Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Henry Kissinger

Henry Kissinger  2009

The world creates continual provocations that rightly stir our emotions.  Emotions though are not the basis for a sound foreign policy - one that is guided by the principles that constitutionally govern this nation; one that sets priorities, enabling us in nearly all instances to work with other nations in determining the most effective course of action; a foreign policy based upon a realistic appraisal of this nation's interests and abilities.  

Today the news is once again focused on Israel and the Palestinians.  The murder of four teenagers has set off a spasm of violence, strikes and counter-strikes as well as the usual competing accusations.  Before this it was Iraq, preceded by the Ukraine, then Syria and Libya.  Each prompts outrage, fear and a call to action of one sort or another.  Fortunately, those responsible for foreign policy in Washington are not now likely to act on impulse or be pressured by the passions of the moment.

I enjoy reading Henry Kissinger.  He's still around and he's soon to publish another book titled World Order, coming out in September.  His last book, On China, was published less than two years ago.  The man is 91, lucid and extraordinarily active.  His book, Diplomacy, is a classic study of relations between nations, primarily in the twentieth century.  Kissinger wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post during the height of tensions between Russia and  the Ukraine.  You won't be inflamed by rhetoric in this piece.  His approach to any problem is consistent.  He analyzes the situation, provides an historic context and offers an empathetic basis for the actions of the main players in the crisis.  He's not one to make rash pronouncements.  He's the voice of dry reasoning.  Kissinger has the temperament suited for an adviser to a president - one whose decisions put great power into play with a result that may defuse a quarrel among the international community or foment unintended further tragedy or merely postpone a reckoning - allowing for passions to first settle down.

Henry Kissinger has many detractors.  His view towards diplomacy is guided by achieving what is possible within a very imperfect world.  As such, there are those who characterize his solutions as being amoral.  Unfortunately relations between nations often have little to do with morality.  Kissinger is not an ideologue.  He works to promote understanding and by doing so, limit the likelihood of further violence, devastation and human suffering.  He is deeply principled and acts upon his convictions in a manner that can be easily misrepresented.  His is a quiet courage.

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