Quotes by Henry Kissinger
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Wikipedia Summary for Henry Kissinger
Henry Alfred Kissinger (German: [ˈkɪsɪŋɐ]; born Heinz Alfred Kissinger; May 27, 1923) is an American politician, diplomat, and geopolitical consultant who served as United States Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. A Jewish refugee who fled Nazi Germany with his family in 1938, he became National Security Advisor in 1969 and U.S. Secretary of State in 1973. For his actions negotiating a ceasefire in Vietnam, Kissinger received the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize under controversial circumstances, with two members of the committee resigning in protest.
A practitioner of Realpolitik, Kissinger played a prominent role in United States foreign policy between 1969 and 1977. During this period, he pioneered the policy of détente with the Soviet Union, orchestrated the opening of relations with China, engaged in what became known as shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East to end the Yom Kippur War, and negotiated the Paris Peace Accords, ending American involvement in the Vietnam War. Kissinger has also been associated with such controversial policies as U.S. involvement in the 1973 Chilean military coup, a "green light" to Argentina's military junta for their Dirty War, and U.S. support for Pakistan during the Bangladesh War despite the genocide being perpetrated by his allies. After leaving government, he formed Kissinger Associates, an international geopolitical consulting firm. Kissinger has written over a dozen books on diplomatic history and international relations.
Kissinger remains a controversial and polarizing figure in U.S. politics, both condemned as an alleged war criminal by many journalists, political activists, and human rights lawyers, and venerated as a highly effective U.S. Secretary of State by many prominent international relations scholars. With the death of centenarian George Shultz in February 2021, Kissinger is the oldest living former U.S. Cabinet member and the last surviving member of Nixon's Cabinet.
The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.
Well, the capacity of French intellectuals to understand a Texan way of thinking is finite.
Art is man's expression of his joy in labor.
There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.
A leader does not deserve the name unless he is willing occasionally to stand alone.
Accept everything about yourself I mean everything, You are you and that is the beginning and the end no apologies, no regrets.
People are generally amazed that I would take an interest in any form that would require me to stop talking for three hours.
Henceforth the adequacy of any military establishment will be tested by its ability to preserve the peace.
Where position is felt to be a birthright, generosity is possible (though not guaranteed); flexibility is not inhibited by a commitment to perpetual success.
I do not criticize people who take a public stand on human rights issues. I express my respect for them. But some people are more influential without a public confrontation.
Superstars strive for approbation; heroes walk alone. Superstars crave consensus; heroes define themselves by the judgment of a future they see it as their task to bring about. Superstars seek success in a technique for eliciting support; heroes pursue success as the outgrowth of inner values.
Americans believe that you can alter people by conversion, and that everybody in the world is a potential American. The Chinese also believe that their values are universal, but they do not believe that you can convert to becoming a Chinese unless you are born into it.
The test of policy is how it ends, not how it begins. Foreign policy is the art of establishing priorities. Demonization is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one. The test is not absolute satisfaction but balanced dissatisfaction.
In Asia, the nation state still is extremely vital, and of course, then in Africa, a whole new pattern is emerging because the states in Africa reflected the preferences of the colonial powers when they were established.
Our greatest foreign policy problem is our divisions at home. Our greatest foreign policy need is national cohesion and a return to the awareness that in foreign policy we are all engaged in a common national endeavor.
In my particular case foreign policy happens to be my hobby, my consuming interest. I had spent decades studying it.
It is always easy to divide the world into idealists and power-oriented people. The idealists are presumed to be the noble people, and the power-oriented people are the ones that cause all the world's trouble.
Every civilization that has ever existed has ultimately collapsed. History is a tale of efforts that failed, or aspirations that weren't realized. So, as a historian, one has to live with a sense of the inevitability of tragedy.
Competing pressures tempt one to believe that an issue deferred is a problem avoided; more often it is a crisis invited.
Any international system must have two key elements for it to work. One, it has to have a certain equilibrium of power that makes overthrowing the system difficult and costly. Secondly, it has to have a sense of legitimacy.
The real distinction is between those who adapt their purposes to reality and those who seek to mold reality in the light of their purposes.
We have to be careful in negotiating with Iran that we don't create the impression among the Arab states and the Sunni states that we are working on a condominium between Iran and the United States, because that will panic them and drive them into making their own arrangement.
In a diplomatic negotiation, you always meet the same the other side all the time. Even if you should succeed in outsmarting him or in pressuring him, it only sets up a cycle in which he will try to get even.
A nation riven by factions, in which the minority has no hope of ever becoming a majority, or in which some group knows it is perpetually outcast, will seem oppressive to its members, whatever the legal pretensions.
