highlighted.78 Kissinger was fascinated with European statesman like Metternich and Bismarck, and the European conception of Realpolitik, while at the same time admiring “the courage and moral strength it took to start again in Germany after the debacle of the war.”79 Kissinger’s early and subsequent thinking on Germany and international relations was heavily influenced by other German immigrants like Fritz Kraemer, but Kissinger was not merely taking their thoughts and making them his own. On the contrary, he developed his own Weltanschauung and tried to serve as an American-European intellectual bridge across the Atlantic Ocean.

According to Kissinger, “most high officials leave office with the insights with which they entered.”8 Consequently, Kissinger’s thinking before he became part of the Nixon administration is paramount when one wants to understand his subsequent decision making. But Henry Kissinger’s life can only be understood by those who are prepared to acknowledge its ironies and contradictions.81 Kissinger is at the same time “a victim of European persecutions and a beneficiary of uniquely American opportunities”.82 His story is therefore not only an American success story but also a tragic European story. Kissinger came to the United States, longing for stability in his life. The same desire came to drive his outlook in international relations.End.



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Kissinger, Henry: “The Necessity for Choice; Prospects of American Foreign Policy”, (New York: Harper, 1961).
Kissinger, Henry: “The Troubled Partnership; a Re-appraisal of the Atlantic Alliance”, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1966).
Kissinger, Henry: “White House Years”, (Boston: Little, Brown, 1979).
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Landau, David: “Kissinger: The Uses of Power”, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972).
Mazlish, Bruce: “Kissinger: The European Mind in American Policy”, (New York: Basic, 1976).
Nutter, Warren G.: ”Kissinger’s Grand Design”, (Washington: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1975).
Schulzinger, Robert D.: “Henry Kissinger: Doctor of Diplomacy”, (New York: Columbia UP, 1989).
Smith, Michael Joseph: “Realist Thought from Weber to Kissinger”, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1986).
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Online Sources
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1. See for example Graubard, Stephen Richards: “Kissinger: Portrait of a Mind”, (New York: W. W. Norton &, 1973), page ix; page 4; Hanhimäki, Jussi M: “The Flawed Architect: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy”, (New York: Oxford UP, 2004), pp. xv-xix; and Suri, Jeremi: “Henry Kissinger and the American Century”, (Cambridge, MA: Belknap of Harvard UP), 2007, pp. 4-6.

2. Suri, “Henry Kissinger and the American Century”, p. 4.

3. Hanhimäki, “The Flawed Architect: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy”, p. xv.

4. Caldwell, Dan (editor): “Henry Kissinger, His Personality and Policies”, (Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1983), p. 4.

5. “Public Knowledge of Current Affairs Little Changed by News and Information Revolutions”, (Pew Research Center for the People and the Press): (accessed 11/11/13).

6. See for example Ward, Dana in Caldwell, Dan (editor): “Henry Kissinger, His Personality and Policies”, p. 25.

7. Ward in Caldwell (editor): “Henry Kissinger”, p. 25.

8. Dallek, Robert: “Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power”, (New York: HarperCollins Pub., 2007), p. 40.

9. Klitzing, Holger: “The Nemesis of Stability: Henry A. Kissinger’s Ambivalent Relationship with Germany”, (Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2007), p. 5.

Critical accounts are, for example, Hersh, Mazlish, Landau, while Kalb/Kalb, Graubard, and Stoessinger are more positive accounts of Kissinger. The most balanced accounts are arguably Schulzinger and in particular Isaacson’s biography of Kissinger. For more information, please consult the bibliography.

10. Graubard, “Kissinger”, p. ix.

11. See Dickson, Weber, and Cleva in bibliography. Graubard’s book is an example of the former, while Klitzing’s study stands apart as the most comprehensive overview so far.

12. Caldwell (editor): “Henry Kissinger”, xii and Nutter, Warren G.: ”Kissinger’s Grand Design”, (Washington: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1975), p. 2. See also Klitzing, “The Nemesis of Stability”, pp 5-10 and especially the footnotes.

13. Caldwell (editor): “Henry Kissinger”, p. xiii.

14. Ibid,p. 10.

15. Interestingly, Kissinger virtually quoted from his Ph.D. thesis when he explained the Indochina peace agreement at a news conference on January 24, 1973. See Caldwell (editor): “Henry Kissinger”, p. 10.

16. Kissinger, Henry: “White House Years”, (Boston: Little, Brown, 1979), p. 229.

17. See Ward in Caldwell (editor), “Henry Kissinger”, pp. 33-36; Dallek, “Nixon and Kissinger”, pp. 34-37; and Hanhimäki, “The Flawed Architect”, pp. 3-4.

18. Kissinger quoted in Isaacson, Walter: “Kissinger: A Biography”, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), p. 37.

19. Mazlish, Bruce: “Kissinger: The European Mind in American Policy”, (New York: Basic, 1976), p. 39.

20. Klitzing, “The Nemesis of Stability”, pp. 38-41.

21. Suri, “Henry Kissinger”, p. 59.

22. See Ward in Caldwell, Dan (editor): “Henry Kissinger”, pp. 37-41; Hanhimäki, “The Flawed Architect”, pp. 4-5; Mazlish, “Kissinger”, pp. 41-47; and Suri, “Henry Kissinger, “ pp. 57-59.

