Henry Kissinger dies at 100Henry Kissinger dies at 100

Henry Kissinger, a key U.S. diplomat during the Cold War, passed away at 100. Known for shaping U.S.-China relations and brokering arms deals with the Soviet Union, he was a central figure in ending the Vietnam War. Despite accolades for his strategic prowess, critics accused him of human rights violations.

Kissinger, a German-born Jewish refugee turned diplomat, passed away at his Connecticut home, according to his consulting firm, Kissinger Associates Inc.

His influence peaked in the 1970s, serving as national security adviser and secretary of state under President Richard Nixon. Even after Nixon’s resignation, Kissinger continued his diplomatic role under President Gerald Ford.

US President Nixon & Ford

Notable achievements include opening diplomatic ties with China, arms control talks with the Soviet Union, fostering relations between Israel and Arab nations, and the Paris Peace Accords with North Vietnam.

While praised for these efforts, Henry Kissinger faced criticism for supporting anti-communist regimes, particularly in Latin America. In his later years, some nations sought to question or apprehend him for U.S. foreign policy decisions.

He was awarded the 1973 Peace Prize for ending U.S. involvement in Vietnam, a controversial choice marked by committee resignations and scrutiny over U.S. actions in Cambodia. North Vietnamese diplomat Le Duc Tho, chosen to share the award, declined it.

Young Henry Kissinger in 1979
Henry Kissinger in 1979. Source: The New York Times

Global leaders express condolences for the loss of Henry Kissinger

Global leaders express condolences for the loss of Henry Kissinger, a prominent figure in Cold War diplomacy. Beijing hails him as a “good old friend of the Chinese people,” and Russian President Putin commends him as a “wise and farsighted statesman.” Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu reflects on Kissinger’s meetings, calling them a “masterclass in statesmanship.”

Kissinger, born Heinz Alfred Kissinger in Germany in 1923, became a U.S. citizen in 1943. A World War II veteran, he later earned a doctorate from Harvard and served on its faculty for 17 years.

Known for his role in Nixon’s administration, Kissinger was a key architect of U.S. relations with China, arms control talks with the Soviet Union, and the Paris Peace Accords with North Vietnam. Despite accolades, he faced criticism for his support of anti-communist regimes.

His career extended beyond government service; he set up a consulting firm, authored books, and remained a prominent commentator on international affairs. Kissinger’s influence waned in the Reagan era, but he continued to play a role in global events, including heading an investigative committee after the 9/11 attacks.

Kissinger’s passing leaves behind a legacy marked by both praise and controversy. He will be interred at a private family service, with a public memorial service to follow in New York City.

Henry Kissinger: His Academic Journey

Henry Kissinger, originally Heinz Alfred Kissinger, was born in Fuerth, Germany, on May 27, 1923. His family moved to the United States in 1938, escaping the Nazi campaign against European Jewry.

Upon becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1943, Kissinger served in the Army during World War II. He later attended Harvard University on a scholarship, earning a doctorate in 1954. Remarkably, he remained on the faculty at Harvard for the next 17 years.

During this period, Kissinger served as a consultant to various government agencies. In 1967, he acted as an intermediary for the State Department during the Vietnam War, using his connections with President Lyndon Johnson’s administration to share information about peace negotiations with the Nixon camp.

Nixon, after winning the 1968 presidential election, appointed Kissinger as the national security adviser. However, his involvement in the “Vietnamization” process, transferring the war burden to South Vietnam, was marked by extensive and violent U.S. military actions, including bombing campaigns in North Vietnam and Cambodia.

In 1972, Kissinger famously declared that “peace is at hand” in Vietnam. Yet, the Paris Peace Accords signed in 1973 were followed by the eventual Communist takeover of South Vietnam two years later.

In 1973, Kissinger assumed the role of secretary of state, granting him unparalleled authority in foreign affairs. The escalating Arab-Israeli conflict led to his first renowned “shuttle” mission, involving 32 days of intense diplomacy between Jerusalem and Damascus, resulting in a lasting disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights.

Kissinger’s diplomatic efforts also extended to reducing Soviet influence. His outreach to China, including a secret meeting with Premier Zhou Enlai, paved the way for Nixon’s historic summit in Beijing with Chairman Mao Zedong and the formalization of relations between the United States and China.

Former U.S. ambassador to China, Winston Lord, described Kissinger as a “tireless advocate for peace,” stating that “America has lost a towering champion for the national interest.”

Strategic Arms Accord and Post-Government Activities

In his role as Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger accompanied President Ford to Vladivostok in 1974 for discussions with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. The outcome was the establishment of a foundational framework for a strategic arms pact, a significant achievement in Kissinger’s pioneering efforts at d├ętente, contributing to the relaxation of tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union.

However, Kissinger faced challenges in his diplomatic endeavors. In 1975, he was criticized for the failure to convince Israel and Egypt to agree to a second-stage disengagement in the Sinai. Additionally, during the India-Pakistan War of 1971, both Nixon and Kissinger drew heavy criticism for perceived bias towards Pakistan. Kissinger’s use of derogatory language when referring to Indians further intensified the scrutiny, a remark he later expressed regret for.

Kissinger’s approach to left-wing ideas in the Western hemisphere generated deep distrust among many Latin Americans. In 1970, he collaborated with the CIA to strategize the ousting of the democratically elected Chilean President Salvador Allende, and in a post-1976 memo following Argentina’s coup, he advocated for supporting military dictators.

Following Ford’s loss to Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1976, Kissinger’s influence in government significantly diminished. The subsequent Republican administration under Ronald Reagan distanced itself from Kissinger, perceiving him as misaligned with conservative values.

Post-government service, Kissinger established a prominent consulting firm in New York, providing counsel to global corporate entities. He engaged in various roles, serving on company boards, participating in foreign policy and security forums, authoring books, and becoming a regular media commentator on international affairs.

Although President George W. Bush selected Kissinger to lead an investigative committee following the 9/11 attacks, criticism from Democrats regarding potential conflicts of interest with his consulting firm’s clients led to Kissinger stepping down.

Remaining active in his later years, Kissinger attended White House meetings, authored a book on leadership, testified before a Senate committee on North Korea’s nuclear threat, and, in July 2023, made a surprise visit to Beijing to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Divorced from his first wife, Ann Fleischer, in 1964, Kissinger married Nancy Maginnes, an aide to New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, in 1974. He had two children from his first marriage.

Kissinger Associates Inc. announced his passing and shared plans for a private family service, with a public memorial service in New York City to follow at a later date.

By Jammy

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