Realism in foreign policy is made up of a clear set of values, since difficult foreign policy decisions are often decided with the narrowest of majorities. Without any sense of what is right and wrong, one would drown in a flood of difficult and pragmatic decisions.
If you control the food, you control a nation. If you control the energy, you control a region. If you control the money, you control the world.
To revolutionaries the significant reality is the world which they are fighting to bring about, not the world they are fighting to overcome.
Revolutionaries are rarely motivated primarily by material considerations-though the illusion that they are persists in the West.
The public life of every political figure is a continual struggle to rescue an element of choice from the pressure of circumstance.
When you travel as secretary, one problem you have is that the press comes with you and wants an immediate result because it justifies their trip. And sometimes the best result is that you don't try to get a result but try to get an understanding for the next time you go to them.
The first reactions are often instinctive. So one of the first things we said was that the Chinese had no right to inspect the plane, and that we had a sovereign right to. I don't know what the legal position is, but it was surely psychologically absolutely the unwise thing to do.
With respect to the relationship between nuclear weapons and the advent of détente, one has to consider two things. One, the nature of nuclear weapons in themselves, and secondly, the advent of nuclear parity.
For any student of history, change is the law of life. Any attempt to contain it guarantees an explosion down the road; the more rigid the adherence to the status quo, the more violent the ultimate outcome will be.
I have learned, as I wrote, that history must be discovered, not declared. It's an admission that one grows in life.
American politics are normally a result of pragmatic and not philosophical reasoning. No one in Washington has said we now prefer multilateralism.
One thing I don't want around me is a military intellectual. I don't have to worry about you on that score.
We cannot give Russia veto over deployment of forces on NATO territory. But we have to understand their particular sensitivities, and, therefore, there should be a dialogue on these issues.
Over time even two armed blind men in a room can do enormous damage to each other, not to speak of the room.
I think a resumption of the Cold War would be a historic tragedy. If a conflict is avoidable, on a basis reflecting morality and security, one should try to avoid it.
I see the future of China as growth. I think that historically China has often gone through periods of consolidation, and then periods of sort of weakening central authority. They undoubtedly face tremendous challenges.
In my life, I have almost always been on the side of active foreign policy. But you need to know with whom you are cooperating. You need reliable partners.
Certainly not a party of the workers and the peasants. In fact, Jiang Zemin in recent weeks has officially said that capitalists and the entrepreneurs should be enrolled in the Communist Party.
I wouldn't say it's a split. It's a difference of emphasis. It does exist between, I would say, the State Department and the Defense Department.
I also do not believe that the United States can let itself be driven into a political role by escalating terrorism, and therefore, the leaders of the Arab world and Arafat should do their utmost to put an end to this and then the United States should do its utmost to produce a political solution.
Jews were segregated from 1933 on. We could only play against other Jewish teams. This wasn't just social segregation; this was the beginning of the extermination of the Jews. That's why my family left Germany in 1938.
In the hands of a determined Secretary, the Foreign Service can be a splendid instrument, staffed by knowledgeable, discreet, and energetic individuals. They do require constant vigilance lest the convictions that led them into a penurious career tempt them to preempt decision-making.
Who controls the food supply controls the people; who controls the energy can control whole continents; who controls money can control the world.
I believe in freedom of expression, and I believe that societies thrive when they permit freedom of expression.
One has to remember that every progress that has been made towards peace in the Middle East has come under American leadership.
There are only two reasons to sit in the back row of an airplane: Either you have diarrhea, or you're anxious to meet people who do.
History is not, of course, a cookbook offering pretested recipes. It teaches by analogy, not by maxims. It can illuminate the consequences of actions in comparable situations, yet each generation must discover for itself what situations are in fact comparable.
I believe that without Watergate we would have had an extraordinary period of success with a strong Nixon and a still vital Brezhnev in power.
It is one of history's ironies that Communism, advertised as a classless society, tended to breed a privileged class of feudal proportions.
What we in America call terrorists are really groups of people that reject the international system.
It is not often that nations learn from the past,even rarer that they draw the correct conclusions from it.
One theory is that we will make war look so attractive that we undermine the deterrent. That's Never Never Land. What we have now would have been enough to deter Hitler. But we are talking in a different order of reality.
This country cannot afford to tear itself apart on a partisan basis on issues so vital to our national security.
The art of good foreign policy is to understand and to take into consideration the values of a society, to realize them at the outer limit of the possible.
If peace is equated simply with the absence of war, it can become abject pacifism that turns the world over to the most ruthless.
