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The Search for Purpose:

Henry Kissinger's Early Philosophy and American Foreign

Master's Thesis
Presented to
The Facutly of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
randeis !ni"ersity
#epartment of American History
#a"id Engerman$ Ad"isor
%n Partial Fulfillment
of the &e'uirements for
Master's #egree
)auren Moseley
August *+,+
The Search for Purpose:
Henry Kissinger's Early Philosophy and American Foreign Policy
A thesis presented to the #epartment of American History
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
randeis !ni"ersity
.altham$ Massachusetts
y )auren Moseley
The thesis$ /The Search for Purpose: Henry Kissinger's Early Philosophy and
American Foreign Policy$/ argues that 0hile Kissinger's decisions post1,234 0ere
incredi(ly important in shaping the !nited States' position in the 0orld and his o0n
reputation$ these decisions are contingent upon the 5intellectual capital6 he de"eloped
(efore 7oining the 8i9on administration: This /intellectual capital/ is 0ell1documented in
0ritten form and includes Kissinger's sophisticated undergraduate honors thesis$ his
graduate dissertation later pu(lished as the (oo; A World Restored$ and the numerous
scholarly (oo;s and articles he 0rote on American foreign policy (efore his appointment
as 8i9on's national security ad"isor:
This thesis argues that an understanding of Kissinger's early 0ritings is important
(ecause they re"eal an em(race of an idealistic philosophy that o"ershado0ed the
political realism he is more 0ell1;no0n for: His constant calls for "ision$ purpose$
inspiration and intuition 0ere concepts deeply rooted in the idealistic philosophy through
0hich he understood the 0orld: Kissinger's philosophy per"aded each of his early 0or;s
<from his 0ritings as student and academic to criti'ues of American foreign policy as a
scholar$ and memos and letters as a mem(er of President =ohn F: Kennedy's
administration: The aim of this thesis is to point out a commonly misinterpreted or
ignored aspect of Kissinger's 0orld"ie0 as e9pressed in these early 0ritings: This aspect
is one that deeply contrasts 0ith Kissinger's reputation as a cold1(looded practitioner of
Realpolitik and an enthusiast of the political philosophy of realism: The analysis of
Kissinger's early 0ritings 0ill highlight four strains of his idealistic thought 0hich can (e
traced through 5The Meaning of History$6 A World Restored$ and his 0ritings on
American foreign policy: optimism for human nature$ agency of the indi"idual$ the
struggle to0ards ideals 0ithin limits$ and purposeful action: This thesis concludes that
Kissinger's early idealistic thoughts contrast sharply to his reputation as a practitioner of
Table of Contents
-hapter ,:
&eaching for %deals: Kissinger's Philosophy of the %ndi"idual::::::::::::::::4
-hapter *:
%deals and Statesmanship: Kissinger's Philosophy of Statesmanship::::::**
-hapter >:
%deals and American Foreign Policy: Kissinger's Philosophy of 8ational
5There has (een no one li;e Henry Kissinger in a high go"ernmental position in
the !nited States at any time in its history$6 Stephen Grau(ard$ (iographer and colleague
of former national security ad"isor and Secretary of State$ Henry Kissinger$ once 0rote:
The fact that Grau(ard 0rote this in ,2A>$ only mid10ay through Kissinger's career in the
!:S: go"ernment$ further pro"es his point that Kissinger is one of the most uni'ue and
influential figures in modern American history:
Kissinger's longe"ity in the go"ernment
from his appointment as President &ichard M: 8i9on's national security ad"isor in ,234
to the end of his full1time go"ernmental career as President Gerald Ford's Secretary of
State in ,2AA$ as 0ell as his unusually high position of po0er Bone could argue that he
0as more po0erful than President 8i9on during the .atergate scandalC$ his presence in
the go"ernment through some of the most influential e"ents of the t0entieth century$ and
his unusual (ac;ground as a German =e0ish refugee ma;e Henry Kissinger a figure to
not only (e studied$ (ut understood:
%n order to understand Kissinger$ one must consider his statement that 5%t is an
illusion to (elie"e that leaders gain in profundity 0hile they gain e9perience::::the
con"ictions that leaders ha"e formed (efore reaching high office are the intellectual
capital they 0ill consume as long as they continue in office:6
%f one agrees 0ith
Kissinger$ this means that 0hile Kissinger's decisions post1,234 0ere incredi(ly
important in shaping the !nited States' position in the 0orld as 0ell as his o0n
reputation$ these decisions are contingent upon the 5intellectual capital6 he de"eloped
, Stephen &ichards Grau(ard$ Kissinger: Portrait of a Mind B8e0 Dor;: 8orton$ ,2A?C$ i9:
* Henry A: Kissinger$ White House Years$ ,st ed: Boston: )ittle$ ro0n$ ,2A2C$ @3:
(efore 7oining the 8i9on administration: Fortunately$ this material is 0ell1documented in
0ritten form and includes Kissinger's sophisticated undergraduate honors thesis at
Har"ard Bclose to ?++ pages in length and titled 5The Meaning of History$6 it 0as not the
typical undergraduate capstoneC$ his graduate dissertation later pu(lished as the (oo; A
World Restored$ and the numerous scholarly (oo;s and articles he 0rote on American
foreign policy (efore his appointment as 8i9on's national security ad"isor:
%n this thesis % 0ill argue that Kissinger's early 0ritings re"eal an em(race of an
idealistic philosophy that o"ershado0ed the political realism he is more 0ell1;no0n for:
His constant calls for "ision$ purpose$ inspiration and intuition 0ere not rhetorical de"ices
to garner domestic support: %nstead$ these concepts 0ere deeply rooted in the idealistic
philosophy through 0hich Kissinger understood the 0orld and encouraged Americans to
percei"e the 0orld: This idealistic philosophy 0as not idealism in the sense of political
utopianismE rather it 0as the (elief in human purpose and creati"ity through action: This
philosophy per"aded each of Kissinger's early 0or;s<from his 0ritings as student and
academic to criti'ues of American foreign policy as a scholar$ and memos and letters as a
mem(er of President =ohn F: Kennedy's administration:
% do not intend to analyFe the specific influence of Kissinger's ideas on his later
policies in the 8i9on and Ford administrations$ (ut to point out a commonly
misinterpreted or ignored aspect of his 0orld"ie0 as e9pressed in these early 0ritings:
This aspect is one that deeply contrasts 0ith Kissinger's reputation as a cold1(looded
practitioner of Realpolitik and an enthusiast of the political philosophy of realism:
Kissinger's early 0or;s instead re"eal strains of idealistic thought: Gne of these strains is
optimism for human nature: .hile realism typically emphasiFes the negati"e aspects of
human nature$ Kissinger is optimistic a(out the capa(ility of humanity to stri"e to0ards
ideals: %ndeed$ he trusts them 0ith the responsi(ility of morality: Another of these strains
is the agency of the indi"idual: &elated to optimism for human nature$ the agency of the
indi"idual in Kissinger's 0ritings represented a (elief in the capacity of men and 0omen
to do great things$ leading progressi"ely to a (etter 0orld: Another strain of idealism
0ithin Kissinger's thought is the importance he gi"es to the struggle to0ards ideals 0ithin
limits: .ithin this concept is the most apparent reconciliation of realistic and idealistic
thought: %n all of Kissinger's early 0or;s$ he emphasiFed the importance first on the
definition of ideals$ and then on stri"ing to0ards those ideals: His concern 0as not that
they (e reached$ (ut that they (e progressed to0ard$ prefera(ly in a strategically outlined
plan of action: )astly$ Kissinger emphasiFed that ideals could only (e reached through
purposeful action: The definition of purpose and acti"ism for this purpose 0ould ena(le
an indi"idual or nation to ma;e the most of its opportunities and pa"e the 0ay to0ards
long1term goals:
The de"elopment and application of these concepts can (e traced through 5The
Meaning of History$6 A World Restored$ and Kissinger's 0ritings on American foreign
policy: Each era of these 0or;s is progressi"ely more concrete than the one preceding it$
yet each retains strong elements of the philosophical concepts first outlined in 5The
Meaning of History:6 The failure of other historians to pic; up on this pattern has much
to do 0ith the typically casual consideration of 5The Meaning of History$6 either (ecause
of its philosophical comple9ity or its presumed irrele"ance to Kissinger's later thought:
Det % 0ill argue that the concepts first e9pressed in this 0or; 0ere ma7or components of
Kissinger's later 0ritings:
Gne ma7or point to note is that the ideas Kissinger deals 0ith in 5The Meaning of
History6 0ere not necessarily original to him: Much of his thesis 0as a contri(ution to a
ongoing philosophical de(ate concerning the importance of metaphysics: % deeply regret
my ina(ility to engage this de(ate on more than a surface le"el: As my educational
(ac;ground does not allo0 me to del"e deeply into these concepts$ my analysis 0ill point
out the appearance of Kissinger's philosophical thought in his 0or;s (ut 0ill not de(ate
the the "alidity of these concepts or contri(ute to the con"ersation in 0hich Kissinger 0as
%n this thesis % 0ill hold to the definitions of realism and idealism as outlined (y
Thomas G: Paterson and and ruce .: =entleson in the Encyclopedia of U.. !oreign
Relations: %dealism is the idea 5that the purpose of !:S: foreign policy should (e the
promotion of uni"ersal human ideals6 and the 5(elief that foreign policy should (e
guided (y:::fundamental "alues:6 Part of idealism is also 5the core (elief that the !nited
States has a special mission to reform the system of international relations: po0er is to (e
used for a moral purpose6 or in the 0ords of .oodro0 .ilson$ 5'America 0as
esta(lished not to create 0ealth (ut to realiFe a "ision$ to realiFe an ideal:::'6

Paterson and =entleson contrast the 5concept of transcendent national purpose6 in
idealism to the political philosophy of realism: &ealism 5argues that morality should (e
made su(ser"ient to raison d"etre and national interest$ that in a contest (et0een principle
> -ouncil on Foreign &elations$ Encyclopedia of U.. !oreign Relations B8e0 Dor;: G9ford !ni"ersity
Press$ ,22AC$ "*$ >?>1>?@:
and po0er$ po0er must (e paramount: Ad"ocates of realism stress an o(ligation for the
!:S: go"ernment to put its national prosperity$ po0er$ and international position ahead of
the pursuit of uni"ersal "alues or any other grand ideal:::6 &ather than thin;ing of
international affairs in human terms$ 5&ealist thin;ers and statesmen regarded the state
essentially as a closed structure em(edded in a system of impersonal forces of contending
interests and po0er (alances:::oth po0er and interest$ li;e physical forces$ 0ere
regarded as measura(le 'uantities that could ser"e as an o(7ecti"e (asis for political
calculation and policy formulation:6 Most importantly$ realism is 5(ased on a conception
of human nature as (eing corrupt and self1centered:6
.hile realists defined national interests in terms of po0er$ Kissinger defined the
national interest in terms of "alues and purposes: !nli;e realist thin;ers$ Kissinger
(elie"ed that po0er could not (e purposeful 0ithout principle: To him the national
interest e'ualed cooperation 0ith a nation's allies and the integrity of its people through
the purposefulness of its actions: His early 0ritings sho0 that his political 0orld"ie0
0as not traditional realismE it defined the 0orld in different terms$ used a different
language$ and concei"ed of different dimensions of interest: Kissinger sa0 realism as
empiricism$ or the ad7ustment to facts$ and 7ust as one1sided and im(alanced as
utopianism: &ather than follo0 the realist paradigm$ he promoted progress to0ards long1
term ideals through a plan of specific and concrete steps:
Historians ha"e ta;en many atypical approaches to the comple9 figure of Henry
Kissinger: =eremi Suri's most recent 0or;$ for e9ample$ places Kissinger in a glo(al
conte9t and ta;es a serious loo; at the connection (et0een Kissinger's up(ringing in 8aFi
? %(id:$ "*$ >?*1>?@E ">$ ?3*1?3@:
Germany and his political attitudes: %n an older 0or;$ Har"ey Starr ta;es into account
Kissinger's perceptions and operational code using 'uantitati"e techni'ues to understand
his policies in the 8i9on administration: Another historian$ ruce MaFlish$ attempted a
psychoanalysis of Kissinger to e9plain his actions and policies:
.hile these 0or;s
contri(ute to the understanding of Kissinger$ they ma;e little attempt to understand ho0
Kissinger's philosophical outloo; shaped his "ie0s: Many ac;no0ledge Kissinger's
uni'ue 5philosophy of history$6 (ut fe0 lin; this philosophy to his political conceptions:
Gther historians ha"e ta;en a loo; at this fundamental lin; (et0een Kissinger's
ideas as e9pressed in his early 0ritings and his political philosophy: A nota(le e9ample is
Peter #ic;son's Kissinger and the Meaning of History$ 0hich is a close1analysis of the
te9t of 5The Meaning of History$6 0ith an emphasis on Kissinger's perception of Kantian
concepts: Another is Stephen &: Grau(ard's Kissinger: Portrait of a Mind# 0hich is an
e9cellent companion tool for understanding Kissinger's pre1,234 0ritings: Ho0e"er$
neither #ic;son nor Grau(ard dra0 out the continuities of philosophical thought (et0een
Kissinger's early te9ts: #ic;son focuses too closely on the details of 5The Meaning of
History6 0hile Grau(ard loo;s more (roadly at Kissinger's 0or;s on American foreign
% am aiming to sho0 a continuity of Kissinger's philosophical thought in a 0ay
that neither of these historians ha"e ela(orated on:
More important to the understanding of Kissinger than any other aspect of his life$
% (elie"e$ is a serious understanding of the philosophy 0hich he consciously created and
@ =eremi Suri$ Henry Kissinger and the A$erican %entury B-am(ridge$ Mass: el;nap Press of Har"ard
!ni"ersity Press$ *++ACE Har"ey Starr$ Henry Kissinger: Perceptions of &nternational Politics
B)e9ington$ Ky: !ni"ersity Press of Kentuc;y$ ,24?CE ruce MaFlish$ Kissinger: 'he European Mind in
A$erican Policy B8e0 Dor;: asic oo;s$ ,2A3C:
3 Grau(ard$ KissingerE Peter . #ic;son$ Kissinger and the Meaning of History B-am(ridge HEng:I:
-am(ridge !ni"ersity Press$ ,2A4C:
acti"ely follo0ed: y analyFing Kissinger through the lens of his personal philosophy$ %
0ill sho0 that his political conceptions are contingent on the surprisingly optimistic and
often idealistic philosophy he first outlined in 5The Meaning of History:6
Chapter One:
Reaching for Ideals: Kissinger's Philosophy of the Individual
Henry Kissinger's earliest 0riting re"ealed his optimistic "ie0 of human nature
through a reconciliation of realist and idealist thought: 8um(ering o"er three hundred
eighty pages in length$ his undergraduate honors thesis at Har"ard$ entitled 5The Meaning
of History$6 represented more than a capstone on a (achelor's degree: He 0rote it as the
sum of the philosophy he de"eloped during the tragedies of his past t0enty1se"en years:
his childhood in Germany$ the 0retchedness of the holocaust$ the discomfort of (eing a
refugee in a foreign country$ and the horrors of fighting in the Second .orld .ar:
#espite all of this suffering$ Kissinger's personal philosophy represented a surprisingly
optimistic 0orld"ie0: His 0riting displayed a (elief in the possi(ility of good in human
nature$ the importance of indi"idual action and choice$ and the necessity for constant
stri"ing to0ards ideals: Kissinger hoped that humanity could continue to progress in
history through a recognition of (oth its freedom and its limits:
Kissinger first introduced his 0orld"ie0 as a reconciliation of realism and
idealism in 5The Meaning of History:6 He outlined the contradiction (et0een necessity$
or irre"oca(le action of the past$ and freedom$ the concept that action is conducted (y
choice: A good illustration of the contradiction (et0een freedom and necessity is in -:S:
)e0is' description of a hero 0ho 5tra"eled into the past$ and there$ "ery properly$ found
raindrops that 0ould pierce him li;e (ullets and sand0iches that no strength could (ite<
(ecause$ of course$ nothing in the past can (e altered:6
Kissinger's focus on the tension
A -: S: )e0is$ 'he (reat )i*orce$ ,st ed: BHarperGne$ *++2C$ 9:
(et0een necessity and freedom 0as also the pro(lem of con7ecture$ or the need yet
ina(ility to understand the future conse'uences of one's actions: He pro(ed this parado9
in order to understand the meaning of freedom in the midst of ine"ita(ility$ and in doing
so$ to disco"er meaning in history:
Kissinger 0as certainly not the first to as; this 'uestion: His thesis 0as a mere
footnote in the tradition of philosophy$ and German philosophy in particular: German
philosophers such as Hegel and Kant as;ed similar 'uestions concerning purpose and
meaning in life$ and the tradition of German idealism posed the possi(ility that o(7ects in
reality are percei"ed (y the indi"idual and do not necessarily hold importance in
themsel"es: This theory is often contrasted 0ith the philosophies of positi"ism$
pragmatism$ or empiricism$ 0hich loo; to the e9ternal reality$ rather than metaphysics$
for ;no0ledge:
Kissinger separated his analysis into t0o le"els that represented the parado9 of
necessity and freedom: Gne le"el consisted of empiricism$ an analytical approach 0hich
0rested potential from human purpose (y suggesting that history 0as only a composite of
patterns and cycles: The second le"el of historical analysis$ the ethical le"el$ promoted
history as a 5;ey to action6 and emphasiFed the po0er of indi"iduals to gi"e meaning to
their o0n e9istence: Kissinger reflected these le"els of historical analysis in the structure
of his thesis$ 0hich he di"ided into sections titled 5History as %ntuition$6 analyFing the
philosophy of Gs0ald Spengler$ 5History as an Empirical1Science$6 analyFing the
philosophy of Arnold Toyn(ee$5History and Man's E9perience of Morality$6 in 0hich he
contemplated Kant's categorical imperati"e$ and 5The Sense of &esponsi(ility$6 in 0hich
he made his o0n conclusions concerning meaning in history: His definition of the le"els
of historical analysis and the corresponding sections of his thesis re"ealed a tension in
thought that he 0ould deal 0ith throughout his career as (oth a scholar and a
policyma;er: %n this thesis and in later 0or;s$ he aimed to pro"e the efficacy of the
ethical le"el of historical analysis$ 0hich opposed the institutions of (ureaucracy and the
creation of policy through an empirical approach:
%n 5History as an Empirical1Science$6 Kissinger put forth an argument against the
empirical approach to history: He claimed that empiricists attempted to employ an
accumulation of ;no0ledge to find meaning in history$ neglecting the crucial dimension
of the human spirit: As e9ternal reality is more than meets the eye and each indi"idual
constructs his o0n "ision of this reality$ so an empirical approach could not grasp all of
the elements that compose meaning in history:
History is not only the flo0 of time$ (ut
the composite of human interaction$ and thus the study of history should in"ol"e not only
an analysis of the e9ternal dimension of human (eha"ior$ (ut also a portrait of the in0ard
dimension of humanity: ecause man is not solely a thin;ing (eing$ the essence of
human nature and therefore the meaning of history$ cannot (e defined (y reason$ science$
and empirical studies:
Kissinger's distaste for empiricism re"ealed a (rea; 0ith realist thought: His
philosophy esche0ed the immediate importance of e9ternal reality (y insisting that
meaning transcended ;no0ledge and history transcended facts: He yearned for another
dimension to historical analysis that 0ould incorporate an element of human spirituality$
4 Henry A: Kissinger$ 5The Meaning of History: &eflections on Spengler$ Toyn(ee and Kant6
B!ndergraduate honors thesis$ Har"ard !ni"ersity$ ,2@+C$ 3:
0riting that a focus on e9ternal reality could 5ne"er satisfy the totality of man's desire for
An understanding of the meaning of history$ and therefore the potential for
freedom and purposeful human action$ 0ould not focus on studies of concrete data or
historical e"ents$ (ut 0ould rather 5grasp of the totality of life$ instead of 7ust its