23. Isaacson, “Kissinger: A Biography”, p. 43.

24. Klitzing, “The Nemesis of Stability,” p. 42.

25. Ward in Caldwell (editor), “Henry Kissinger”, p. 36.

26. Ward in Caldwell (editor), “Henry Kissinger”, p. 36.

27. Landau, David: “Kissinger: The Uses of Power”, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972), p. 16.

28. Ibid, p. 16.

29. Quoted in Klitzing, “The Nemesis of Stability,” p. 60.

30. See, for example, Dallek, “Nixon and Kissinger”, pp. 36-38; Isaacson, “Kissinger: A Biography”, pp. 43-47; Kalb and Kalb: „Kissinger“, pp. 38-39; and Suri, “Henry Kissinger”, pp. 77-80.

31. Quoted in Kalb and Kalb: „Kissinger“, pp. 39.

32. Suri, “Henry Kissinger”, p. 78.

33. Klitzing, “The Nemesis of Stability,” p. 44.

34. See Ward in Caldwell (editor), “Henry Kissinger”, p. 44; Dallek, “Nixon and Kissinger”, pp. 40-42 and Mazlish, “Kissinger”, p. 60-66.

35. Kalb and Kalb: „Kissinger“, p. 44.

36. Ibid, p. 44.

37. Klitzing, “The Nemesis of Stability,” p 64.

38. Kissinger, Henry: “A World Restored; Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace, 1812-22”, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1957).

39. See Ward, in Caldwell (editor),“Henry Kissinger”, p. 43; Hanhimäki, “The Flawed Architect”, pp. 6-7; and Suri, “Henry Kissinger”, pp. 29-33.

40. Quoted in Klitzing, “The Nemesis of Stability,” p. 66.

41. Ibid, p. 67.

42. Quoted in Klitzing, “The Nemesis of Stability,” p. 67.

43. See also Dickson, “Kissinger”, pp.153-156.

44. Kissinger, Henry: “The Necessity for Choice; Prospects of American Foreign Policy”, (New York: Harper, 1961), p. 2.

45. Dickson, “Kissinger”, pp. 68-75.

46. Klitzing, “The Nemesis of Stability,” p. 68.

47. Dickson, “Kissinger”, p. 75.

48. Kissinger, “White House Years”, p. 292.

49. See for example Andrianopoulos, Gerry Argyris: “Western Europe in Kissinger’s Global Strategy”, (New York, NY: St. Martin’s, 1988), p. 6; Caldwell (editor), “Henry Kissinger”, p. xiii; Hanhimäki, “The Flawed Architect”, p. 2; and Nutter, ”Kissinger’s Grand Design”, p.2.

50. Stoessinger, “Henry Kissinger: The Anguish of Power”, p. 14.

51. Mazlish, “Kissinger”, p. 275.

52. Quoted in Dallek, Robert: “Nixon and Kissinger,” p. 33.

53. Klitzing, “The Nemesis of Stability,” p. 80.

54. Suri’s observations are particular interesting here. See Suri, “Henry Kissinger”, pp. 48-50.

55. On Kissinger and his theory of `great men`, see Andrianopoulos, “Western Europe”, p. 7; Hanhimäki, “The Flawed Architect”, pp. 7-9; Nutter, Warren G.: ”Kissinger’s Grand Design”, p. 8; and Suri, “Henry Kissinger”, p. 112.

56. Kissinger, Henry: “Diplomacy”, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994), p. 288.

57. Klitzing, “The Nemesis of Stability,” p. 88.

58. Quoted in Isaacson, “Kissinger: A Biography”, pp. 80-81.

59. Quoted in Klitzing, “The Nemesis of Stability,” p. 93.

60. For a manifestation of this, see Kissinger, “The Necessity for Choice”, pp. 128-169.

61. Klitzing, “The Nemesis of Stability,” p. 95.

62. Kissinger, “The Necessity for Choice”, pp. 128.

63. See also Nutter, “Kissinger’s Grand Design”, p. 4.

64. Kissinger, “The Necessity for Choice”, pp. 129.

65. Ibid.

66. Kissinger, “The Troubled Partnership; a Re-appraisal of the Atlantic Alliance”, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1966), pp. 215-216.

67. Nutter, “Kissinger’s Grand Design”, p. 5.

68. Kissinger, Henry: ”The search for stability”, (Foreign Affairs 37 (1959)), p. 540.

69. Nutter, ”Kissinger’s Grand Design”, p. 4.

70. Kissinger, “The Troubled Partnership”, pp. 215-216.

71. See also Nutter, ”Kissinger’s Grand Design”, pp. 5 and 57.

72. Kissinger, ”The search for stability”, (Foreign Affairs 37 (1959)), p. 542.

73. Quoted in Klitzing, “The Nemesis of Stability,” p. 204.

74. Gatzke, Hans Wilhelm: “Germany and the United States, a “special Relationship?”, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1980), p. 220.

75. Quoted in Andrianopoulos, “Western Europe”, p. 31.

76. Klitzing, “The Nemesis of Stability,” p. 423.

77. Ibid, p. 218.

78. Ibid, p. 4.

79. Quoted in Klitzing, “The Nemesis of Stability,” p. 452.

80. Kissinger, “White House Years”, p. 27.

81. Graubard, “Kissinger”, p. xi.

82. Ibid.

American Diplomacy is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to American Diplomacy.


Author Mirco Reimer (b. 1986) is a Graduate Student in American Studies at the University of Southern Denmark. He has a BA in history from the University of Copenhagen and has previously studied at the University of Leeds (GB) and Ohio University (USA). Furthermore, Mr. Reimer has interned at the Danish Embassy in Vienna, Austria. In January 2013, he presented a paper on “A War in the Shadows: The Obama Administration’s Use of Drones in Pakistan” at the American Politics Group Annual Conference in Leicester, Great Britain.


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