Every American president, regardless of party, has said that America has an intense interest in a peaceful resolution. And I think it should be left at that.
A return to the 1967 lines and the abandonment of the settlements near Jerusalem would be such a psychological trauma for Israel as to endanger its survival.
Clearly security without values is like a ship without a rudder. But values without security are like a rudder without a ship.
The true conservative is not at home in social struggle. He will attempt to avoid unbridgeable schism, because he knows that a stable social structure thrives not on triumphs but on reconciliations.
The Chinese, on the other hand, were in the position of having an American military spy plane on a Chinese military base and they had their own internal problems to deal with. At first, the Chinese weren't all that belligerent. They were just stalling to get their own bureaucracy in line.
Well, on the American side, every new administration has to cut its teeth in a crisis, because before a crisis, you don't really know what your various subordinates are thinking under stress.
I can think of no faster way to unite the American people behind George W. Bush than a terrorist attack on an American target overseas. And I believe George W. Bush will quickly unite the American people through his foreign policy.
We have three things in common: Irish wives, the ability to speak for 17 minutes without a verb, and the fact that we both speak with an accent.
Diplomats operate through deadlock, which is the way by which two sides can test each other's determination. Even if they have egos for it few heads of government have the time to resolve stalemates, their meetings are too short and the demands of protocol too heavy.
In a nuclear war, even if one side were to come out ahead by systems analytical standards, both sides would be so weakened, that it would -- they would be in the position of Europe after the two World Wars.
Whenever a new president comes in, people that are used to the previous president wonder if he has the same capacity.
When I became security advisor, I became familiar with the so-called SIOP war plans, I called in Secretary McNamara and asked him what they were hiding from me, because I couldn't believe that the National policy would foresee such a level of destructiveness.
I think an appeal to American idealism and willingness to sacrifice would be an important contribution, because what is happening now in many countries, not yet in the United States, but in many European countries, it's the inability of government to ask for sacrifices of its people.
The Russian people, at least the ones I know, have pride in being a Russian. And, therefore, they want to be taken seriously in international affairs.
Tutelage is a comfortable relationship for the senior partner, but it is demoralizing in the long run. It breeds illusions of omniscience on one side and attitudes of impotent irresponsibility on the other.
A country that demands moral perfection in its foreign policy will achieve neither perfection nor security.
The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.
I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.
It is an act of insanity and national humiliation to have a law prohibiting the President from ordering assassination.
Let me make my point about Vietnam. When the Nixon initiation came into office, there were 550,000 Americans in combat. And ending the war was not a question of turning off a television channel. And so, debating on how we got there and what judgments were made was not going to help us.
People think responsibility is hard to bear. It's not. I think that sometimes it is the absence of responsibility that is harder to bear. You have a great feeling of impotence.
Statesmen think in terms of history and view society as an organism. Prophets are different since they believe absolute aims can be achieved in the foreseeable future. More people have been killed by crusaders than by statesmen.
You know, this is a very strange phenomenon. I keep reading that in American newspapers, and I keep reading extensive speculations. I meet with the Chinese leaders periodically, and while I don't say they've endorsed the missile shield, it has not been in the forefront of their discussions.
We attempted to try to solve every problem in the world, out of a sense of moral obligations, and attitudes, and our history. But no country can solve every problem without exhausting itself. Therefore, we have to establish priorities.
Becoming conscious is of course a sacrilege against nature; it is as though you had robbed the unconscious of something. The nice thing about being a celebrity is that if you bore people they think it's their fault.
President Nixon in his inaugural address indicated that he wanted an era of negotiation. Our reasoning was that whatever our ideological differences, whatever our geopolitical differences, we were condemned to coexistence by nuclear weapons.
The Gorbachev period is conceived as an abandonment of historic Russian positions. So this is the framework, in my view, in which Putin operates.
I do not believe that Putin intends to leave office in a Cold War atmosphere with the United States.
Realism in foreign policy means careful consideration of all aspects pertinent to the issue, before taking a decision. This is the only way you can move from where you are to someplace else.
Now we have a whole series of problems -- energy, environment, proliferation -- which go beyond the nation. And we also know that a conflict between major powers would be a catastrophe for which there is no compensation in anything you can gain.
Some of the critics viewed Vietnam as a morality play in which the wicked must be punished before the final curtain and where any attempt to salvage self-respect from the outcome compounded the wrong. I viewed it as a genuine tragedy. No one had a monopoly on anguish.
Before there was the Soviet Union that could inflame matters. Now you have states not as powerful as the Soviet Union, but states like Iraq, like Iran, and to some extent Syria, having made it possible for some of these groups to operate. So it is a very difficult situation.