Kissinger's argument against empiricism formed the foundation for his criticism
of modern policy1ma;ing systems: %n 5The Meaning of History$6 he (riefly touched on
the connection (et0een his personal philosophy and the modern American political
system (y condemning political scientists for trying to find technical solutions to 5matters
of the soul6 and insisting that (ecause o(7ecti"e ;no0ledge is limited and cannot create
purpose or 5relie"e man from his ultimate responsi(ility$ from gi"ing his o0n meaning to
life$6 policy1ma;ers must also create policy as a reflection of an in0ard e9perience
through the pro7ection of a nation's purpose and long1term goals:
These criticisms
re"ealed a strain of idealism in Kissinger's (elief system$ and fell far from the typical
definition of realism: His emphasis on the necessity of the in0ard e9perience 0ould later
lead him to ma;e similar claims 0hen criticiFing American foreign policy during the
-old .ar: His argument that American statesmen did not fully grasp the conse'uences of
their actions (y contemplating ho0 they related to their "isions of the future lin;ed (ac;
to his emphasis on the concept of con7ecture and the futility of empiricism in 5The
Meaning of History:6
Kissinger o"ercame the limits of empiricism (y gi"ing agency to the indi"idual
2 %(id:$ **:
,+ %(id:$ ,,:
,, %(id:$ >?,1>?*:
and the in0ard dimension in the study of history: He (elie"ed that (ecause each action is
accomplished 0ith the con"iction of an indi"idual personality$ each person imposes their
o0n meaning on history through their actions: %n order to understand history$ one must
peer into the in0ard realm of humanity: Kissinger depicted this in0ard realm or 5in0ard
e9perience6 as the crucial part of the 5moments in e"ery person's life$ 0hen the tensions
fall a0ay and the unity of all creation appears as a sudden "ision: These are the
occasions 0hen time stands still and man parta;es of eternity:6
His ac;no0ledgment of
the superiority of spirituality o"er matter$ that 5matter can defeat only those 0ho ha"e no
spirituality to impart to it$6 reinforced the spiritual dimension of his 0orld"ie0:
defined human;ind's a(ility to transcend the e9ternal reality through an in0ard
e9perience as the re'uirement for the recognition of (oth freedom and limits:
Gne crucial pro(lem 0ith Kissinger's philosophy is that this in0ard e9perience
cannot (e easily defined or descri(ed: The in0ard e9perience can only appro9imate
definition through a study (y analogy of o(7ects that 5utiliFe the infinite as a foil$6 such
as poetry$ physics$ or astronomy:
Kissinger's "agueness made it difficult or e"en
impossi(le to follo0 his personal philosophy or implement his "ersion of historical
analysis: The am(iguity of his ideas further underscored the idealistic strain in his
philosophy for its lac; of realistic possi(ilities:
Although Kissinger placed great importance on the in0ard e9perience$ he did not
intend it to dictate all meaning in history: %n 5History as %ntuition$6 Kissinger found that
an o"eremphasis of the concept of intuiti"e perception 0ould muddle meaning in history
,* %(id:$ >*?:
,> %(id:$ >>>:
,? %(id:$ *?2:
7ust as much as it 0ould illuminate it: An im(alanced focus on intuition and the internal
e9perience could only (e as percepti"e and 7ust as lac;ing as empiricism: Kissinger
sought a layering of the t0o$ a reconciliation that 0ould allo0 him (oth a study of the
nature of the human spirit as 0ell as an analysis of human action o"er time that 0ould
represent a (alance (et0een facts and intuition$ the real and the ideal: He found this
reconciliation (y encouraging indi"iduals to act purposefully in the e9ternal reality as a
reflection of their in0ard state:
Kissinger's "ie0 of morality stemmed from this reconciliation of freedom and
necessity: 5&esignation as to the purpose of the uni"erse ser"es as the first step to0ards
ethical acti"ity$6 he 0rote$ 5and the realiFation ensues that the meaning of history is not
confined to its mere manifestations and that no causal analysis can a(sol"e Man from
gi"ing his o0n content to his o0n e9istence:6
This meant that Kissinger's definition of
ethics and morality depended first on the recognition of limits$ and second on one's
responsi(ility to use one's freedom to gi"e meaning to his or her actions: ecause his
idea of morality stemmed from the product of the in0ard e9perience$ Kissinger's
definition of moral la0 could only (e found in0ardly$ not in e9ternal reality$ and held
indi"iduals accounta(le for ta;ing part in history and recogniFing the impact of their
actions on the flo0 of history through "ision and con7ecture:
Kissinger's definition of morality ga"e agency to the indi"idual and presented an
optimistic "ie0 of human nature: ecause his "ision of morality deri"ed from the in0ard
e9perience$ 5each man is (oth su(7ect and legislator6 of his morals and ideals: The la0
that ;ept man's o0n definition of morals in chec;$ then$ 0as a recognition of limits:
,@ %(id:$ ,?:
Kissinger ga"e the e9ample of the oracle of #elphi's ad"ice 5Kno0 thyself6 to mean
5Kno0 that you are a man and not God:6
.hen man e9periences in0ard transcendence$
he also recogniFes that he is only a small part of a (igger picture: This leads to tolerance$
the recognition of others' indi"iduality$ and morality:
Kissinger's definition of freedom 0as rooted in the recognition of the limits of
humanity and of the ephemeral nature of life: He claimed that morality could only (e
found through this ac;no0ledgment of freedom 0ithin limits: ecause man is not God$
limits are essential: Man can only triumph$ or e9perience true freedom$ through the
process of an in0ard e9perience$ for 5peace is not an e9ternal state of things$6 (ut an
in0ard reconciliation of limits and freedom:
Kissinger concluded that the acceptance of
one's limits 0as the only 0ay to achie"e (oth freedom and morality:
Kissinger's idea of tolerance as an ans0er to the pro(lem of ethics re"ealed an
almost (lindly optimistic "ie0 of human nature: He defined the pro(lem of ethics as 5the
reconciliation of an ultimate$ (ut personal$ "ision 0ith uni"ersal applica(ility:6
solution to this pro(lem 0as that a recognition of limits 0ould lead to tolerance for others
and compromise conflicting "isions: He 0ould later pro"ide the same ans0er for the
pro(lem of conflicting national "isions in international relations (y insisting that only
through a peaceful ad7ustment of national "isions could the international structure remain
(oth sta(le and legitimate: .hile he did recogniFe that 5differences (et0een ideologies or
political systems or indi"iduals may (e so fundamental as to (e un(ridgea(le$6 he ga"e
no other alternati"e for a resolution of conflict or guide to ethics:

,3 %(id:$ *3:
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Kissinger portrayed his reconciliation of the parado9 of limits and freedom not as
a passi"e acceptance of fate (ut an acti"e realiFation of limits that ga"e po0er to the
indi"idual and portrayed optimism for man;ind's a(ility to accept this responsi(ility:
According to his philosophy$ 0ithout the recognition of limits one could not truly (e free$
for freedom is to ;no0 one's potential and fulfill it: Freedom ena(les humanity to (oldly
confront the unending flo0 of history and the limits of mortality (y pro"iding man;ind
0ith choice to use the resources in the physical reality to construct its "ision in the
e9ternal en"ironment: Man;ind's freedom ena(les it to change the direction of e"ents
through "ision and action: Actions that 0ill seem in the future to ha"e (een an ine"ita(le
and irre"ersi(le chain of e"ents are really actions that 0ere accomplished 0ith the
freedom of choice and intentional purpose: y presenting purposeful choice as the
ans0er to the parado9 of freedom and necessity$ Kissinger displayed an optimistic "ie0
of the po0er of indi"idual action and the potential of human;ind to construct in reality its
internal "isions despite the limits of time and mortality:
Kissinger's emphasis on purpose 0as part of his reconciliation of necessity and
freedom: He defined purpose as the reflection of a soul's tas;s to (e completed 0hich
can 5descri(e the immanence of a soul$ the "isions that man imparts to his determined
surroundings$ the hopes 0hich condition acti"ity$ the dreams 0hich ma;e life possi(le:6

