Who was Henry Kissinger, arguably US' most powerful diplomat ever? | World News - Hindustan Times

Who was Henry Kissinger, arguably US' most powerful diplomat ever?

Nov 30, 2023 12:33 PM IST

While he was lauded by many, several people think Henry Kissinger should've been tried for war crimes.

Former United States secretary of state Henry Kissinger passed away on Wednesday at the age of 100. Kissinger had a significant effect on US foreign policy and external affairs and he served under two presidents — Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford — between 1969 and 1977.

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (AFP)
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (AFP)

Kissinger has also won a controversial Nobel Peace Prize which led to the resignations of two Nobel committee members and inquiries into the US' secret bombing of Cambodia. While he was lauded by many, several people think he should've been tried for war crimes.

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Here are five things to know about his life:

  • Over a span of eight years — initially working as the national security adviser, later as the secretary of state, and concurrently holding both positions at times — Kissinger wielded significant influence in shaping foreign policy.
  • Pioneering “shuttle diplomacy”, he actively sought Middle East peace. Carrying out secret negotiations, he successfully reestablished diplomatic relations between the United States and China. Kissinger took the lead in the Paris talks, offering a pathway for the United States to exit the Vietnam War with dignity.
  • Kissinger's power reached its heights amidst the chaos of the Watergate scandal when he assumed a quasi-co-presidential role alongside the embattled Nixon. Kissinger wrote of his influence during Watergate, “No doubt my vanity was piqued but the dominant emotion was a premonition of catastrophe.” He told his White House colleagues that he played a crucial role in preventing Nixon from taking actions that would “blow up the world”, AP reports.
  • For decades, Kissinger grappled with the perception that he and Nixon, in 1972, accepted peace terms for Vietnam that had been available in 1969 and unnecessarily prolonged the war at the expense the lives of of thousands of Americans. He faced severe criticism for approving telephone wiretaps on reporters and his own National Security Council staff to curb news leaks within Nixon’s White House. Various campus protests in colleges condemned him for the bombing and invasion of Cambodia in April 1970. He was held responsible by some for contributing to Cambodia falling into the hands of Khmer Rouge insurgents.
  • Kissinger crafted the image of a respected elder statesman, delivering speeches, providing counsel to presidents from both parties and overseeing a global consulting business that took him across the globe. However, the release of records from the Nixon era, over the years, unveiled revelations that portrayed him unfavourably. Facing persistent criticism from domestic and international critics, he was challenged to answer for his policies in Southeast Asia and his endorsement of repressive regimes in Latin America. Prior to travelling to certain nations, he had to weigh the possibility of being summoned by judges seeking to inquire about actions.

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