In the 1960s, I would have considered China with its CPC an ideologically more dynamic country than the Soviet Union. But the Soviet Union was strategically more threatening.
The key decision for a statesman is whether to commit his nation or not. There is no middle course. Once a great nation commits itself, it must prevail. It will acquire no kudos for translating its inner doubts into hesitation.
Obama is like a chess player who is playing simultaneous chess and has opened his game with an unusual opening.
China is a one party state. Sooner or later China will get to the point when the new social classes, which have emerged thanks to economic success, will have to be integrated into the political system. There is no guarantee that this process will run smoothly.
Depopulation should be the highest priority of foreign policy towards the third world, because the US economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less developed countries.
Statesman create; ordinary leaders consume. The ordinary leader is satisfied with ameliorating the environment, not transforming it; a statesman must be a visionary and an educator.
I believe that there is a whole set of issues in the world -- environment, proliferation, energy, cyberspace -- that can only be dealt with on a global basis. The traditional patterns of national rivalry and national competition are not suitable for those cases.
I had an opportunity to express my views, yes. I agreed with the approach which we took, namely, to make a distinction between the loss of life of the Chinese pilot and our military operations outside territorial waters or territorial limits.
To have the United States suddenly come up with a peace proposal after a whole series of terrorist attacks is going to show to the world that this sort of method is something that western societies can't stand.
Administration has managed the extraordinary feat of having, at one and the same time, the worst relations with our allies, the worst relations with our adversaries, and the most serious upheavals in the developing world since the end of the Second World War.
It is frankly a mistake of amateurs to believe you can gain the upper hand in a diplomatic negotiation.
Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer. ... But since the Freedom of Information Act, I'm afraid to say things like that.
Left to its own devices, the State Department machinery tends toward inertia rather than creativity; it is always on the verge of turning itself into an enormous cable machine.
Withdrawal of US troops will become like salted peanuts to the American public: The more US troops come home, the more will be demanded.
You should not go to war for the privilege of withdrawal. You need to define your objective and the outcome, and it cannot be the removal of one man.
Historically when there is a rising power like China, it has usually led to confrontations between the rising power and the existing dominant powers. And when you have a shift of the center of gravity of world affairs from the Atlantic to the Pacific, then you have an additional element.
I think that his Obama's task will be to develop an overall strategy for America in this period, when really a New World Order can be created.
The one thing man fears is the unknown. When presented with this scenario, individual rights will be willingly relinquished for the guarantee of their well-being granted to them by a World Government, a New World Order.
Our nation is uniquely endowed to play a creative and decisive role in the new order which is taking form around us.
The US must carry out some act somewhere in the world which shows its determination to continue to be a world power.
The position is that stability and peace in Asia depend on a cooperative relationship between China and the United States.
The problem is Russia is a country that has lost 300 years of its history, in terms of most of what was part of the Russian Empire in Europe, towards Europe, since Peter the Great, has been the territory that is no longer under Russian rule.
In the current Carter administration, who can use the White House swimming pool and tennis courts is decided at the very highest level. President Ford did not bother himself with such minor details. He let me swim in the pool. He only got upset when I tried to walk across the water.
The enemies you make by taking a decided stand generally have more respect for you than the friends you make by being on the fence.
Nixon wants a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. He doesn't want to hear anything about it. It's an order, to be done. Anything that flies on anything that moves.
Certainly nothing is easier than to rewrite history. If we had made Taiwan a separate state, it would have led to a fundamental conflict with China, and probably to war. Certainly in the long term, it would have led to war.
Taiwan will probably not declare independence. The question isn't independence. The issue is whether Taiwan will declare itself as a sovereign separate state. That will start a huge crisis if that happens.
What China would do, I cannot predict. China has all but given up the claim to the use of force, except in the circumstance of Taiwan declaring its independence. That is a huge step forward over what the situation was many years ago.
I have great respect for the Taiwanese. They have done an extraordinary job. But it was not a sustainable position to say that the legitimate government of China resides in Taiwan, which at that time didn't have much contact with the mainland.
America has made it very clear in several administrations that if there is an attack by China on Taiwan, the United States is very likely to resist.
Far too often the Ukrainian issue is posed as a showdown: whether Ukraine joins the East or the West. But if Ukraine is to survive and thrive, it must not be either side's outpost against the other -- it should function as a bridge between them.
The defining issue is that the government in Taiwan was considered to be the government of all of China, and the authorities in Beijing were not recognized as a government of China. So Taiwan was the residuary for all of China.
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