Purposes are the e"idence of a transcendent e9perience and illuminate the meaning of
history outside of causal e"ents: ecause they are the indi"idual's imposition of him or
herself on e"ents$ purposes also represented Kissinger's definition of meaning in history:
Kissinger assumed that 0ithout the "isions$ hopes$ and dreams that allo0 the soul to
*+ %(id:$ >*>1>*?:
e9press its freedom through action in the ine"ita(le flo0 of history$ life 0ould (e
meaningless: His reconciliation again trusted man;ind 0ith the responsi(ility to create
its o0n meaning in history:
%n the conte9t of a nation$ as he 0ould e9pand upon in his later 0or;s$ Kissinger
defined purpose as the need for a nation to loo; in0ard to find its o0n "alues and "isions
for the future and to reflect this out0ard (y imposing its purposes through action and
choice: y reflecting on its purpose$ a nation contemplates long1term policies$
considering 0hether or not each immediate action 0ill aid the achie"ement of these long1
term goals: .ithout an in0ard reflection on its purpose$ the choices of a nation are
inconsistent and lac; an underlying strategic "ision and con7ecture of conse'uences:
Kissinger 0ould later ela(orate on this concept (y condemning the American nation for a
lac; of purpose in its actions: %n this thesis$ ho0e"er$ he focused on the definitions of
these concepts:
His concluding section$ entitled 5A -lue from Poetry$6 reenforced Kissinger's
optimism for human nature and the importance he placed on indi"idual freedom and
action: Kissinger's definition of poetry as an e9pression of the in0ard state further
illuminated his assertion that meaning is found 0ithin man$ not in e9ternal e"ents:
5Poetry is truer than history$6 he 'uoted Aristotle: To Kissinger$ this meant the hopes of
man em(edded in poetry sho0 more a(out human nature than historical fact: Poetry
encapsulates the most central elements of Kissinger's philosophy of history: %t 5testifies
to humanity's longing in the face of the fatedness of e9istence$ to the uni'ue 0hich each
man imparts to his determined surrounding: Poetry is truer than history for it e9hi(its the
spirituality 0ith 0hich man meets the ine9ora(ility of e"ents:6
.ithin this statement$
Kissinger re"ealed the essence of his 0orld"ie0: (oth tragic and optimistic$ it implied
that human;ind is helpless in a uni"erse (ound (y time and in a nature fated to mortality$
0hile simultaneously gi"ing human;ind the ultimate po0er of choice and the freedom to
determine the direction of its steps on the path of history:
Kissinger used tragedy and mythology$ a fre'uent topic in poetry$ to e9press his
fascination 0ith man;ind's struggle to0ards its ideals: Tragedy in itself (ecame
representati"e of an ideal$ a reminder of the process of stri"ing: 5Mythology$ ho0e"er$
descri(es an inner state$ not an o(7ecti"e condition$6 he 0rote$ 5it represents man's
attempt to apprehend the fatedness of life and in that recognition of necessity to transcend
it: %t e9presses humanity's hope and not its actualiFation$ man's creati"e essence not the
material conditions of success:6
Kissinger considered tragedy to (e a(out an in0ard
struggle$ the recognition of choice and freedom$ creati"ity and personality$ and a(ility
and action in the face of limits: %n their concentrations on human stri"ing$ mythology$
tragedy$ and poetry represented the essence of human nature and thus the essence of
Kissinger's emphasis on the po0er of stri"ing to0ards ideals related to his
insistence that peace is found in the in0ard e9perience: He descri(ed the importance of
stri"ing for 5certain goals$ not dependent on immediate success6 0ith the story of #on
Jui9ote: %deals are to humanity as )ady #ulcinea 0as to #on Jui9ote$ 5the moti"e1force
of his acti"ity$ the sym(ol of that purity for 0hich alone the dream of the Golden Age
*, %(id:$ >>+:
** %(id:$ *@3:
(ecomes 0orth0hile:6 The aspirations of humanity are$ therefore$ a part of the pursuit of
peace: ut out0ard peace is not an attaina(le goal<the true achie"ement is in0ard
peace$ 0hich is an ac;no0ledgment of limits and the recognition of freedom 0ithin
necessity: 5E"ery indi"idual has his #ulcinea or eatrice and (ecomes a #on Jui9ote in
the hopes of his creati"ity$6 Kissinger e9plained: 5Gnly he must learn that the Golden
Age is the state of a soul$ not in the first instance to (e deri"ed from the physical
Kissinger insisted that one must find peace in0ardly$ not through the o(7ecti"e
reality: His (elief that this 0as achie"a(le for humanity again re"ealed an element of
idealism in his 0orld"ie0:
His emphasis on the po0er of the indi"idual further supports the idea that
Kissinger held an optimistic 0orld"ie0: He 'uoted Gli"er .endell Holmes to more
"i"idly e9plain his concept of indi"iduality and the in0ard e9perience: 5T0enty men of
genius loo;ing out of the same 0indo0 0ill paint t0enty can"asses each unli;e all the
others:6 %n these 0ords$ Holmes captured Kissinger's idea that indi"iduals impose
purpose on the e9ternal reality to reflect the purpose found in their personal in0ard
e9perience: Holmes 0ent on to say that 5the (est ser"ice 0e can do for our country and
for oursel"es HisI: To see as far as one may and to feel the great forces (ehind e"ery detail
<for that ma;es all the difference (et0een philosophy and gossip$ (et0een great action
and small:6
Holmes' 0ords again depicted the concept of Kissinger's in0ard e9perience
and emphasiFed the po0er (ehind purposeful action:
Kissinger's conclusions re"ealed a reconciliation of idealism and tragedy that
*> %(id:$ *@31*@A:
*? %(id:$ >??:
resulted in an optimistic "ie0 of human nature: He 'uoted .hitehead in the last lines of
his thesis$ precisely descri(ing the essence of his philosophy: 5As soon as high
consciousness is reached$ the en7oyment of e9istence is ent0ined 0ith pain$ frustration$
loss$ tragedy: Amid the passing of so much (eauty$ so much heroism$ so much daring$
Peace is then the intuition of permanence: %t ;eeps "i"id the sensiti"eness to the tragedyE
and it sees the tragedy as a li"ing agent persuading the 0orld to aim at fineness (eyond
the faded le"el of surrounding fact: Each tragedy is the disclosure of an ideal: 1 .hat
might ha"e (een and 0hat 0as not: .hat can (e: The tragedy 0as not in "ain: This
sur"i"al po0er in moti"e force mar;s the difference (et0een the tragic e"il and the gross
e"il: The inner feeling (elonging to this grasp of the ser"ice of tragedy is Peace K the
purification of emotions:6
.hitehead's 0ords suggest that Kissinger "ie0ed tragedies
not in the common sense$ (ut as the essence of stri"ing for ideals: The 5ser"ice of
tragedy$6 then$ 0as to help humanity to understand that all indi"iduals are part of the
tragedy of mortality$ (ut in ma;ing peace 0ith limits they could fulfill their ultimate
potential through the freedom of choice and action:
Kissinger's philosophy as he articulated it in 5The Meaning of History6 displayed
his (elief in the a(ility of humanity to impart its o0n meaning on history: !ltimately$
Kissinger ac;no0ledged that (ecause each indi"idual acts (ased on his or her o0n
in0ard e9perience$ humanity is unpredicta(le: Historians cannot assume human nature to
(e greedy or gi"ing$ acti"e or passi"e: As 5man must act and each action represents his
(iography$6 each indi"idual shapes the 0orld in a different 0ay:
.hile many realists
*@ %(id:$ >?2:
*3 %(id:$ *@4:
and idealists assume a uniform "ie0 of human nature$ human;ind cannot (e assumed to
act in a pattern (ecause there is no e'uation to predict its actions: This is ho0 Kissinger
reconciled the t0o schools of thought in personal philosophy: he ac;no0ledged the
indi"iduality 0ithin humanity$ and accepted the notion of freedom of action and purpose
0ithin the realistic limits of mortality and human nature: This made Kissinger's
0orld"ie0 (oth optimistic and tragic$ realistic and idealistic:
These philosophical ideas remained deeply ingrained in Kissinger's 0orld"ie0$ as
they (ecame the foundation for his graduate dissertation$ A World Restored: %n A World
Restored$ he played upon the concept of indi"idual action and choice (y employing the
historical figures Prince Metternich and )ord -astlereagh as a physical dichotomy
representing the dichotomy of realism and idealism: His use of these philosophical ideas
as an interpreti"e frame0or; to impose on a historical topic suggests their importance to
his 0orld"ie0 and lends credence to the argument that the ideas he articulated in this
undergraduate thesis composed his personal philosophy:
Although 5The Meaning of History6 is not specifically a(out foreign policy$ it is
the intellectual foundation upon 0hich Kissinger 0ould (oth 0rite and act as a scholar
and policyma;er: He 0ould continue to employ the language of purpose$ creati"ity$ and
"ision that he formed in this thesis as a scholar and policyma;er: These ideas so
fundamentally shaped his outloo; on foreign policy that he 0ould often repeat them
"er(atim in many of his pu(lications in the hopes that they 0ould influence the e9isting
policy1ma;ing structure: He 0ould e"en go on as an ad"isor to president =ohn F:
Kennedy to 0ea"e the essence of these ideas into his policy suggestions and criti'ues:
.hile historians often categoriFe Kissinger as a disciple of &ealpoliti;$ 5The
Meaning of History6 suggests that traditional political realism influenced his 0orld"ie0
much less than philosophical idealism: His em(race of an idealistic "ision of human
nature pointed to a more nuanced 0orld"ie0 0hich recogniFed that an o"eremphasis on
realism$ pragmatism$ or empiricism 0ould result in conclusions 7ust as (lind as
utopianism: y la(eling realists as merely 5dreamers 0ith materialistic hopes$6
Kissinger reconciled the constructs realism and idealism in his personal philosophy:
sought to ta;e his 0orld"ie0 one step further than either of these perspecti"es through an
emphasis on the po0er of human indi"iduality 0ithin the frame0or; of limits:
.hile Kissinger's philosophy may or may not ha"e represented a "alid
interpretation of history or the musings of a confused soul$ the interpreti"e frame0or;
outlined in 5The Meaning of History6 0ould go on to (ecome the map 0hich guided him
throughout his studies as a scholar and his 0or; as a policy1ma;er: He used this
philosophy to na"igate the early -old .ar 0orld in 0ay that separated him from his
colleagues: This 0orld"ie0 sho0ed that he (elie"ed that morality$ ideals$ creati"ity$
freedom of action$ hope$ spirituality$ and purpose had a place in policy$ for he defined
politics in the same 0ay he defined life and history<as the composite of the multiple
dimensions of human nature:
*A %(id:$ >?*:
Chapter Two
Ideals and Statesmanship:
Kissinger's Philosophy of Statesmanship
Kissinger's personal philosophy as he e9pressed it in 5The Meaning of History6
translated easily to his philosophy of statesmanship: His most prominent 0or; on
statesmanship 0as his graduate dissertation$ A World Restored: Ho0e"er$ many of his
ideas of statesmanship first appeared in 5The Meaning of History:6 These ideas
translated his philosophy of indi"idual action to statesmanship$ gi"ing 0eight to the
importance of the "isions$ purposes$ and actions of statesmen: His portrayal of
statesmanship in this 0or; depicted statesmen as creati"e indi"iduals 0ith the authority
to guide their nations through an almost di"ine inspiration: These indi"iduals appeared
infre'uently in history$ (ut created e9traordinary change and inno"ation 0ithin their
societies: They represented the essence of progress$ the 5lea"en 0hich gal"aniFes society
into creati"ity6 and mo"ement for0ard in history through their "ision and action:
Kissinger presented the statesman's a(ility to see (eyond the present reality as the
elements of intuition and inspiration$ 0hich ena(led statesmen to en"ision the future they
0anted to create: %ntuition$ he 0rote$ allo0ed statesmen to understand the
interrelatedness of e"ents$ the 5ma7estic unfolding6 of history: Through his intuition$ the
statesman 0as connected to the 5e9tended$6 a realm transcending the natural 0orld and
seen only through the mindLs eye: This connection permitted the statesman to step (ac;
*4 Henry A: Kissinger$ 5The Meaning of History: &eflections on Spengler$ Toyn(ee and Kant6
B!ndergraduate honors thesis$ Har"ard !ni"ersity$ ,2@+C$ ,A3:
and "ie0 the mechanics of time and the 0or;ings of history:
This state of reflection$
much li;e the in0ard e9perience$ ga"e the statesman a more concrete understanding for
the creation of a strategy to reach his long1term goals:
Kissinger fre'uently compared the great statesman to the masterful artist in order
to emphasiFe the necessity of "ision and inspiration in statesmanship: The statesman
shared an acute perception of destiny and intuition 0ith the artist$ as destiny 5is felt (y
the great artist in his moment of contemplation$ it is em(odied (y the statesman in
The artist senses destiny as he en"isions his masterpiece: He feels the pull of
something un0orldly$ sees 0hat does not e9ist in reality$ and ;no0s the shape of 0hat he
0ill create (efore he creates it: The artist uses inspiration to en"ision his ne9t series of
mo"es and to concei"e of the form that 0ill result from his actions: He can translate his
"ision onto paper$ into mar(le$ or upon the 0alls of the Sistine -hapel:
%n the same 0ay the artist ;no0s destiny in his moment of inspiration$ the
statesman em(odies destiny through his actions: !nli;e the artist$ ho0e"er$ he does not
ha"e precise control o"er his medium: The statesmanLs art is the construction of policyE
his tas; is to sculpt the international structure and the destination of history through his
policies: The statesman is the mode through 0hich history unfoldsE he is destinyLs
middleman: He contemplates the interrelatedness of e"ents and the underlying current of
destiny (efore he ma;es decisions$ transforming his intuition of destiny into reality
through action: ut as Michelangelo car"ed the struggle of his soul$ his 5yearning for
infinity6 into stone$ the statesman struggles to transcend the inertia of his circumstances:
*2 %(id:$ ,@:
>+ %(id:$ >3:
He 0or;s to translate his "ision of the international structure into a policy that can (e
implemented in reality:

KissingerLs depiction of the great statesman em(odied the intuition and
inspiration of the artist$ (ut also represented a person 0ho percei"ed the 0orld as a poet:
The great statesman 0ould see the e"ents of history as a unified "ision in the same 0ay a
poet grasps the essence of a moment: The statesman understood the relationships
(et0een occurrences and comprehended the danger of 7udging each e"ent 0ithout
ac;no0ledging its past and future connections: His encompassing "ision ;ept him from
(ecoming shortsighted and entangled in details: Kissinger 0rote that 5the ultimate
mysteries of life are perhaps not approacha(le (y dissection6 in the 0ay that a scientist
0ould analyFe e"ents$ 5(ut may re'uire the poetLs "ie0 0ho grasps the unity of life$
0hich is greater than any$ ho0e"er painsta;ing analysis of its manifestations:6
statesman grasped this unity in his "ision of the future$ and sought to implement his
"ision through a plan of action that ac;no0ledged the deeper pattern of e"ents: &ather
than sol"ing pro(lems as they arose$ he 0ould create a structure to pre"ent these
pro(lems: The statesmanLs understanding of the interrelatedness of e"ents allo0ed him to
en"ision the conse'uences of his actions and ma;e decisions 0ith confidence$ t0o
important elements of Kissinger's philosophy of the indi"idual:
Kissinger "ie0ed the statesmanLs greatest struggle as articulating his "ision in a
0ay that the pu(lic could understand it: This made politics the 5eternal conflict (et0een
(lood and concept$6 the tas; of interpreting an intangi(le "ision to those in the physical
>, %(id:$ >2$A>:
>* %(id:$ ,*:
ecause the statesmanLs "ision could not (e directly discerned (y or translated to
his domestic supporters$ this struggle 0as often the cause of the statesmanLs tragic fate:
Most importantly$ it represented the struggle (et0een the intangi(le and the physical
reality$ the necessity of transcending circumstances through (oth "ision and action: )i;e
Kissinger's philosophy of the indi"idual$ Kissinger's philosophy of statesmanship made
"ision and action imperati"e and insepara(le:
ecause Kissinger's ideal statesman had an acute intuition and ;een a(ility to see
a deeper pattern in e"ents$ he acted as a (ridge (et0een his people and the un;no0n:
Kissinger's use of this (ridge image again represented his call for transcendence<a
(ridge allo0s people to 0al; across the un0al;a(le$ to tra"el to places they other0ise
could not: A statesman ena(led his countrymen to transcend their present circumstances
into their imagined future through his "ision and action: He (ridged the chasm (et0een
the present and the seemingly unreacha(le ideals of the future through a "ision that
incorporated his understanding of the interrelatedness of e"ents in a strategy that 0ould
ena(le him to create this "ision of the future into reality:
The pro(lem 0ith the statesman's duty to act as a (ridge and "isionary 0as that
the significance of his ideas 0as often only recogniFed in retrospect: The statesman
ris;ed li"ing misunderstood and dying 0ith his greatness unrecogniFed:
'uoted Gtto "on ismarc; to e9emplify the anguished life of a statesman as that of 5a
fallen angel 0ho is (eautiful (ut 0ithout peace$ great in his conceptions and e9ertions (ut
0ithout success$ proud and lonely:6
These lines illuminate ho0 Kissinger "ie0ed the
>> %(id:$ 2+E *2+1*2,:
>? Henry A: Kissinger$ 5&eflections on American #iplomacy$6 !oreign Affairs >@$ no: , BGcto(er ,2@3C:
>@ Henry A: Kissinger$ 5The .hite &e"olutionary: &eflections on ismarc;$6 )aedalus 2A$ no: > BSummer
(urden of statesmanship and the tragedy that characteriFed the statesmanLs life:
The tragedy inherent in statesmanship 0as insepara(le from the success of
statesmanship: Statesmen could not predict the future or fully ;no0 the conse'uences of
their actions: Much li;e Kissinger's philosophy of the indi"idual$ 0hich emphasiFed the
possi(ilities of freedom 0ithin the tragedy of limits$ Kissinger's philosophy of
statesmanship ac;no0ledged the impossi(ility of fully succeeding in the statesman's tas;:
!ltimately the statesman could only 0or; 0ith the materials he had$ and to Kissinger the
effort 0as more important than anything else: He "ie0ed the statesman's tas; in the same
0ay that he sa0 humanity's struggle to0ards its ideals as more important than the
fulfillment of those ideals:
Kissinger further defined his philosophy of statesmanship (y contrasting the
statesman to the philosopher and the prophet in his studies of nineteenth century
statesmen: Kissinger sa0 the statesman as neither a philosopher nor a prophet$ (ut as his
o0n species: The statesman had the intuition of an artist$ the soul of a poet$ and the
responsi(ility of a politician: He 0ould prefer to contemplate truth li;e the philosopher$
(ut instead had to implement it:
The statesmanLs (urden 0as greater than that of (oth
the philosopher and the prophet: he needed not only to contemplate$ (ut to create: He did
not di"ine a "ision of the future in the 0ay that a prophet 0ould$ (ut 0as struc; 0ith
inspiration to create a "ision of the future in his imagination and to construct it in reality:
The statesman$ philosopher$ and prophet all loo;ed to the future$ (ut the statesman
pursued his opportunities in the present: He sought to influence his circumstances
,234C: 2**:
>3 Henry A: Kissinger$ 5The -onser"ati"e #ilemma: &eflections on the Political Thought of Metternich$6
'he A$erican Political cience Re*ie+ ?4$ no: ? B#ecem(er ,2@?C: ,+**:
through a "ision of the 0orld he 0ished to (ring a(out$ 0hich 0ould animate him to
He 0as concerned 0ith the possi(leE the prophet and philosopher 0ere only
concerned 0ith 0hat 0as 5true:6 This contrast again re"ealed Kissinger's common theme
of struggling to0ards ideals 0ithin limits: The prophet and philosopher's ideal 0as
5truth6 in its purest essenceE the statesman could only attain 5truth6 0ithin the physical
reality: He had to 0or; 0ith the materials at hand$ struggling to reach his ideals and
come as close to his "ersion of 5truth6 as he could 0ithin the limits of his reality:
Kissinger 0rote his graduate dissertation$ A World Restored$ as a historical
account of the statesmanship of t0o nineteenth century European statesmen$ )ord
-astlereagh of ritain and Prince Metternich of Austria: These t0o men 0or;ed together
to re(uild the structure of Europe follo0ing the re"olution of 8apoleon: Kissinger had
t0o aims in conducting this pro7ect: Gne 0as to ta;e a0ay lessons from this
re"olutionary point in history that politicians could selecti"ely apply to the -old .ar: He
often e'uated re"olutionary France 0ith the So"iet !nion and uncommitted nineteenth1
century ritain 0ith t0entieth1century !nited States: He sa0 Metternich's statesmanship
as 5continental statesmanship$6 0hich approached relations on the continent 0ith the idea
that Austria$ a nation in the middle of the European continent$ 0ould (e greatly
influenced (y the su(stance of continental decisions: %n contrast$ -astlereagh at first
approached the situation through 5insular statesmanship$6 hoping only to sta(iliFe
relations on the continent so that ritain 0ould not ha"e to inter"ene: The actual
>A Henry A: Kissinger$ A World Restored, Metternich# %astlereagh# and the Pro-le$s of Peace# ./.0100
Boston: Houghton Mifflin$ ,2A>C$ 2+,:
su(stance of the agreement did not matter much to -astlereagh$ as long as the situation
did not threaten ritish security: Metternich e"entually persuaded -astlereagh to see
matters through the continental perspecti"e$ ensuring him that continental affairs 0ould$
in the long run$ al0ays affect ritish security: .ith this ne0 perspecti"e$ -astlereagh
created a fantastic "ision of ritish participation in continental affairs: The ritish
people$ ho0e"er$ did not ha"e the same transformation of "ision as -astlereagh and
0ould not accept his attempts to tie ritain to continental affairs$ despite -astlereagh's
assurances that he 0as securing ritain's long1term 0ell1(eing:
Many historians ha"e approached an analysis of A World Restored (y focusing on
the contrast (et0een -astlereagh and Metternich's statesmanship as that (et0een the
5insular6 and 5continental6 perspecti"es: %nstead$ % 0ill interpret the t0o characters using
concepts Kissinger first articulated in 5The Meaning of History6 that 0ere integral to his
personal philosophy:
For e9ample$ in A World Restored$ Kissinger interpreted the
character of Metternich to represent not only continental statesmanship$ (ut also the
negati"e influence of empiricism on the formation of policy: .hile many historians
portray Metternich as Kissinger's nineteenth1century 5hero$6 they are missing the
fundamental message of A World Restored: This account of the creation of a lasting
peace in Europe is meant not only as an e9ample of the creation of a structure of peace$
(ut also the fla0s in this particular structure: Although Metternich succeeded in
esta(lishing a structure of peace$ he did not sol"e the underlying pro(lems that made the
structure necessary:
>4 For ela(oration on this contrast$ see Gregory #: -le"a$ Henry Kissinger and the A$erican approach to
foreign policy Buc;nell !ni"ersity Press$ ,242C:
.hile Kissinger presented Metternich as an empiricist$ he depicted Metternich's
ritish counterpart$ -astlereagh$ as an idealist: .here Metternich lac;ed "ision$
-astlereagh clung to his "ision so tightly that he failed to ta;e into account the force of an
opposing pu(lic opinion: y sho0ing ho0 (oth of these approaches failed$ Kissinger
underscores that neither e9treme is the ans0er as an approach to international relations:
%nstead$ A World Restored promoted Kissinger's o0n (rand of creati"e realism$
highlighting the importance of long1term ideals achie"ed through the specific steps of a
constructed program:
%n addition to (eing a 0or; of history and political theory$ Kissinger's second aim
for A World Restored 0as to produce a 0ell thought out e9planation of his personal
philosophy: He used the historical frame0or; of nineteenth century Europe to more
concretely sho0 the reasoning (ehind his philosophy: Kissinger's in1depth analysis of
-astlereagh and Metternich and their nations led him to conclude that (oth approaches to
international relations 0ere too e9treme and failed in the long run: y sho0ing the
failure of the t0o statesmen$ he in turn ad"ocated a reconciliation of the their approaches
to foreign policy: This reconciliation suggested reaching for ideals in realistic steps
through the use of (ureaucracy for e"eryday tas;s and the employment of creati"e
leadership for more comple9 situations$ in essence the same conclusions he made in 5The
Meaning of History:6
Kissinger's criticisms of Metternich had much to do 0ith Metternich's lac; of
underlying purpose$ an important theme in 5The Meaning of History:6 5He 0as a &ococo
figure$6 Kissinger 0rote$ 5comple9$ finely car"ed$ all surface$ li;e an intricately cut
prism: His face 0as delicate (ut 0ithout depth$ his con"ersation (rilliant (ut 0ithout
ultimate seriousness:6 This meant that Metternich's actions lac;ed a deeper purposeE they
did not represent a "ision of the future or foresee opportunities in the un;no0n:

Metternich fought "igorously to maintain the status 'uo in Europe and to prolong the
sta(ility of the Austrian empire: %n order to do this$ he played the politics of Europe as a
chess game$ (asing his decisions on the s;ill of his maneu"ers and faith in his a(ility to
manipulate his ad"ersaries: Det this method did not 0or; in a (attle 0ith re"olutionaries$
as Metternich soon realiFed: He emphasiFed the futility of his rationality 0hen he
descri(ed communicating 0ith 8apoleon 5as if at a game of chess$ carefully 0atching
each otherE % to chec;mate him$ he to crush me together 0ith the chess figures:6

Kissinger$ too$ understood that 0ithout an underlying purpose$ Metternich's policy 5for
all its intricate su(tlety:::0as as fragile as a spider's 0e($ as ephemeral as a house of

These s;ills of manipulation and maneu"er 0ould typically (e the strengths of a
good realist$ (ut Kissinger interpreted Metternich's s;ills as fla0s (ecause they (linded
him to intuition$ inspiration$ and a(ility to conceptualiFe: MetternichLs 5genius 0as
instrumental$ not creati"eE he e9celled at manipulation$ not construction:6
%nstead of
creating a ne0 reality to fulfill his purposes$ Metternich manipulated his present
circumstances: .hile he could maneu"er tough situations (rilliantly$ his genius in tactics
could not su(stitute for an o"erarching conception of his purpose: He conducted policy
>2 Kissinger$ A World Restored$ 4:
?+ %(id:$ *3:
?, %(id:$ >,+:
?* %(id:$ ,,:
artfully$ (ut did not ha"e the inspiration of an artist: Kissinger called him 5a MscientistL of
politics$ cooly and unemotionally arranging his com(inations:6
He lac;ed the "ision of
possi(ilities and spar; of inspiration that Kissinger held as integral to success:
MetternichLs failure to act 0ith creati"ity and inspiration stemmed from his
ina(ility to conceptualiFe a "ision of the future that 0ould (ecome a ne0 path for the
Austrian empire: 5)ac;ing in Metternich$6 Kissinger 0rote$ 5is the attri(ute 0hich has
ena(led the spirit to transcend an impasse at so many crises of history: the a(ility to
contemplate an a(yss$ not 0ith the detachment of a scientist$ (ut as a challenge to
o"ercome<or to perish in the process: %nstead one finds a (itter1s0eet resignation 0hich
0as not 0ithout its o0n grandeur$ (ut 0hich doomed the statesman6
&ather than
contemplate the un;no0n future (efore him and use its possi(ilities to create a ne0
reality$ Metternich relied on his a(ility to manipulate his circumstances: His
statesmanship (ecame (arren (ecause he could only ponder the circumstances of the
present$ not the possi(ilities of the future: His opportunities 0ithered in the a(sence of an
e9tended "ision:
Kissinger emphasiFed that a successful statesman must loo; (eyond the present
reality through a "ision of the future in order to fulfill his ultimate purpose: MetternichLs
"ision sought the maintenance of the status 'uoE he did not transcend the e9perience of
his society to concei"e of ne0 possi(ilities and opportunities for Austria: He failed to
contemplate the inspiration inside of him or the a(yss in front of him$ to turn the ris;s of
the future into opportunities:
?> %(id:$ >,2:
?? %(id:$ >**:
Kissinger's criticism of Metternich is his indistinguisha(le from his criticism of
empiricism in 5The Meaning of History:6 Metternich sa0 the uni"erse as a 5great
cloc;0or;$6 a mechanism (ased on in"iola(le la0s: He 0ould not reconcile his
insistence on reason and la0 0ith the ne0 re"olutionary nature of the 0orld: He called
himself 5a man of prose and not of poetry$6 and thought that 5one must act cold1
(loodedly (ased on o(ser"ation:6 Metternich's 0ords re"eal that li;e other empiricists$
he neglected the in0ard dimension of human nature: He 0as (lind to the possi(ilities of
humanity that escaped rational la0:

Metternich pursued a policy of the status 'uo for Austria in order to maintain its
status as an empire: ut the status 'uo for Austria 0as the continuation of a form of
go"ernment 0hich lac;ed a progression to0ards long1term goals: Austria 0as
imprisoned$ physically (y the European continent and morally (y its anachronistic
insistence on empire in the emerging age of nationalism: %t needed a leader to transcend
its circumstances through a "ision of ne0 possi(ilities: Det Metternich's leadership
0ould only push Austria to the edge of the presentE he 0ould not act as Austria's (ridge to
the future:
Kissinger disdained Metternich's lac; of the in0ard e9perience he claimed to (e
so important in 5The Meaning of History:6 5There are t0o 0ays of defeating tur(ulence$
(y standing a(o"e it or (y s0imming 0ith the tideE (y principle or (y manipulation$6
Kissinger 0rote:
Metternich chose the latter$ guaranteeing that he 0ould (e relentlessly
maintaining his manipulations and a"erting crises: Kissinger did not appro"e of this type
?@ %(id:$ 21,+:
?3 %(id:$ ,>3:
of unimaginati"e statesmanship:
-omplimenting Kissinger's argument against empiricism in A World Restored 0as
his argument against the Austrian (ureaucracy: He claimed that the Austrian (ureaucracy
0as una(le to deal 0ith the increasing pro(lems of industrialiFation$ nationalism$ and
li(eralism: %t confused success 0ith the management of mediocrity$ rather than the
progression to0ards long1term goals: %t could not push its country through the ne0
re"olutionary era of self1determination and nationalism (ecause it lac;ed an underlying
conception: ureaucracy 5prides itself on o(7ecti"ity 0hich is a denial of the necessity of
great conception6 and lac;ed the depth in "ision and a(ility to impose purpose on actions
of statesmanship:
.hile Metternich lac;ed conception$ he also li"ed during a generation in flu9E his
t0o hands could only do so much to shape the continent of Europe: He succeeded in his
tas; 5to represent his country a(road$ to co"er its 0ea;nesses$ to delay the ine"ita(le as
long as possi(le:6 Det at the same time his diplomacy 0as 5pure manipulation:::that it
lac;ed ultimate stature 0as due as much to the force of circumstances as to the lac; of
creati"ity of Metternich:6 5%n 0hat times ha"e % li"edN6 Metternich 0rote$ 5)et anyone
loo; at the situations:::and let him as; himself 0hether one man's insight could ha"e
transformed these crises into help: % claim to ha"e recogniFed the situation$ (ut also the
impossi(ility to erect a ne0 structure in our Empire:::and for this reason all my care 0as
directed to conser"ing that 0hich e9isted:6 #espite Kissinger's complaints a(out
Metternich's de"iousness$ and his ina(ility to grasp a "ision of the future$ Kissinger also
recogniFed that Metternich had limits: 5History is greater than the indi"idual$6 Kissinger
?A %(id:$ *,+:
0rote$ 5:::the statement also mar;s the limits of Metternich's a(ilities: For statesmen
must (e 7udged not only (y their actions (ut also (y their conception of alternati"es6 The
pro(lem 0as that Metternich did not concei"e of alternati"es:
Metternich 0as too caught up in the "ulnera(ilities of Austria to en"ision the
future possi(ilities of the nation: He 0as$ to use one of Kissinger's fa"orite phrases$ a
5prisoner of circumstances:6 5Metternich 0as a0are not of po0er$ nor of glory$ (ut of
0ea;ness$ of danger$ of impeding disaster:::!n0illing to adapt its domestic structure$
una(le to sur"i"e 0ith it in a century of nationalism$ e"en Austria's most successful
policies amounted to no more than a reprie"e$ to a desperate grasping to commit allies$
not to a 0or; of construction$ (ut to deflect part of the ine"ita(le holocaust:6
could hold his finger in the di;e for only so long: His policies left the underlying
pro(lems unsol"ed: His diplomacy 50as sterile in an era of constant flu9:::.hene"er he
0as forced to create his o0n o(7ecti"es$ there 0as a(out him an aura of futility: ecause
he sought tran'uility in the manipulation of factors he treated as gi"en$ the statesman of
repose (ecame the prisoner of e"ents:::He understood the forces at 0or;:::(ut this
;no0ledge pro"ed of little a"ail$ (ecause he used it almost e9clusi"ely to deflect their
ine9ora(le march$ instead of placing it into his ser"ice for a tas; of construction Thus the
last "estige of the eighteenth century had to pro"e the fallacy of one of the ma9ims of the
Enlightenment$ that ;no0ledge 0as po0er:6
%ndeed$ Metternich's failure illustrated
Kissinger's ultimate claim in 5The Meaning of History6 that ;no0ledge in the form of
empirical facts 0as not enough to understand the 0orld: Multi1dimensional human
?4 %(id:$ *,>:
?2 %(id:$ *4,:
@+ %(id:$ >*>:
action re'uired a more percepti"e understanding of different realities:
Kissinger contrasted s;illful Metternich to a more aloof$ yet more "isionary$
-astlereagh: 5%cy and reser"ed$6 he 0as 5as humanly unapproacha(le as his policy came
to (e incomprehensi(le to the ma7ority of his countrymen:6
-astlereaghLs a0;0ard
personality ;ept him from communicating 0ell$ amplifying his dilemma of possessing an
intuition that transcended the e9perience of his countrymen: 5Moti"ated (y an instinct
al0ays surer than his capacity for e9pression$6 -astlereagh struggled 0ith the ina(ility to
translate his "ision of the future to the pu(lic:
The ritish peopleLs insular conception of
international relations also inhi(ited them from comprehending the importance of
-astlereaghLs conceptions: %nstead of ta;ing the easy 0ay out$ though$ -astlereagh
em(raced the courage to endure the 5tragic isolation of the hero$ 0ho (ecause he cannot
communicate$ must 0al; in solitude:6
This description e"o;es the same tragedy as
ismarc;Ls e9pression of the great statesman as a 5fallen angel6 and con"eys KissingerLs
sympathy for the 5tragic hero:6
.hile -astlereagh had the courage to follo0 his intuition$ he did not ha"e the
domestic support to implement his plans: !nli;e Metternich$ 0ho did not push his "ision
far enough$ -astlereaghLs "ision too far outran the e9perience of his people: His strength
and failure 0as 5the proud assertion of responsi(ility$ not for the mechanical e9ecution of
the popular 0ill$ (ut for the e"aluation of interests not apparent to the multitudeE and the
refusal or ina(ility to influence the pu(lic sentiment:6
His distaste for concessions to
the pu(lic 0as a reflection of his "ie0 of the responsi(ility of a statesman$ 0hich he
@, %(id:$ >+:
@* %(id:$ ,4+:
@> %(id:$ ,*?:
@? %(id:$ ,4>:
defined as the 5gra"e tas; of pro"iding for the peace and security of those interests
immediately committed to his care:6
He did not ma;e decisions (ased on instructions
gi"en to him (y the ritish -a(inet$ (ut in response to the opportunities that presented
themsel"es to him during negotiations:
-astlereagh fulfilled many elements of Kissinger's ideal statesmanship concerning
the use of opportunities and the creation of possi(ilities: Ho0e"er$ his denial of domestic
opinion pre"ented him from ma;ing any use of this conceptual a(ility: 8ot only did he
ignore instructions of the ritish -a(inet$ (ut he also 0ent so far as to "iolate them$
7ustifying his actions on his (elief that the -a(inet supported his (asic "ie0s:
applauded -astlereaghLs courage in transcending the tradition of ritish foreign policy$
(ut recogniFed that -astlereagh failed (ecause of his apathy to0ard pu(lic opinion:
-astlereagh did not allo0 his "ision for ritain to correspond 0ith the ritish peopleLs
"ision of themsel"es:
-astlereaghLs ina(ility to (ridge the chasm (et0een his "ision for ritain and the
ritish historical e9perience led to his ultimate failure in Kissinger's eyes: ecause
Kissinger's definition of statesmanship 0as to (ridge the gap (et0een the future and the
pu(licLs e9perience$ the statesman must act as an educator$ painting his "ision in a 0ay
that the pu(lic can comprehend:
The pu(lic$ ho0e"er$ does not al0ays accept the ris; of
trusting the "ision of its statesmen$ especially if it di"erges from the nationLs tradition:
%n a 0ay$ -astlereagh and ritain (etrayed each other: -astlereagh (etrayed his
countrymen (y "iolating their instructions: ritain (etrayed -astlereagh (y not allo0ing
@@ %(id:$ *22:
@3 %(id:$ ,34:
@A %(id:$ >*2:
him to fulfill his conception of statesmanship: -astlereaghLs e9perience represents the
relentless tension (et0een statesmen and the pu(lic that causes a country to stagnate and
(ecome irrele"ant in the international realm: %f a country and its leaders cannot agree on
a common "ision and goal$ internal chaos 0ill distract them from see;ing to influence
international e"ents: Kissinger condemned (oth -astlereagh and ritain for their failure
to cooperate 0ith each other: Through this situation$ Kissinger sa0 the relationship
(et0een the domestic pu(lic and leadership to (e the ;ey to success in international
relations$ and 0ould later use this lesson to encourage Americans to conceptualiFe 0ith
their statesmen:
Kissinger depicted -astlereaghLs fate as the more tragic of the t0o statesmen:
)i;e Metternich$ -astlereagh resigned from his tas;: Det he did not merely resign from
office$ he also too; his life: .hen he failed to translate his "ision into a policy his
countrymen could comprehend$ -astlereagh felt that he could not fulfill his duty as a
statesman: 5%t is necessary to say good1(ye to Europe$6 -astlereagh said four days (efore
he committed suicide$ 5no one after me understands the affairs of the -ontinent:6
-astlereagh sa0 himself as ritainLs only hope$ the only one 0ho had the foresight to
;eep the country safe: He could not (ear to 0atch it un;no0ingly seal its do0nfall:
Kissinger e9plained his philosophy of history in the conte9t of his study of history
(y as;ing 5.hat then is the role of statesmanshipN A scholarship of social determinism
has reduced the statesman to a le"er on a machine called 'history$' to the agent of a fate
0hich he may dimly discern (ut 0hich he accomplishes regardless of his 0ill: And this
(elief in the per"asi"eness of circumstance and the impotence of the indi"idual e9tends to
@4 %(id:$ >,,:
the notion of policy1ma;ing: Gne hears a great deal a(out the contingency of planning
(ecause of the una"aila(ility of fact$ a(out the difficulty of action (ecause of the
limitation of ;no0ledge::: Ho0e"er 'self1e"ident' the national interest may appear in
retrospect$ contemporaries 0ere oppressed (y the multiplicity of a"aila(le policies$
counseling contradictory courses of action:6 These assertions underscore Kissinger's
emphasis on the importance of indi"idual action and choice: They also sho0 that
Kissinger percei"ed national interest as su(7ecti"e<not empirically calculated: This is
0hy he 0ould later put such emphasis on the need for a national purpose in planning and
.hile Metternich 0as the ultimate realist searching for a legitimiFing principle on
0hich to (ase his 0orld order$ -astlereagh grasped at ideals 0hile his country demanded
realistic interests for 0hich to act: The t0o represented the dichotomy of empiricism
"ersus idealism: The lessons that Kissinger dre0 from the stories of -astlereagh and
Metternich 0ere that each of their approaches to statesmanship and international relations
failed: From these stories Kissinger understood that a statesman should lead to0ards a
"ision of the future$ constantly struggling to create that "ision into reality$ and that the
statesman and domestic pu(lic must 0or; together to0ards these ideals in order to reach
them: He sa0 the need for a middle 0ay (et0een their approaches: This middle 0ay
0as essentially his personal philosophy as defined in 5The Meaning of History6: a
reconciliation of realism and idealism that com(ined the ac;no0ledgment of limits of
0ith the progression to0ards ideals:
Kissinger's application of philosophy to reality did not stop 0ith nineteenth
@2 %(id:$ >*?:
century history: Follo0ing the pu(lication of his dissertation$ Kissinger (egan teaching at
Har"ard !ni"ersity as a professor of Go"ernment$ 0hile also 0riting scholarly (oo;s and
articles a(out contemporary politics: These articles$ many of them harsh criti'ues of the
Eisenho0er and Kennedy administrations$ reflected the themes of "isionary
statesmanship and indi"idual action in 5The Meaning of History6 and A World Restored.
These (oo;s and articles pro"ide further e"idence that Kissinger's personal philosophy
included a reconciliation of realism and idealism$ as 0ell as an optimistic emphasis on
indi"idual "ision and action:
Chapter Three
Ideals and merican !oreign Policy:
Kissinger's Philosophy of "ational Purpose
Kissinger's personal philosophy as articulated in 5The Meaning of History6 and
his historical studies in A World Restored 0ere the foundation of his criti'ues of
American foreign policy as a statesman and later an adi"sor to President =ohn F:
Kennedy's administration: Kissinger "ie0ed policy decisions through the lens of his
personal philosophy$ 0hich led him to criticiFe the lac; of purpose and indi"idual action
0ithin the American policy1ma;ing system: Kissinger's main pro(lems 0ith the
American policy1ma;ing mindset 0ere that it la(eled peace as a static and achie"a(le
aim$ approached pro(lems pragmatically 0ith the certainty of a final solution$ and put off
long1term decisions in fa"or of ad1hoc crisis management: These characteristics stood in
star; contrast to Kissinger's ideal of a creati"e and dynamic policy1ma;ing process
ma;ing progress to0ards a nation's ideals and led (y a "isionary leader rather than a
mediocre (ureaucracy: Kissinger's emphasis on the need for statesmanship focused on
the attainment of American "alues and ideals again re"ealed a strain of optimism 0ithin
his 0orld"ie0 that he 0ould infuse in his policy criti'ues:
Kissinger offered many suggestions to resol"e the pro(lems of American foreign
policy in the -old .ar: He made his opinions and policy suggestions pu(lic in numerous
(oo;s and articles in hopes that they 0ould influence American policy1ma;ers to
approach the creation of policy in a more dynamic 0ay: Four themes appear prominently
in his policy criti'ues: First$ Kissinger encouraged Americans to de"elop a sense of the
tragic in order to sympathiFe 0ith$ and therefore 0or; 0ith$ the rest of the 0orld: %n
addition$ the precariousness of their o0n position as a nuclear po0er in the midst of a
-old .ar called for a more cautious and tragic attitude: Second$ Kissinger emphasiFed
the importance of creati"e leadership$ free from the shac;les of the (ureaucracy$ ad"isers$
and an o"era(undance of data: A release from these shac;les 0ould (roaden the leaders'
spectrum of choices and gi"e them the opportunity to conceptualiFe ne0 paths for the
nation and create inno"ati"e and inspired strategies for the future: Third$ Kissinger
suggested that intellectuals (e incorporated into the policy1ma;ing system in a 0ay that
0ould allo0 them to aid leaders 0ithout losing their o0n creati"ity: They could do this
(y ma;ing sure that leaders 0ere as;ing the right 'uestions in order to get the right
ans0ers: Fourth$ Kissinger called for a clear conception of the nation's purpose and a
translation of this purpose into concrete terms: This 0ould allo0 leaders to create
specific steps to reach these long1term ideals:
Most of Kissinger's criti'ues of American foreign policy stemmed from its
grounding in an insular and e9ceptionalist mindset: The American sense of
e9ceptionalism$ its youthfulness$ and lac; of tragic e9perience ena(led American
statesmen to (elie"e that pro(lems could (e sol"ed 0ith a sufficient application of
;no0ledge: Kissinger associated this mindset 0ith an o"eremphasis on crisis
management$ as policy1ma;ers 0ould 0ait until 5all the facts are in6 to discuss a
pro(lem$ rather than create a strategy for pro(lem1sol"ing in ad"ance to pre"ent crises:
The American reliance on crisis management hindered serious reflection upon long1term
goals and purposes: .hile Americans generally had a sense of 0hat they stood for$ they
refused to define their long1term goals or ha"e a strategy for reaching them: .ithout
goals$ their actions 0ere purposeless: &ather than acting as a stepping stone to0ards the
ultimate ideal$ each epiphenomenal decision had the potential of shifting policy in a
different direction:
Further$ Americans' lac; of tragic e9perience ;ept them from understanding the
conse'uences of their actions and the potential po0er of indi"idual action: The failure to
understand the interrelatedness of e"ents also inhi(ited them from undergoing the process
of con7ecture$ or concei"ing of a "ision of the future$ (ecause they did not understand
ho0 their actions in the present 0ould shape the future: As con7ecture formed a crucial
part of Kissinger's philosophy$ he (lamed many American foreign policy pro(lems on the
ina(ility of its statesmen to concei"e of a "ision of the future and ta;e purposeful steps
to0ards those ideals:
Kissinger attri(uted the pragmatic tradition in American foreign policy partially to
the pre"alence of la0yers and (usinessmen in the policy1ma;ing system: )a0yers and
(usinessmen generally approached pro(lem1sol"ing as a matter of applying ;no0ledge to
form solutions$ rather than understanding the interrelation of e"ents 0ithin the flo0 of
history: These indi"iduals e9celled at sol"ing immediate pro(lems$ (ut their process did
not include a reflection upon the future conse'uences of their decisions: Their focus on
the present also meant that they understood negotiations and agreements 0ith other
nations to (e set in stone as in a la0 or (usiness contract$ and did not al0ays ta;e into
account the futility of rhetoric (et0een heads of state: This assumption opened up
pro(lems 0ith the So"iets$ 0ho 0ould a(use this tendency (y ma;ing promises and not
3+ Henry A: Kissinger$ 5&eflections on -u(a$6 Reporter *A B,23*C: *?:
follo0ing through 0ith them: The (usiness1la0yer types of e9ecuti"es 0ould then
assume they had sol"ed a pro(lem$ (ut 0ould only (e left 0ith empty 0ords:
Kissinger also related the pro(lems of the American tradition of foreign policy to
its reliance on (ureaucracy There 0ere many good reasons to employ a (ureaucracy: For
e9ample$ it 0as e9cellent for dealing 0ith routine or mediocre pro(lems: %f it could
efficiently ta;e care of day1to1day tas;s$ it 0ould free up leaders' time and mental space
and allo0 indi"idual leaders to deal 0ith larger pro(lems: Det instead of ta;ing
ad"antage of these positi"es$ the American (ureaucracy tried to ma;e policy itself:
Kissinger sa0 the spirit of (ureaucracy and the spirit of policy as diametrically opposed:
one re'uired organiFation$ the other inspiration: .hen policy is created 0ithin a
(ureaucracy$ it (ecomes a hard1earned compromise$ rather than a representation of the
nation's goals: .hen the (ureaucracy ta;es o"er the process of policy1ma;ing$ the leader
(ecomes the referee among his ad"isers: He aims only for a compromise among
conflicting ideas$ rather than follo0ing his o0n intuition The leader's initial 7o($ 0hich is
to represent the nation through his o0n conceptions$ is negated (y those 0ho are
supposed to pro"ide him 0ith (ac;ground ;no0ledge and support: This e9plains 0hy
Kissinger 0ould often say that leaders (ecome prisoners of ;no0ledgeE too much
;no0ledge$ too many accounts of e9periences$ can narro0 an indi"idual's conception of
options and alternati"es: Facts$ 0hile important$ do not represent total reality: An
o"era(undance of them in the policy1ma;ing process only ma;e the process more
3, Henry A: Kissinger$ 58e9t Summit Meeting$6 Harper"s $aga2ine **, B,23+C: 3+133:
3* For e9ample$ see Kissinger$ 5&eflections on -u(a$6 *?:
.ithin Kissinger's criticism of (ureaucracy 0as an emphasis on the importance of
the indi"idual in the policy1ma;ing process: He disli;ed the tradition of American
pragmatism (ecause it did not ac;no0ledge the indi"idual's a(ility to shape the futureE
instead it focused on the maintenance of the status 'uo: Kissinger implied that if America
had a more tragic past li;e that of Europe$ Americans 0ould understand the importance
of indi"idual conception$ action$ and creati"ity: Here a strain of Kissinger's idealism
pee;s through: &ather than praising Americans for their realism$ he criticiFed them for
their ina(ility to grasp the 0orld (eyond the present: He encouraged them to dream
(igger and reach farther than the status 'uo:
Kissinger's criticism of la0yers and (usinessmen as statesmen also underscored
his idealistic "ision of human indi"iduality: He preferred the ;ind of statesmen 0ho
thought li;e philosophers o"er those 0ho sol"ed pro(lems empirically: Philosophers
loo; (eneath the surface to underlying pro(lems$ 0hile empiricists see; to maintain the
appearance of a smooth surface: %nstead of praising American statesmen for their a(ility
to sol"e pro(lems pragmatically and empirically$ he chastised them for not considering
other dimensions of ;no0ledge such as the influence of spirit and morality$ indi"idual
purpose$ and the po0er of a "ision of the future:
Many of Kissinger's (oo;s and articles appeared during the Eisenho0er
administration and criticiFed Eisenho0er's style of leadership$ nuclear policy$ Third
.orld relations$ and European relations: These criti'ues related (ac; to his insistence on
purpose through action: He argued that past policies li;e the Marshall Plan had (een
purposeful$ creati"e policies$ and reflected the American acceptance of its position as
leader of the free 0orld: Eisenho0er$ (y shrugging (ac; from the international scene and
trying to 5(uy security on the cheap$6 0as allo0ing Americans to relin'uish the initiati"e
in the -old .ar$ and the fight for their "alues$ to their communist enemy: To remedy
this$ Americans needed to more clearly define their purposes and interests in the
international realm and acti"ely pursue their fulfillment:
Kissinger's criti'ues of Eisenho0er's nuclear policies first launched his career as
an influential intellectual: %n the mid1,2@+'s$ the -ouncil on Foreign &elations as;ed
Kissinger to compile its research into a (oo; on nuclear policy: The final product$
3uclear Weapons and !oreign Policy# offered a cohesi"e criti'ue of the Eisenho0er's
nuclear policies as 0ell as suggestions for ho0 the administration should approach its
position in a nuclear age:
Gne of Kissinger's main pro(lems 0ith Eisenho0er's nuclear policy as outlined in
3uclear Weapons and !oreign Policy 0as its contradictory slogans of 5massi"e
retaliation6 and 5no alternati"e to peace:6 First$ Kissinger claimed that the assertion that
there 0as no alternati"e to peace amounted to the Americans 0riting the So"iets a (lan;
chec; to do 0hate"er they 0anted: %f there 0as 5no alternati"e to peace$6 then no So"iet
action 0ould 0arrant "iolent conse'uences: Det at the same time$ Eisenho0er 0arned the
So"iets that any mis(eha"ior 0ould result in 5massi"e retaliation:6 5Massi"e
retaliation$6 then$ 0as a near guarantee of nuclear 0ar: Kissinger noted that$ in addition
to the contradictory nature of these policies$ each of these 0as an e9treme: %f there 0as
no alternati"e to all1out nuclear 0ar$ or all1out 5peace6 in 0hich the So"iets could do as
they 0ished 0ithout conse'uence$ then there 0as no 5choice$6 no opportunity$ and no
option for progress:
Gne aspect of Kissinger's disli;e of massi"e retaliation 0as its implications of all1
out 0ar: His definition of all1out 0ar 0as 0ar 0ithout political o(7ecti"es$ a di"orce
(et0een military policy and diplomacy: Especially in the nuclear era$ the notion of all1
out 0ar 0as too dangerous to toy 0ith: 58e"er ha"e the conse'uences of all1out 0ar
(een so unam(iguous$ ne"er ha"e the gains seemed so out of relation 0ith the sacrifices$6
he 0rote in 3uclear Weapons:
He related the tendency of Americans to thin; in terms
of all1out 0ar to se"eral factors: the democratic nature of its politics$ its history of (eing
in"ol"ed mainly in all1out 0ars$ and the American pragmatic mindset that searched for
final solutions or$ in this case$ total "ictory:
Kissinger used the e9ample of the 0ar in Korea to demonstrate the failure of
massi"e retaliation and the need for a more fle9i(le strategy: American policy1ma;ers
had not de"ised a strategy for dealing 0ith peripheral areas and had not defined 0hich
regions' security 0ould (e "ital to the fulfillment of the nation's goals: ecause of this
lac; of forethought$ and despite its relati"e unimportance$ American policy1ma;ers
approached the Korean .ar as an all1out 0ar: Kissinger noted that 5had the Korean .ar
not actually ta;en place$ 0e 0ould ne"er ha"e (elie"ed that it could$6 to sho0 the
a(surdity of all1out 0ar 0ithout political purposes:

