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Louise Delmotte Associated Press Henry Kissinger, a key player in American and global diplomacy during the Cold War, has died at the age of 100. Initiator of the rapprochement with Moscow and Beijing in the 1970s, this Nobel Peace Prize winner who was Secretary of State under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford also saw his image tarnished by dark pages in the history of the United States , such as support for the 1973 coup in Chile, the 1975 invasion of East Timor, and the Vietnam War.

Solidity, influence and, above all, endurance. He is a strong figure in American diplomacy and a central actor in contemporary history who has just passed away in the United States: Henry Kissinger. He was 100 years old.

Henry Kissinger undoubtedly had several lives, which took him from a giant of American diplomacy – with sometimes harmful ideological influences and cults – to being excluded from places of power, temporarily, before reconnecting towards the end of his existence with recognition, as part of a rehabilitation campaign that he himself certainly contributed to putting in place. A journey that now makes him an immortal character.

In 2007, Economic Club of New York President Barbara Franklin introduced him as “the most influential, legendary diplomat of our time” at a tribute evening held in the Ballroom of a prestigious hotel in the city. A simple, almost hagiographic formula, capturing in a few words the very essence of this fine political strategist and outstanding communicator, whose trajectory was marked, at the roots of his life, by the rise of Nazism in Germany, where he was born May 27, 1923.

Heinz Alfred Kissinger, his real name, was only 15 years old when his Jewish family decided to leave the small town of Fürth, in the south of the country, to flee the persecution of a regime advancing on the precipice madness and horror. He would become Henry after his arrival in New York and, above all, after his first contacts with the world of international relations and political science, at Harvard University, where he studied from 1950 to 1954. He would later become there professor and specialist in foreign policy, introduced into the restricted circles of power by the historian Arthur Schlesinger, among others, who opened the doors of the Foreign Affairs Magazine.

It was in its pages that Kissinger published his very first article in 1955 on the “gray areas” of military policy. With a direct and precise style, he deplores a narrow “American strategic thinking” that does not seem to take into account the fact that “the USSR will have the capacity to launch a powerful nuclear weapon attack against the United States” in the near future. A rich political career has just been placed on its tracks.

Henry Kissinger, a life of influence and cynicism

Photo: Associated Press Archives Henry Kissinger at an October 1972 press conference at the White House, during which he declared that peace was “within reach” in Vietnam. The war ended in 1975, two years after the Americans left.

At the heart of mutations

In 1969, Henry Kissinger was appointed National Security Advisor by President Richard Nixon, a position he held for four years, before being designated Secretary of State in the Republican administration and thus finding himself in the outpost of world changes. The man will also largely contribute to these transformations by influencing the foreign policies of the United States, in particular during the peace negotiations in Vietnam, the construction of détente policies with the Soviet Union or even the diplomatic rapprochement with the People's Republic. of China, isolated after the 1949 victory of Mao Zedong's communists in the civil war. He remained head of American diplomacy until 1977, kept in his post by Gerald Ford, Nixon's successor, after the latter's fall, entangled in “Watergate”.

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Henry Kissinger was also heavily involved in foreign policy in the Middle East, particularly in peace negotiations between Israel and its Arab neighbors. He played a central role in the resolution of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, defying the American general staff to brandish a nuclear threat and thus obtain a cease-fire.

It was that same year that the diplomat won, to everyone's surprise and controversy, the Nobel Peace Prize, for his contribution to the Paris Accords signed in January to end the Vietnam War. The agreement confirms the disengagement of the American army from the interminable conflict.

The co-winner of the prestigious award, the Vietnamese negotiator and diplomat Le Duc Tho, refuses the prize, believing that the conditions for peace are not completely met and therefore cannot be celebrated. Two members of the Nobel committee, Helge Rognlien and Einar Hovdhavgen, will resign to protest against this award, to which they had opposed. Two years later, communist North Vietnam found the necessary conditions for its final offensive which would bring down Saigon and condemn thousands of South Vietnamese throughout the world to exile.

Henry Kissinger said he was “very happy” to be the first Secretary of State in office to win a Nobel Peace Prize, while the American artist Tom Lehrer said that this award had made “political satire” “obsolete”. .

Henry Kissinger, a life of influence and cynicism

Photo: Associated Press Archives Then-Secretary of State Henri Kissinger in November 1974, accompanied by then-Chinese Prime Minister Deng Xiaoping and White House Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld at a banquet in Beijing.

Tasks on the roadmap

An influential figure, the diplomat will also become a divisive figure in American politics who will, certainly, succeed in emerging almost unscathed from the Watergate political scandal, heavily incriminating for his boss, but who will not avoid criticism for having contributed to undermining the talks peace led by Lyndon Johnson in 1968 in Vietnam. The cynical tactic aimed to prolong the conflict to favor the election of Nixon that year. The head of American diplomacy is also held responsible for the destruction of Chilean democracy and the coup d'état that took over Salvador Allende. He is also said to have the blood of 150,000 Cambodian civilians on his hands for having been the architect of a massive bombing campaign in southern Cambodia between 1969 and 1973. Official archives from this period, recently released public, were devastating to his reputation.

In the name of realpolitik, the diplomat has never been afraid to support authoritarian regimes, thus putting forward the strategic interests of the United States rather than human rights and democratic values, which are the foundation of his country. The “magician of diplomacy”, as he was nicknamed, would also have been directly involved in the construction of the “Condor” plan, a network for tracking down opponents in six military dictatorships in Latin America (Chile, Bolivia, Brazil , Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina), then all governed by the military. In his memoirs, the man who one day was indignant at the arrest in Paris in 1998 of Chilean general Augusto Pinochet, his friend, on the orders of a Spanish judge, will speak above all of “pragmatic diplomacy”, without ever succeeding in get rid of the many stains on his roadmap.

In 2014, then aged 91, the former Secretary of State was briefly manhandled in front of the American Congress by demonstrators demanding his arrest and appearance before international justice for war crimes. He came to speak on the security challenges that the world had to face, and this, in the context of globalization of which he had seen, undoubtedly well before anyone else, all the potential for progress as well as tensions.

“Economic globalization cannot take the place of international order,” he wrote in 2003 in The New American Power (Fayard). The very success of the globalized economy will generate many upheavals and tensions, both within societies and between them. »

Enlightened visionary according to some, skillful manipulator and liar for others, Henry Kissinger left a lasting mark on American politics until the end of his existence. In July 2023, the young centenarian made a surprise visit to Beijing, where he met President Xi Jinping and Defense Minister Li Shangfu. The “friend of China”, who had contributed in 1971 to the rapprochement between Beijing and Washington, at the end of a secret visit to the Middle Kingdom, had undoubtedly gone there to warm up tense and cold relations between the two country, confirming in the process much more: its status as eminence grise of American diplomacy which will have ultimately succeeded in bringing certain spaces closer together and transcending time.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116