Henry Kissinger, the country’s 56th Secretary of State, played a key role in influencing American foreign policy on the world stage. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for his role in brokering the end of the Vietnam War, he gained worldwide fame for his strong pragmatic influence in international diplomacy. But Kissinger’s tactics, often carried out in secret, were not without controversy.
Youth and career
Born Heinz Alfred Kissinger on May 27, 1923 in Fürth, Germany, Kissinger and his family, who were Jews, fled to America in 1938 to escape the Nazi regime. Settled in New York, he became a naturalized citizen during World War II in 1943 and joined the United States Army, serving as a German interpreter from 1943 to 1946. He received a Bronze Star in 1945 for his role in the counter -spying.
After his military service, Kissinger attended Harvard University, graduating summa cum laude in 1950, earning master’s degrees and doctorates from the university in 1952 and 1954. He later joined Harvard’s faculty, where he worked from 1954 to 1969, serving as a government. professor and associate director of the Department of Government and the Center for International Affairs. During this time, he also consulted with the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations on national security issues.
The Nixon Administration and Vietnam
Upon his election, President Richard Nixon hired Kissinger as National Security Adviser, a post held from January 20, 1969, to November 3, 1975. On September 23, 1973, Kissinger assumed the dual role of Secretary of State, making him the first person to hold both positions at once. He was also the first foreign-born Secretary of State.
Kissinger quickly established himself as a diplomatic heavyweight, landing on magazine covers and making international headlines for his brand of “realpolitiks,” based on practical rather than moral decisions. “The state is a fragile organization”, he wrote in 2015 world order“and the statesman has no moral right to risk his survival on ethical compulsion.”
Notably, his detente strategy to mitigate growing hostilities with the Soviet Union culminated in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) in 1969, the SALT I arms agreement, and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. .
Kissinger also engaged with China in 1972, setting the stage for Nixon’s pivotal visit to the communist nation to meet Chairman Mao Zedong – the first time a sitting American president had visited mainland China and was considered as a turning point in the Cold War.
While touring Middle Eastern capitals to help enemies strike disengagement deals in the 1970s, Kissinger led what came to be known as “shuttle diplomacy,” which helped lift of the U.S. oil embargo by OPEC. Kissinger is also known for helping broker a truce between Israel and the Arab states after the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, also known as the Yom Kippur War, and for resuming diplomacy between America and the United States. Egypt.
According to the US State Department, while Secretary of State Kissinger made 213 visits to foreign countries, once traveling to 17 countries in 18 days and spending 33 consecutive days in the Middle East in 1973, trading talks between Syria and Israel.
While Kissinger controversially hid the 1969 bombings of Cambodia and Laos from Congress that escalated the Vietnam War, 68 meetings with Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam, some of them secret, ultimately led to the peace accords of Paris. These agreements ended direct US involvement in the Vietnam War. Kissinger and Le Duc Tho were controversially awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for their role in the negotiation, although only Kissinger accepted it. The terms of the agreement were later breached by North and South Vietnamese forces without an official response from the United States. According to Washington PostKissinger attempted to return his Nobel.
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READ MORE: Henry Kissinger’s controversial role in the Vietnam War
Controversies swirl during the Ford administration
In the Gallup Poll’s annual list of Americans’ Most Admired Men, Kissinger ranked first in 1973 and 1974, beating both Nixon and President Gerald Ford, who took office August 9, 1974 after resigning. of Nixon after the Watergate scandal. Ford kept Kissinger as secretary of state, although he ended his role as national security adviser in 1975, and Kissinger again focused much of his work on the Middle East, negotiating the 1975 Sinai Agreement between Egypt and Israel. But, combined with controversies in Angola and Chile, the end of the Paris peace accords and growing tensions with the Soviets, his reputation was tarnished.
He served his last day as Secretary of State on January 20, 1977, when Jimmy Carter took the presidential oath.
Post-White House Kissinger
The author of more than a dozen books, as well as numerous newspaper articles and columns, Kissinger was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, the nation’s highest civilian honor. In 1986, he received the prestigious Medal of Freedom, an award given to foreign-born leaders.
He was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 to chair the bipartisan National Commission on Central America, a position he held until the organization’s end in 1985, and served as a member of the Intelligence Advisory Council President’s Foreign Office from 1984 to 1990. Among his other appointments, he served on the board of directors of the Commission on the Long-Range Integrated Strategy of the National Security Council and the Department of Defense from 1986 to 1988, and on the Board defense policy from 2001 to 2016.
Kissinger married Ann Fleischer in 1949 and the couple had two children. They divorced in 1964 and he married Nancy Maginnes in 1974. At the age of 98, he continues to serve as president of his international consulting firm, Kissinger Associates.
“Biographies of Secretaries of State: Henry A. (Heinz Alfred) Kissinger,” United States Department of State.
“Kissinger Becomes Secretary of State,” U.S. Department of State.
“Henry Kissinger and the Study of World Affairs”, Henry A. Kissinger Center for World Affairs.