Kissinger also "ie0ed the concept of deterrence as a fatal fla0 in Eisenho0er's
policies: As deterrence is a psychological concept$ its results cannot effecti"ely (e
3> Henry A: Kissinger$ 3uclear Weapons and !oreign Policy$ .est"ie0 encore ed: Boulder$ -olo:
Pu(lished for the -ouncil on Foreign &elations (y .est"ie0 Press$ ,24?C$ ,?>:
3? %(id:$ ?>:
measured: Further$ deterrence 0as the result of the reliance on all1out 0ar as a threat:
8ot only did deterrence not pre"ent such crises as the Korean .ar$ (ut it 0as also a
policy 0hich made American allies uncomforta(le: #eterrence's lac; of concrete results
made those stuc; in (et0een the t0o superpo0ers$ especially Europe$ feel less protected
(y the !nited States and more li;ely to (e open to one1on1one negotiations 0ith the

These criticisms demonstrate that Kissinger's underlying criti'ue of the
Eisenho0er administration's nuclear policy 0as its inherent lac; of a fle9i(le strategic
doctrine: Strategic doctrine pro"ides a plan for action in ad"ance of crises so that most
pro(lems can (e dealt 0ith as a matter of routine$ 0hile more challenging pro(lems are
left to the leadership$ 0hich is freed up (y an efficient (ureaucracy:
.hile strategic
doctrine plans in ad"ance for typical situations$ it also 5ena(les us to act purposefully in
the face of challenges 0hich 0ill ine"ita(ly confront us$6 sho0ing the connection
(et0een Kissinger's call for a strategic doctrine and the de"elopment of purpose as
outlined in 5The Meaning of History:6
Kissinger's insistence on the importance of strategic doctrine (ought him (ac; to
the issue of purpose in his criti'ue of the Eisenho0er administration: The
administration's lac; of strategic doctrine and dependence on the threat of all1out 0ar to
deter its enemies led to a lac; of underlying purpose and constructi"e creati"ity: y
threatening all1out 0ar the !nited States appeared the aggressor$ undermining its
alliances and gi"ing the So"iets the moral upperhand: )astly$ the Eisenho0er
3@ %(id:$ ,,@:
33 %(id:$ **?:
administration hindered its progress to0ards peace (y assuming that there could (e a
final solution to such pro(lems as nuclear po0er: %nstead of thin;ing creati"ely to
understand ho0 to use its ne0 po0er$ it 0as paralyFed paralyFed (y it: The Eisenho0er
administration 5rested on its oars6 and allo0ed the So"iets to gain the strategic and moral
edge in the -old .ar:
Kissinger's solution to Eisenho0er's nuclear pro(lems lay in the concept of
limited 0ar$ 0hich he discussed at length in 3uclear Weapons and in other scholarly
articles: According to Kissinger$ limited 0ar 0ould pro"ide for local and regional
defense 0ithout re'uiring all1out 0ar: )imited 0ar reesta(lished the marriage (et0een
political and military strategies (y aiming for specific political o(7ecti"es rather than total
"ictory: )eadership and diplomacy 0ere especially important during a limited 0ar
(ecause they acted as the "essels through 0hich these political o(7ecti"es and demands
0ere articulated$ and defined a concrete endpoint for the 0ar: Further$ limited 0ar 0as
more fle9i(le than the reliance on the threat of all1out 0ar (ecause it made room for
multiple options of mode and means: .hile (roadening the spectrum of options$ limited
0ar 0as simultaneously limiting Bhence its nameC: A limited 0ar 0ould (e limited
geographically and instrumentally$ lessening the chance for a nuclear armageddon:
%nstead of the total "ictory of all1out 0ar$ limited 0ar 0ould 5ma;e the conditions to (e
imposed more attracti"e than continued resistance$6 gi"ing limited 0ar a concrete
political dimension:

Kissinger's argument for limited 0ar relied on the rationality of the t0o opposing
forces to assure that the 0ar remained limited: .hile he 0ould later amend his argument
3A %(id:$ ,?+:
for nuclear 0ar (ased on this pro(lem$ it is still important to note that he supported
limited 0ar (oth for its (roadening of choices and opportunities$ as 0ell as its imposition
of limits on an other0ise e9tremely ris;y process: %n addition$ the necessity of
diplomacy$ political leadership$ and the definition of concrete purposes and o(7ecti"es in
limited 0ar again referred (ac; to Kissinger's personal philosophy as 0ell as his main
criti'ue of American foreign policy: .hether or not limited 0ar 0as an effecti"e tool for
the management of the nuclear age$ it represented the inade'uacies of massi"e retaliation
and deterrence$ including the lac; of fle9i(ility$ creati"ity$ and purpose in American
foreign policy:
Kissinger's arguments in 3uclear Weapons spar;ed a heated de(ate o"er the future
direction of nuclear policy: The greatest influence of Kissinger's thought 0as on
Kennedy's strategy of 5fle9i(le response$6 0hich allo0ed for a greater choice among
0eapons systems and placed more emphasis on con"entional forces and non1nuclear
methods of force: .hile fle9i(le response represented the essence of Kissinger's idea of
limited 0ar$ it did not change much of Kissinger's criticisms of American foreign policy:
The change in strategy did not reflect a change in the American attitude to0ards 0ar and
international relations: 5Gnly the purposeful can (e fle9i(le$6 Kissinger e9plained:
Fle9i(le response lessened the reliance on all1out 0ar$ (ut it still failed to define
American purposes and political o(7ecti"es in its military offensi"es:
%n addition to criti'uing Eisenho0er's nuclear policy$ Kissinger also disagreed
0ith Eisenho0er's management of relations 0orld0ide: These criticisms fell into three
34 Henry A: Kissinger$ 5As !rgent as the Mosco0 Threat$6 3e+ York 'i$es 4./561%urrent file7$ March 4$
categories of relations: relations 0ith the So"iet !nion$ European allies$ and the
de"eloping 0orld: Kissinger placed his analysis of Eisenho0er's relations 0ith these
areas 0ithin the conte9t of his paradigm of a re"olutionary period$ first outlined in A
World Restored:
Kissinger's criti'ues of Eisenho0er's policies to0ards the So"iet !nion 0ere
rooted in his (elief that the So"iet !nion$ (ecause of its intentions to o"erthro0 the
current 0orld order$ 0as a re"olutionary po0er: According to Kissinger$ So"iet leaders
percei"ed e"ents as part the ine"ita(le flo0 of history$ and human actors merely as
puppets in the scheme: ecause of this$ they ga"e little importance to the process of
diplomacy$ e9cept to use it against the !nited States: This made diplomatic negotiations
0ith the So"iets "irtually meaningless$ as the So"iets (elie"ed they merely 5ratified6 an
already present situation dictated (y history: This also meant that the So"iets 0ere
unli;ely to ma;e concessions and li;ely to ta;e ad"antage of strategic opportunities:
5The tas; of the -ommunist leadership is to tilt the scale (y constant if impercepti(le
pressure in the direction predetermined (y the forces of history$6 Kissinger 0rote: He
repeatedly called this So"iet challenge intentionally 5am(iguous$6 an effort to ma;e
discreet gains as the .est reacted to only o"ert challenges:

Kissinger's argument that the So"iets 0ould not compromise appeared out of
place 0ith his insistence on the importance of negotiations: His solution to this
contradiction 0as the idea that American leaders had to go into negotiations 0ith a clear
plan in mind$ rather than letting the So"iets dominate the direction of discussion: This
0ould also pre"ent cele(ration o"er small and$ typically irrele"ant$ So"iet compromises
32 Kissinger$ 3uclear Weapons and !oreign Policy$ @A:
and shift American focus to long1term goals:
#espite Kissinger's (elief that negotiations meant little in reality to the So"iets$ he
stressed the importance of negotiations not only (ecause negotiations 0ould create the
space for possi(le agreement$ (ut also to display to the 0atching 0orld the American
desire for progress to0ards peace in the -old .ar: The longer Americans allo0ed the
So"iets to ta;e the initiati"e in negotiations$ the more the So"iets could turn the ta(les
and accuse American statesmen of not compromising The practice of negotiating 0ould
also ma;e American foreign policy proacti"e and positi"e$ rather than reacti"e and
negati"e: %t 0ould allo0 Americans to acti"ely stand for something$ rather than (e
passi"ely against something: %t 0ould also re'uire Americans to define this 5something$6
and in doing so$ come closer to achie"ing its ideals: As an acti"ist foreign policy 0as
especially important in the nuclear age$ 0hen leaders could not lea"e matters to chance$
Kissinger encouraged Americans to acti"ely pursue conditions that 0ould result not only
in sta(ility and agreement$ (ut also in the representation of American purpose:
Kissinger attri(uted So"iet gains in the -old .ar to the So"iet !nion's toughness
in propaganda and purpose$ rather than its economic or military might: This again
connected (ac; to his personal philosophy and idealistic criti'ues of American foreign
He sa0 So"iet gains$ especially in the third 0orld$ as relating to the a(ility of
So"iet doctrine to ac'uire the interest of de"eloping nations: The pro(lem 0ith the
philosophical challenge of the So"iet !nion$ then$ 0as a (attle of purposes: Sur"eying
So"iet successes in the third 0orld$ Kissinger called the !nited States to not shir; from
its role in the international arena and to stand up for its "alues as leader of the free 0orld:
A+ %(id:$ ***:
He 0anted the !nited States to ta;e the opportunity to support de"eloping nations not
only economically (ut also morally$ and 0as disappointed that the So"iets sho0ed more
0illingness to ta;e this opportunity than the Americans:
Kissinger sa0 the containment of So"iet communism as a passi"e foreign policy:
He suggested that the !nited States ta;e an acti"e role in its relationship 0ith the So"iet
!nion$ rather than merely contain it: .hile he percei"ed (oth American and So"iet
ideologies as (elie"ing in the ine"ita(le dominance of their o0n systems$ Kissinger
thought that the So"iet !nion used history as an incenti"e$ not a su(stitute$ for action:
5History for -ommunism is an incenti"e for action$ a guarantee of the meaningfulness of
sacrifice: The .est$ on the other hand:::0aiting for history to do its 0or; for it$ it stands
in danger of (eing engulfed (y the currents of our time$6he 0rote in his second (oo;$ 'he
3ecessity of %hoice:
Kissinger repeatedly (rought up this fear of American irrele"ance
in his 0ritings$ and insisted that only through creati"e and confident action could the
!nited States gain the initiati"e in the -old .ar:
Kissinger also attri(uted the failures of the American approach to foreign policy to
the American misunderstanding of So"iet intentions: To him$ containment ena(led the
mindset that 5a pro(lem deferred 0as a pro(lem sol"ed:6
He 0anted American
statesmen to realiFe that (ecause the So"iet !nion 0as a re"olutionary po0er and 0ould
try to o"erthro0 the status 'uo$ it could not (e passi"ely contained:
%n addition to Eisenho0er's relations 0ith the So"iet !nion$ Kissinger also had
'ualms 0ith the administration's approach to the Atlantic alliance: He la(eled the
A, Henry A: Kissinger$ 'he 3ecessity for %hoice, Prospects of A$erican !oreign Policy$ ,st ed: B8e0
Dor;: Harper$ ,23,C$ *42:
A* %(id:$ ,A?:
alliance 5the trou(led partnership6 (ecause of Eisenho0er's difficulty maintaining sta(le
relations 0ith European nations:
The possi(ility of a supranational institution to go"ern
the European continent$ a;in to a 5!nited States of Europe6 dominated the discourse of
American1European relations: Kissinger fought fiercely against this concept$ arguing
that indi"idual nationalities 0ere "ery important to Europe: He sided 0ith French leader$
-harles de Gaulle$ 0ho also fought "igorously against the loss of national so"ereignty
among the European nation1states: .hile many Americans gre0 frustrated 0ith de
Gaulle's intransigence$ Kissinger admired his a(ility to stand firmly for the ideals of

Kissinger's concern 0ith American1European relations focused particularly on the
lac; of underlying purpose 0ithin 8ATG: He noted that one pro(lem inhi(iting
successful relations 0ithin the alliance 0as the American refusal to share technical
information on nuclear 0eapons 0ith its European allies: This secrecy 5inhi(ited the
gro0th of a sense of common purpose$6 0hich Kissinger sa0 as the ultimate aim and ;ey
to success of 8ATG:
The ultimate solution to this pro(lem depended on the 5a(ility of
the .est to harmoniFe its need for security 0ith its positi"e goals:6
The !nited States
needed its European allies not only for military security$ (ut also in order to sho0 the
desira(ility of 0estern "alues to uncommitted nations: %f the alliance fell apart o"er
relati"ely insignificant issues$ this 0ould display to its communist enemies and the
0atching 0orld the ina(ility of the 0estern "alue system to effecti"ely go"ern
A> Henry A: Kissinger$ 'he 'rou-led Partnership, a Re1Appraisal of the Atlantic Alliance BGarden -ity$
8:D: #ou(leday$ ,233C:
A? Henry A: Kissinger$ 5%llusionist: .hy .e Misread de Gaulle$6 Harper"s $aga2ine *>+ B,23@C: 321A+:
A@ Kissinger$ 3uclear Weapons and !oreign Policy$ *+*:
A3 Kissinger$ 'he 3ecessity for %hoice, Prospects of A$erican !oreign Policy$ 22:
relationships: Kissinger also insisted upon the importance of the Atlantic alliance
(ecause he realiFed that the !nited States could not manage the re"olutionary age aloneE
it needed physical and spiritual allies: He urged that 5unless the 8orth Atlantic group of
nations de"elops a clearer purpose it 0ill (e doomed:6

Another pro(lem that inhi(ited closeness (et0een the t0o continents 0as the
issue of the defense of Europe against the So"iet !nion: Kissinger's ultimate argument
for the local defense of Europe had se"eral important aspects: one$ that a (uild1up of
con"entional forces 0ould allo0 for options other than all1out nuclear 0ar as demanded
(y massi"e retaliationE t0o$ Europeans and Americans needed to communicate and
colla(orate more effecti"ely to form a common purpose and strategyE three$ it 0as in the
(est interest of the !nited States to (e sensiti"e to European fears: Kissinger insisted
upon the rele"ance of a strong Atlantic alliance in the -old .ar (ecause 5once it (ecomes
clear that e"en a minor threat against Europe 0ill engage the !nited States as fully as a
minor threat against Alas;a$ temptations for So"iet pressure 0ill (e su(stantially

