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Henry Kissinger Turns 100


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The American Spectator

An American patriot like none other.
Francis P. Sempa
May 14, 2023

On May 27, God willing, Henry Kissinger will celebrate his 100th birthday. He has known power, riches, and tragedy during his long life. Judging by recent books and articles he has written, Kissinger’s mind still functions at a very high level even as his body necessarily weakens. He has been both a brilliant academic and a prudent policymaker, a theorist and a practitioner. And above all, Henry Kissinger, a German Jew who fled Nazi Germany (where at least 13 members of his extended family perished in the Holocaust) in 1938, has been an American patriot.

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Kissinger’s role in the 1968 presidential election still invites controversy. He apparently provided foreign policy advice to both the Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey and the Republican candidate Richard Nixon. He has been accused of leaking information to the Nixon campaign of an “October surprise” related to the Johnson administration’s proposed ceasefire in Vietnam. Nixon, according to this version of the story, then used intermediaries to persuade South Vietnamese leaders to reject a ceasefire. But as Ferguson and others have pointed out, South Vietnam’s leaders needed no persuading to reject a ceasefire that would benefit their Viet Cong and North Vietnamese enemies. It was the Johnson administration and the Humphrey campaign that attempted to use the ceasefire to influence the election to benefit Humphrey.

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Kissinger recalled his early years in Germany, Hitler’s rise to power, and the increasing discrimination and violence toward Jews in Germany. America, he wrote, had “a wondrous quality for me” and was “an inspiration … to the victims of persecution.” “I . . . have always had a special feeling for what America means,” he wrote, “which native-born citizens perhaps take for granted.” He refused to accept the “self-hatred” he witnessed among some Americans who “took every imperfection as an excuse to denigrate a precious experiment whose significance for the rest of the world had been a part of my life.” He expressed gratitude to the country that in his view manifested “greatness … idealism … humanity,” and that embodied “mankind’s hopes.” Kissinger praised the valor and courage of the American troops in Vietnam and scorned those who called them “baby-killers.” Kissinger’s goals, he wrote, were to bring about peace with honor in Vietnam, help “my adopted country heal its wounds, preserve its faith, and thus enable it to rededicate itself to the great tasks of construction that were awaiting it.”

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It wasn’t until 1999 that Kissinger’s third and final volume of his memoirs appeared — Years of Renewal, which covered his service in the Ford administration. Like the earlier two volumes, this book logged in at more than a thousand pages. Kissinger had not been idle in the years between the second and third volumes. He had become a business consultant, founding Kissinger Associates. He was frequently consulted by Presidents of the United States and their national security teams. And he continued to write — most notably a 1994 book entitled Diplomacy, where he assessed history’s consequential diplomats and statesmen, including France’s Cardinal Richelieu, Germany’s Bismarck, Britain’s Palmerston, and Disraeli, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, Winston Churchill and FDR, Nixon, and Ronald Reagan.

In Years of Renewal, Kissinger again expressed his admiration for Nixon, crediting him with setting the stage for America’s victory in the Cold War achieved by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. And the key component of Nixon’s contribution to our Cold War victory was the opening to China which had the effect of placing China, however temporarily, on the side of the West in its Cold War struggle with the Soviet Union. Kissinger again ridiculed the self-flagellation of American liberals who, as Jeane Kirkpatrick had memorably observed, seemed always to blame America first. And he once again expressed his gratitude “for having been permitted to serve the country that gave my family refuge in America’s traditional quest for a world in which the weak are secure and the just free.”

Happy birthday, Dr. Kissinger.

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