With 100 years behind usthis Wednesday, Henry Kissinger has left us, the diplomat recognized by some as a brilliant intellectual and great statesman but vilified by others as an arrogant cynic and even a war criminal. His legendary and controversial legacy was built over decades, from his birth as a Jewish refugee in Germany to his influential years as national security adviser and secretary of state to US Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
Kissinger, architect of the policy of détente with the Soviet Union, supporter of the normalization of relations between the United States and China and instrumental in limiting the proliferation of nuclear weapons, He received the Nobel Peace Prize for his secret negotiations to end the Vietnam War..
However, his support for dictatorships in Argentina and Spain, his participation in Operation Condor, and his support of the coup in Chile in 1973 sparked intense criticism, including accusations of war crimes. Although Kissinger survived the Watergate scandal, he remained a controversial figure his legacy remains present in debates about its role in international history.
“Spain is only strong when the monarchy is strong”
In addition to his distinguished political career, Henry Kissinger, He has distinguished himself as a prolific author, author of numerous books on international politics, international relations and diplomatic strategy. His writings, based on his government experience, provide a perspective on world politics. Here again, His ideas and theories have sparked debate and criticism throughout his career. Some praised his realistic and pragmatic approaches and considered them fundamental to the global balance of power. However, he was also accused of opportunism and supporting a questionable foreign policy.
Kissinger was born on May 27, 1923 in Fürth, a Bavarian industrial city with a deep-rooted Jewish community. His childhood was marked by the rise of Hitler, is beaten, insulted and denounced by Nazi neighbors. Nevertheless, Kissinger downplayed this trauma in his life, stating that children do not fully understand such situations. Throughout his life he avoided connecting his unscrupulousness or his distrust of democracy with his experiences in Nazi Germany, an aspect he preferred to forget. “I wasn’t fully aware of what was happening. For children, these things are not so serious. Now it is fashionable to explain everything psychoanalytically. But the political persecution of my childhood does not determine my life.”he said in a 1974 interview.
On January 15, 1978, at Hubert Humphrey’s funeral, the paths of Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon, with whom he already had a distant relationship, crossed. Despite their shared history of dubious political strategies, Nixon did not forgive Kissinger for going public with his criticism of the resigning president. During the meeting, Nixon asked Kissinger if he was still as smart as ever, to which Kissinger replied in the affirmative, adding that he no longer had as many options: “Yeah, but I don’t have as many options as I used to.”.
In Spain, Kissinger’s influence was crucial in ensuring that the political transition was as peaceful as possible after the death of Franco and paved the way for the accession to the throne of Juan Carlos I. On one occasion, the statesman clearly stated that the strength of Spain lay in the strength of its monarchy. “Spain is only strong when the monarchy is strong”he defined.
Throughout his career, Kissinger maintained a reserved attitude when it came to his personal life. Right from the start he showed a firm and determined character in his words. In politics, he created a legacy of words that shaped the way of understanding foreign policy: “Facts are rarely self-explanatory; their meaning, analysis and interpretation, at least in the world of foreign policy, depends on context and relevance.”
This influence increased significantly during the scandal Watergate, when the diplomat played a crucial role alongside a weakened Nixon. Regarding his growing power, Kissinger later admitted: “No doubt my vanity was stimulated, but the prevailing feeling was one of premonition of disaster.”.
Despite the challenges of Watergate, Kissinger survived and remained a ubiquitous figure after his political career through editorials, books, lectures and interviews, cementing a myth that has attracted a wide range of figures, from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.
Even at the age of 99, Kissinger was still touring to promote his book about diplomacy, leadership and artificial intelligence. In an interview with ABC in July 2022, when asked if he would like to go back on any of his decisions, Kissinger responded: “I have spent my whole life thinking about these issues. It is both my passion and my profession. That’s why the recommendations I made were the best I could have made at that time and in that context.”.