%n his criti'ues$ Kissinger focused on the need for local defense of Europe that did
not rely upon Eisenho0er's method of deterrence or all1out 0ar: Gne 0ay to do this 0as
to (uild1up con"entional forces on the European continent: Many opposed this for the
fear that a military (uild1up 0ould only instigate So"iet aggressionE at the same time$
So"iet aggression could not (e stymied 0ithout a (uild1up of forces: Europeans also
feared that a (uild1up of its o0n con"entional forces 0ould allo0 the !nited States to
AA %(id:$ ,+,:
A4 %(id:$ ,*,:
0ithdra0 from the continent$ lea"ing Europe to the defense of its o0n security: Kissinger
asserted that the remo"al of American forces 0ould only lessen the num(er of forces
a"aila(le$ 0hich 0as the opposite of the o(7ecti"e: .hile he admitted that Europeans had
reason to fear American 0ithdra0al$ he also assured them that 0ithdra0al 0ould (e an
irresponsi(le mo"e for the !nited States: American forces on the European continent
0ould cause a greater ris; to an attac; (y an aggressor$ and 0ould alle"iate European
fears of (eing left alone 0ith its communist neigh(or:

Kissinger's personal philosophy appeared prominently in relation to his argument
concerning the reunification of Germany: He thought that a unified Germany strong
enough to defend itself (ut not strong enough to attac; its neigh(ors 0ould (e the ideal
aim$ and asserted that the creation of a unified Germany should (e a ma7or component of
.estern policy:
At the same time$ he did not thin; that such a policy 0as necessarily
realistic: His main point 0as that American leaders needed to stop assuming that the
status 'uo 0as 5fact6 and start creating its o0n facts$ or its o0n future reality:
Kissinger (elie"ed that American statesmen still had the moral strength to
o"ercome this emphasis on present reality (y acting creati"ely and constructi"ely:
5Stalin regularly offered the .est a di"ision of the 0orld into spheres of influence$ and he
failed largely (ecause the .est 0as not yet prepared to ad7ust to a reality 0hich in"ol"ed
surrendering other peoples' rights:6
Kissinger's issue o"er German reunification had
less to do 0ith the pro(a(ility of reunifying Germany$ as5no (rilliant plan is li;ely to
produce unification$6 and more to do 0ith the significance of the American reaction to
A2 %(id:$ ,+2:
4+ %(id:$ ,*2:
4, %(id:$ ,*21,>+:
the pro(lem: 5The issue$6 he 0rote$ 5is not only 0hether unification can (e achie"ed (ut
0hat attitude the .est should ta;e to0ard this 'fact:'6
Kissinger used the pro(lem of
Germany mainly to demonstrate the inade'uacy of American leadership in its "ision and
conception of long1term ideals:
Kissinger's idealism also came through 0hen he 0rote a(out !:S: relations 0ith
the de"eloping 0orld: These criti'ues had much of the same fla"or as his criticisms of
Eisenho0er's nuclear policy and European relations: %n these early years of scholarship$
Kissinger put forth the argument that the !nited States needed to focus on demonstrating
the moral superiority of its system$ rather than helping uncommitted nations
economically$ in order to most effecti"ely aid their political progression: This moral
support 0ould ri"al that of the So"iet !nion's communism$ 0hose psychological
strategies had gained the ad"antage of moral rele"ance in the third 0orld:
Kissinger insisted that 0hile de"eloping nations struggled for their independence$
they also sought a ne0 identity and needed the political and moral influence of the !nited
States to foster li(eral "alues in their ne0 identities: Kissinger ac;no0ledged that
economic aid 0ould propel these countries on the path to0ards political de"elopment (y
easing certain areas of suffering: Ho0e"er$ he argued against the 5stages of gro0th6 and
de"elopment theories that offered a deterministic "ie0 of de"elopment: Kissinger
countered that de"elopment 0as (ased on a nation's historical e9perience$ its "alues and
choices$ and its en"ironment:
His argument ga"e agency to the character of the nation
in creating its o0n identity through choice<not (y follo0ing the la0s of a predetermined
4* %(id:$ ,>+:
4> %(id:$ >+@:
history: He concluded that moral support trumped economic aid 0hen he 0rote that 5the
challenge of the ne0 nations is that they cannot li"e (y (read aloneE to offer nothing (ut
(read is to lea"e the arena to those 0ho are sufficiently dynamic to define their
Thus$ the central need of de"eloping nations 0as not the de"elopment of a
capitalist economic system$ (ut the creation of ne0 political identities and definition of
moral purposes:
Kissinger emphasiFed that the !nited States and de"eloping nations shared a
5spiritual ;inship6 (ecause of the !nited States' colonial past:
For this reason$ he
thought Americans should (e more sympathetic to the idea of nonalignment among these
ne0 nations$ responding to Secretary of State =ohn Foster #ulles' attac; on nonalignment:
Kissinger thought that rather than dictating the political de"elopment of ne0 nations$ the
most producti"e approach 0as to ma;e American "alues rele"ant and meaningful to the
ne0 nations 0ho 0ere searching for a moral foundation on 0hich to (uild the political
identity of their ne0 nations: He feared that if the !nited States did not ma;e its "alues$
purposes$ or moral support apparent$ the So"iets 0ould:
Allo0ing ne0 nations to de"elop politically according to their o0n national
character and o0n choices re'uired self1restraint and acti"ism on the part of the !nited
States: %t re'uired self1restraint from dictating the de"elopment of third 0orld nations$
0hich 0ould appear as a form of colonialism: Most importantly$ the !nited States
needed to sho0 self1restraint in order to display the effecti"eness of its democratic
system$ for democracy in itself is a faith in the self1restraint of others: 5To (e
4? %(id:$ >*,:
4@ Kissinger$ 3uclear Weapons and !oreign Policy$ *3+:
meaningful$ self1restraint must set limits e"en to the e9ercise of righteous po0er$6
Kissinger 0rote:
Although the !nited States thought its system to (e superior$ it had to
demonstrate this through its actions:
.hile ac;no0ledging its limits through self1restraint$ the !nited States could
acti"ely demonstrate its sincere purposes and con"ictions (y ma;ing its domestic society
more dynamic and true to its "alues: Kissinger 0rote passionately that 5the future of
freedom a(road 0ill depend importantly on the con"iction 0ith 0hich 0e can confirm
freedom at home:::for too long our affirmations of human dignity ha"e (een mere
incantations$ our search for purpose a mechanical repetition of patterns of the past:6
order to change this$ the most important step for Americans to ta;e 0ould not (e to
change their policies$ (ut to change their attitudes: 5.e 0ill finally (e 7udged not so
much (y the cle"erness of our arguments as (y the purposefulness and con"iction$ indeed
the ma7esty$ of our conduct$6 he 0rote:
.hile Kissinger (elie"ed in the superiority of
the American "alue system and 0ay of life$ he had dou(ts that Americans could summon
the 0ill or 0isdom to ta;e the opportunity to ma;e this e"ident to the 0atching 0orld:
Kissinger sa0 the e9plosion of post1colonial re"olutions around the 0orld as a
tide similar to the re"olution of nation1states that Metternich faced in the nineteenth
century: Kissinger's (ac;ground in this ;ind of history ena(led him to understand the
conse'uences of the ina(ility to act creati"ely and constructi"ely in an atmosphere of
0orld0ide re"olution: He could recall that Metternich's ina(ility to do this$ and his focus
on the maintenance of the status 'uo$ led to his failure: Kissinger applied this ;no0ledge
43 Kissinger$ 'he 3ecessity for %hoice, Prospects of A$erican !oreign Policy$ >,*:
4A %(id:$ >*,:
44 %(id:$ >>2:
of the past to the -old .ar in an effort to encourage Americans not to suppress the
de"elopment of ne0 nations$ (ut to acti"ely ma;e ;no0n 0hat they stood for and create a
plan for the future that represented more than the status 'uo: Gnly (y transcending the
status 'uo could they ta;e the opportunity to purposefully shape the future of the 0orld:
%n addition to his criti'ues of Eisenho0er's nuclear policies and 0orld0ide
relations$ Kissinger also criticiFed the Eisenho0er administration's reliance on summit
meetings 0ith the So"iet !nion: Kissinger articulated this criticism in A 3ecessity for
%hoice as 0ell as in his articles 5The Khrushche" Oisit<#angers and Hopes6 and 5The
8e9t Summit Meeting:6 These 0or;s argued that the !nited States should not attend
summit conferences 0ith the So"iet !nion if its statesmen did not ha"e a clear
conception of its strategic "ision and goals: Kissinger asserted that summit meetings
could (e producti"e only if statesmen approached them purposefully$ returning to the
philosophical ideas he first e9pressed in 5The Meaning of History:6
Kissinger thought that summit meetings 0ere often pointless (ecause Americans
concei"ed of the -old .ar as a misunderstanding 0ith the So"iet !nion or a clash of
personalities (et0een heads of state: %n contrast$ Kissinger defined the -old .ar as the
result of So"iet polices in Eastern Europe$ erlin$ and in peripheral nations such as )aos:
The -old .ar could not end until these fundamental disagreements 0ith the So"iet !nion
0ere resol"ed: Therefore$ a summit or conference meeting 0ith the So"iet heads of state
0ould only (e (eneficial if it aimed to sol"e these pro(lems<not if it aimed to
momentarily 5clear the atmosphere6 (et0een the t0o nations: %f statesmen did not
approach summits in a purposeful 0ay to resol"e specific issues$ Kissinger feared that the
!nited States 0ould only demonstrate its lac; of purpose and clear conception to its allies
and de"eloping nations: %n order to ma;e summit meetings more meaningful$ Kissinger
encouraged American statesmen to stop o(sessing o"er the di"ination of So"iet intentions
and start defining its o0n purposes:
%f .estern statesmen did not approach summit
meetings 0ith a clear conception of their o0n policies and especially a definition of
peaceful and sta(le conditions$ they 0ould fall prey to more prepared So"iet statesmen:
Kissinger ela(orated on the ris;s of unpurposeful summit meetings to emphasiFe
the importance of purpose: Gne of these ris;s included 5euphoria$6 the possi(ility that
American statesmen 0ould succum( to o"eroptimism and the illusion of rela9ation: He
asserted that the So"iets' goals 0ere to encourage this illusion and to ma;e disagreements
appear as a misunderstanding of the heads of state$ rather than the result of their o0n
policies: Accepting the illusion of o"eroptimism 0ould defer the .est from ree9amining
its diplomatic and military policies$ something Kissinger thought to (e of the utmost
importance$ and allo0ing it to thin; that summits$ not clear definitions of policy goals$
could sol"e the comple9 pro(lems of the -old .ar: ecause summits often caused
.estern statesmen to 5confuse personal affa(ility 0ith a change of attitude$6 Kissinger
thought that they should attend summits only 0ith a clear conception of their policies and
cele(rate them only if specific ad7ustments 0ere made to0ards the enactment of these
Another ris; of unpurposeful summits that Kissinger noted 0as the possi(ility of
0ea;ening allied ties: %f American statesmen met 0ith the So"iet heads of state to
42 Henry A: Kissinger$ 5The Khrushche" Oisit11#angers and Hopes$6 3e+ York 'i$es 4./561%urrent file7$
Septem(er 3$ ,2@2:
2+ %(id:
discuss issues in Europe$ for e9ample$ the unity of the Atlantic alliance could (e
undermined (ecause of the European fear that the !nited States 0ould ma;e an
agreement 0ith the So"iets that 0ould not ta;e into account European attitudes$ feelings$
or historical e9periences: Kissinger 0as especially sensiti"e to this possi(ility (ecause of
his (elief that only 0ith the aid of its Atlantic allies could the !nited States pre"ail in the
-old .ar:
Kissinger's fear of 0ea;ening allied ties related (ac; to his concern that
unpurposeful summits 0ould demoraliFe the free 0orld: Kissinger (elie"ed that
achie"ing So"iet appro"al on issues 5in principle6 0as easy<hence the fear that
American statesmen 0ould succum( too easily to o"eroptimism: Ho0e"er$ he thought
that achie"ing So"iet appro"al 5in action$6 that is$ ma;ing tangi(le ad7ustments to the
-old .ar structure$ 0as a rare accomplishment: Gnly if the .est 5de"elopHedI a much
clearer conception of our purpose in the 0orld6 could its statesmen ma;e lasting progress
at summits:
A 5clearer conception of our purpose6 included policies in the areas of
nuclear 0eapons$ erlin$ peripheral nations$ and .estern "alues: The (est approach to
ta;e during a summit to a"oid demoraliFation 0ould (e to tell the So"iet heads of state
clearly and concretely the American perception of the conditions of a sta(le 0orld$ and
in"ite them to detailed negotiations 0ith !:S: allies: This 0ould allo0 statesmen to ma;e
progress to0ards clearly defined conditions of peace 0ith the participation of the Atlantic
alliance$ and 0ould consolidate the "ie0s of the .est: This process 0ould encourage
.estern statesmen to de"elop positi"e goals for their policies and stop focusing on So"iet
intentions rather than their o0n: %nstead of 5confusing fle9i(ility 0ith (argaining
2, %(id:
techni'ue$6 as Kissinger feared .estern statesmen did at summit meetings$ they 0ould
ma;e progress to0ards their purposes: Americans 0ould ha"e to (e supporti"e in these
definitions (y realiFing that the tas; of diplomacy in the -old .ar 0as more comple9
than summitry con"eyed: 5They must understand that the cold 0ar cannot (e ended (y a
smileE that it re'uires specific ad7ustments e9pressed in a concrete program$6 Kissinger
Another pro(lem 0ith summits 0as the tendency for the meetings to lead to
agreement on irrele"ant issues for the sa;e of agreement: Much li;e its (ureaucracy$
0hich too; so much effort to achie"e any ;ind of agreement$ American statesmen
re7oiced 0hen the So"iets sho0ed 0illingness to agree on tri"ial issues$ or e"en agree to
attend a summit meeting: This a(sol"ed the So"iets of responsi(ility in negotiating larger$
more concrete$ issues:
5Agreements$ rather than contri(uting to a solution of the real
issues$ (ecome a means to postpone coming to grips 0ith them: They do not end the
-old .arE they perpetuate it$6 Kissinger 0rote: He thought that summit meetings 0ere
dangerous not (ecause they initiated con"ersation 0ith the So"iets$ for this 0as a good
thing$ (ut (ecause they tended to lead to an unfounded enthusiasm for a detente in the
-old .ar 0hich did not actually e9ist: .hen this happened$ summits (ecame 5not a
forum for negotiations (ut a su(stitute for themE not an e9pression of a policy (ut a
means of o(scuring its a(sence:6
As Kissinger often repeated$ the only 0ay to remedy
this 0as to approach summits purposefully$ 0ith a concrete notion of policy and clear
definition of peace:
2* %(id:
2> Kissinger$ 58e9t Summit Meeting$6 3?:
2? %(id:$ 33:
Kissinger hoped that the .estern 0orld 0ould open its eyes to the opportunities
outside of the usual paradigm of -old .ar relations: the itch to get ahead in the arms
race$ the need to reach audiences through desira(le goods or to display superiority to
communism through higher li"ing standards: 5The ultimate pro(lem far transcends that
of communism$6 he 0rote$5many opportunities a0ait only our dedication and
imagination: A policy concerned primarily 0ith e'uili(rium and normalcy is not e'ual to
the challenge of a re"olutionary period: #eeper "alues are at sta;e than the a(ility to
produce consumer goods:6 %nstead of focusing on the o"erplayed elements of the -old
.ar$ Kissinger urged the .estern 0orld to ac;no0ledge the intangi(les that formed -old
.ar tensions: y doing so$ the .estern 0orld 0ould also realiFe its purpose not only in
the -old .ar$ (ut in domestic and foreign policy as 0ell: He declared that 5our tas;$ as
that of e"ery generation$ is to ma;e our (elief in freedom and human dignity rele"ant to
our times: To do this$ it is necessary that 0e end the o(session 0ith So"iet intentions and
see; to (ecome clear a(out our o0n:6 .hile Kissinger thought it necessary for
Americans to gi"e up their illusions concerning the possi(ilities of summits$ he hoped
that they 0ould em(race instead 0hat they stood for and turn these "alues into concrete
Kissinger's criti'ues of the Eisenho0er administration (rought him notice and
popularity among foreign policy intellectuals and officials: Follo0ing the election of
President =ohn F: Kennedy$ Kissinger 0as offered a position as an ad"isor on the
administration's 8ational Security -ouncil: Kissinger's connections 0ith his Har"ard
2@ Kissinger$ 5The Khrushche" Oisit11#angers and Hopes:6
colleagues$ Arthur Schlesinger$ =r: and McGeorge undy$ 0ho 0ere in"ol"ed in the
Kennedy administration$ also helped him in getting the position: #espite their distinct
political differences$ Kissinger came to (e "ery close 0ith Schlesinger$ 0riting him many
personal letters throughout his short career in the .hite House: His relationship 0ith
undy$ ho0e"er$ only further deteriorated from its already roc;y state at Har"ard:
Kissinger (lamed this mostly on personal competiti"eness and undy's desire to get
ahead: This strained relationship made Kissinger's e9perience in the .hite House 'uite
5unhappy$6 as he 0ould later say in his memoirs:
Det the e9perience 0as also
in"alua(le for him: 8ot only did it prepare him for his central role in the 8i9on
administration years later$ (ut it also ser"ed to underscore his already negati"e "ie0s of
(ureaucracy and the American policy1ma;ing system:
Kissinger's position as an ad"isor to the Kennedy administration pro"ides us 0ith
an in"alua(le 0indo0 through 0hich 0e can "ie0 his criti'ues of American foreign
policy: .hen Kissinger 0rote on the Eisenho0er administration$ his e"idence 0as the
negati"e conse'uences of its policies: 8o0$ as a participant in the policy1ma;ing
process$ Kissinger could (etter understand ho0 American foreign1policy 0as created and
ho0 the system resulted in failed policies:
Kissinger's e"entual disappointment 0ith the administration's policies is
especially telling (ecause he had "ery high hopes for the Kennedy administration:
Kissinger's hopes for the ne0 administration re"ealed his (elief in the possi(ility of
American leaders 0ith creati"e "ision and initiati"e: Although Kennedy's policy of
23 Henry A: Kissinger$ White House Years$ ,st ed: Boston: )ittle$ ro0n$ ,2A2C$ >2:
2A Henry A: Kissinger to Arthur M: Schlesinger$ =r:$ 4 Septem(er ,23,$ folder: Kissinger$ Henry ?P,23,1
,*P*P,23,$ .hite House Files (o9 ,>$ Papers of Arthur M: Schlesinger$ =r:$ =ohn F: Kennedy
Presidential )i(rary$ oston$ Mass:
fle9i(le response essentially paralleled Kissinger's policy suggestions$ Kissinger 0ould
ultimately (e disappointed in Kennedy's ina(ility to change the American attitude
to0ards international relations: The cause of Kissinger's disappointment sho0s the
importance of purpose and attitude in his personal philosophy: E"en if Kennedy changed
his policies$ if he did not approach these ne0 policies 0ith an attitude prepared to impose
meaning on e"ents through action$ then little had changed (ut the name of the policy:
Kissinger arri"ed at the .hite House 0ith deeply held con"ictions a(out the faults
of the American policy1ma;ing system$ 0hich he e9pressed in his 0ritings on the
Eisenho0er administration: He hoped that his appointment to the 8S- 0ould allo0 him
to help construct a more effecti"e$ purposeful approach to foreign policy: Kissinger's
e9pectations 0ere immediately crushed: His first assignment 0as to discuss a "olume of
fifty policy recommendations after re"ie0ing them for less than an hour: He recalled
that$ after the "olume had (een ta;en a0ay$ he stayed up until four in the morning 0riting
a memorandum on the policy recommendations he (arely had a chance to read:
Follo0ing this pointless assignment$ Kissinger 0as not as;ed to do much of anything at
all: 5%ndeed$ % had so little to do that % spent most of my time reading incoming ca(les
from all o"er the 0orld:::B% must (e one of the (etter1informed people on the .hite House
staff (y no0<though my English is$ % fear$ permanently ruined:C$6 he confided to
Schlesinger Although Kissinger spent his time t0iddling his thum(s or reading ca(les$ he
0as also soa;ing up the en"ironment of the .hite House$ noticing ho0 its mem(ers
communicated$ and learning its inner 0or;ings: 8ot only 0ould this help him na"igate
the 8i9on .hite House$ (ut it also ga"e him e"idence to strengthen his arguments on the
pro(lems of the American policy1ma;ing system:
E9cluded from policy1ma;ing acti"ities$ Kissinger's only contri(ution to policy1
ma;ing 0as 0riting memoranda 0hich 0ere rarely ac;no0ledged and e"en more rarely
read: He 0as not only frustrated 0ith the a(sence of recognition for his 0or;$ (ut 0as
also frustrated 0ith the "ery process of 0riting memoranda: He thought that the
(ureaucratic process of distri(uting memoranda as a form of discourse on policy1ma;ing
represented a lac; of conception and cohesion 0ithin the .hite House: 5These
memoranda deal 0ith indi"idual tactical pro(lems$ 0hile the chief re'uirement is to
master their interrelationship and to de"elop an o"er1all concept: They tend$ therefore$ to
accept its criteria and confirm its momentum$6 he complained to Schlesinger %n his
thoughts on memoranda$ Kissinger again (rought in the philosophical significance of
understanding the interrelations of e"ents and the necessity of o"ercoming facts and
circumstances through "ision and creati"e action: 5% am 0orried a(out the lac; of an
o"er1all strategy 0hich ma;es us prisoners of e"ents$6 he 0rote to Schlesinger 5% am
distressed (y an attitude on the part of and to0ards the (ureaucracy 0hich produces too
many 0armed1o"er "ersions of the policies of the pre"ious Administration: The result
has (een an o"erconcern 0ith tactics and a lac; of a guiding concept 0hich ha"e (een
responsi(le for most of our difficulties:6
Kissinger 0as deeply trou(led that he could not contri(ute to the administration
more effecti"ely$ and that he 0as only as;ed to do technical tas;s irrele"ant to the actual
spirit of policy: 5There are essentially t0o 0ays in 0hich an outsider can contri(ute to
24 %(id:
22 %(id:
the policy ma;ing process$6 he 0rote to undy: 5Gne is to furnish ne0 ideas: The other
is to help in de"eloping a sense of proportion and direction: Gf these$ the latter seems to
me (y far the most important:::Much more fre'uently the difference (et0een success and
failure is a nuance:::The real need$ therefore$ seems to me to lie in the relationship of
measures to each other and in timing:6
He feared that rather than pro"iding
perspecti"e$ his role 0as5that of a ;i(itFer shouting random comments from the
sidelines:::% am in the position of a man riding ne9t to a dri"er heading for a precipice
0ho is (eing as;ed to ma;e sure that the gas tan; is full and the oil pressure ade'uate:6
8ot only did Kissinger feel unheard and irrele"ant$ he also feared that any ad"ice he 0as
a(le to gi"e 0ould (e misinterpreted or misused 0ithout the proper conte9t: This 0as
5li;e (eing as;ed in the middle of a chess game to suggest a mo"e 0ithout ha"ing (een in
a position to study the de"elopment of the game or (eing allo0ed to e9plain the rationale
for the suggestion:6
G"erall$ Kissinger ;ne0 that his 0or; in the .hite House 0as
(enefiting neither him nor the Kennedy administration:
Kissinger's complaints had more to do 0ith his desire to see an impro"ement in
American foreign policy than in his o0n 'uest for po0er in .ashington: 5My
frustration$6 he 0rote to Schlesinger$ 5has not (een caused (y the fact that % am (eing
o"erruled$ (ut that there e9ists no opportunity to (ring a(out a consideration of the real
options as % see them:6 He ultimately 0anted to change the attitude and direction of
policy out of fear of 0hat he sa0 as the increasing American irrele"ance in the -old .ar:
5These conditions are all the more un(eara(le (ecause 0hat % ha"e seen of our planning
,++Kissinger 'uoted this letter to undy in %(id:
seems to me largely irrele"ant to the perils ahead of us: .e are heading for a ma7or
crisis$ perhaps a disaster$ 0hile the (ureaucracy continues to treat orderly procedure as
the chief purpose of go"ernment:::6
Had Kissinger 0anted to clim( the ladder of
po0er in .ashington$ he pro(a(ly 0ould ha"e forgone his position at Har"ard in fa"or of
the full1time position at the .hite House that McGeorge undy offered him on se"eral
occasions: Kissinger preferred to remain an ad hoc consultant so that he could maintain
his intellectual integrity and creati"ity: Further$ had Kissinger merely 0anted to gain
po0er in the .hite House$ he pro(a(ly 0ould ha"e changed himself to fit the system$
rather than resigning:
Kissinger 0as "ery concerned 0ith the lac; of choice that the (ureaucracy
created$ despite its multiplicity of committees formed to produce a (roader range of
technical responses: He 0as frustrated that the President had little authority in the policy1
ma;ing process$ 0riting that 5the President is gi"en plans 0hich do not define his options
properly and 0hich in the e"ent 0ill pro"e hollo0:6 This relates (ac; to the importance
of indi"idual choice in 5The Meaning of History:6 The thought that the President$ one of
the most influential indi"iduals in the 0orld$ could not ma;e 0ell thought out choices and
instead had to settle on a (ureaucratic compromise gra"ely demoraliFed Kissinger: Most
importantly$ the retraction of the indi"idual from the policy1ma;ing process inhi(ited the
de"elopment of a sense of purpose 0ithin policy: 5Too often$6 Kissinger 0rote$ 5the
President is confronted 0ith faits accomplis (y the (ureaucracy 0hich he can ratify or
modify (ut 0hich preclude a real consideration of alternati"es: To ma;e matters 0orse$
the issues (rought up for decision are usually tactical and therefore ta;e energy from the
o"erriding tas; of de"eloping a (asic purpose:6 y li"ing in a 0orld of memoranda and
hierarchy$ the (ureaucracy had lost touch 0ith its ultimate purpose: to aid in the creation
of creati"e policy: .hen translated to the real 0orld$ (ureaucratic policies failed to grasp
any sort of underlying concept or understanding of the interrelationship of e"ents: 5This
is simply another 0ay of saying that our concepts ha"e no ade'uate relationship to
reality$6 Kissinger 0rote: All of this amounted to a 5curious reappearance of the
administrati"e practices of the Eisenho0er years$6 or in other 0ords$ a continuity of fla0s
0ithin the traditional mindset of American foreign policy:

