/ 01 December 2023

Vale Henry Kissinger

Image source: The U.S. National Archives via Picryl.com
Image source: The U.S. National Archives via Picryl.com

The Squiz

Henry Kissinger – one of the most formidable figures in global politics of the past century – has died at 100yo. Kissinger was the White House National Security Adviser and Secretary of State in Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford’s administrations from 1973-77, but his influence as a diplomat was much greater than his time in office. All up, he advised 12 US presidents from John F Kennedy to Joe Biden, and he was in China as recently as May smoothing the waters with President Xi Jinping ahead of reingagement with US officials, including with President Biden.

Sheesh, that’s quite an innings…

Yep. To start at the beginning, he was born in Germany, and being Jewish, his family joined the exodus from Nazi Germany, moving to New York in 1938. He returned to Germany in WWII with the US Army working in intelligence to round up Gestapo members. For that, he was awarded a Bronze Star (the US military award for acts of heroism or merit). Then it was a career in foreign policy, and when you think of some of the biggest world events over the past half century, Kissinger had a finger in so many pies… He got a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in getting America out of the Vietnam War. He helped diffuse tensions with Russia during the Cold War, and was instrumental in opening up communist China to the West. “The Chinese people never forget their old friends, and Sino-US relations will always be linked with the name of Henry Kissinger,” said President Xi of Kissinger on that recent trip.  

What else are people saying about him?

He leaves behind a legacy that’s as complex as it is controversial. Take that Nobel Prize… It caused an outcry in 1973 with many condemning his role during the war. Even former President Barack Obama weighed in a few years ago saying the US “dropped more ordnance on Cambodia and Laos than on Europe in World War II”. Kissinger also copped a lot of criticism for supporting Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor in 1975, which led to the loss of 100,000 lives. For his part, Kissinger knew he was a divisive figure and said “it would be unnatural and probably would mean I haven’t done very much if there were not other points of view”.

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