%n his reflecti"e letter to Schlesinger$ Kissinger outlined not only his 'ualms 0ith
the inner 0or;ings of the Kennedy administration$ (ut also its out0ard policies: 8ot
surprisingly$ many of these issues had less to do 0ith technical aspects of policy and
more to do 0ith Kissinger's hope that a more purposeful foreign policy could ma;e the
!nited States the spiritual leader of the free 0orld: Kissinger's thoughts on Kennedy's
attitude to0ard the erlin -risis is one e9ample of Kissinger's encouragement of
purposeful policy: He sa0 the erlin -risis not as a physical implication of So"iet
intransigence$ (ut as an intangi(le struggle o"er the hearts and minds of the free 0orld:
Kissinger (elie"ed that the Kennedy administration 5defined the issue of erlin
incorrectly: The pro(lem is not simply free access to erlin<as is so often maintained<
(ut the hopes and e9pectations of the peoples of erlin$ the Federal &epu(lic$ and
.estern Europe: %f they lose confidence in us$ the current crises 0ill turn into a ma7or
defeat e"en should 0e o(tain some ;ind of guarantee of access for erlin:6
pro(lem 0as not only the need to increase the perception of the !nited States' po0er$ (ut
its a(ility to stand up for its allies and$ in the process$ its o0n "alues:
Kissinger 0as also concerned that the "ie0s that came across in his memoranda
did not accurately reflect his true opinions: He suspected that undy set up his position
to ma;e the President thin; that Kissinger 0as participating in policy discussion$ 0hile
limiting the e9tent to 0hich Kissinger could "ocaliFe his suggestions: Kissinger thought
of undy's actions mainly as petty personal competiti"eness$ (ut 0as disappointed that he
could not aid the administration on the field he 0as most passionate a(out: He 0as
5con"inced$ painful as this thought is to me$ that my contri(ution to national policy 0as
infinitely greater 0hen % 0as a pri"ate citiFen than it has (een since % 7oined the .hite
These thoughts underscored his argument in a later article called 5Policy1
Ma;er and the %ntellectual$6 0hich claimed that an ad"iser should either (e "ery close to
the President$ or far remo"ed from the policy1ma;ing system in order to retain his
creati"ity and indi"iduality and not gi"e up his original concepts to fit into the
(ureaucratic system:
Although Kissinger decided it 0ould (e (est for him to 'uietly resign from his
position in the .hite House$ he had much trou(le actually doing so: undy tried to offer
him a more e9tensi"e position$ (ut Kissinger 0as con"inced that 5Mac's proposal can
ser"e only one purpose: to gi"e the president the impression of my participation 0hile
continuing to e9clude me from e"en the most tri"ial responsi(ilities6
Kissinger's time
,+3Henry A: Kissinger$ 5Policyma;er and the %ntellectual$6 Reporter ,3 B,2@AC: ,?1,2:
,+AHenry A: Kissinger to Arthur M: Schlesinger$ =r:$ > 8o"em(er ,23,$ folder: Kissinger$ Henry ?P,23,1
,*P*P,23,$ .hite House Files (o9 ,>$ Papers of Arthur M: Schlesinger$ =r:$ =ohn F: Kennedy
Presidential )i(rary$ oston$ Mass:
in the Kennedy administration ended unhappily and 0ith no outcome other than e"idence
to strengthen his "ie0s on the American policy1ma;ing system: He resigned not (ecause
he did not agree 0ith the administration's policy$ (ut (ecause he found the system
un0or;a(le and felt he could (etter aid the administration as a pri"ate citiFen:
Dears (efore Kissinger (egan 0or;ing 0ith the Kennedy administration$ he 0rote
a(out the pro(lem of intellectuals in the policy1ma;ing system in an article called
5Policyma;er and the %ntellectual:6 Kissinger's arguments in this article seem almost
prophetic considering his later e9perience and resignation from the Kennedy
Kissinger (egan his argument in 5Policy1Ma;er and the %ntellectual6 (y
e9plaining that the lifestyle and personality of the typical e9ecuti"e in the American
go"ernment 0as a (usiness or la0yer type 0ho sought the immediate solutions to
pro(lems and 0hose (usy lifestyle did not pro"ide space for reflection: The s;ills of
specialiFation that (rought these e9ecuti"es to their positions in the go"ernment did not
actually translate into leadership s;ills: For e9ample$ the a(ility to comprehend
information 'uic;ly or to present materials articulately did not translate into the a(ility to
lead 0ith conception and "ision: Kissinger thought that$ although these 0ere highly
s;illed men$ they 0ere failing at their tas; 5to infuse and occasionally transcend routine
0ith purpose:6
&eferring (ac; to a theme he first e9pressed in 5The Meaning of
History$6 Kissinger held policy1ma;ers to a standard not of technical s;ill (ut of
conceptual a(ility:
Another reason Kissinger ga"e for American e9ecuti"es' lac; of conception 0as
,+4Henry A: Kissinger$ 5Policyma;er and the %ntellectual$6 Reporter ,3 B,2@AC: >+:
the traditional American attitude of pragmatism: This mindset sought ultimate reality in
the 5o(7ecti"e6 en"ironment of facts$ statistics$ and other empirical data: E9ecuti"es
"alued 5e9perience6 as a form of ;no0ledge or fact: %n order to (ring the most
5e9perience6 and 5;no0ledge6 to the solution of a pro(lem$ e9ecuti"es preferred
pro(lem1sol"ing and policy1ma;ing 0ithin committees: These committees too;
indi"idual conception and personal 7udgment out of the policy1ma;ing e'uation$ la(eling
it 5su(7ecti"e6 and therefore in"alid: Kissinger thought that a minimaliFation of
su(7ecti"ity and o"eremphasis on o(7ecti"ity created the 5illusion:::that 0e can a"oid
recourse to personal 7udgment and responsi(ility as the final determinant of policy:6
Gn the contrary$ Kissinger argued that indi"iduals 0ere ultimately responsi(le for
go"ernment decisions and could not escape this responsi(ility through committee
decision1ma;ing: ecause of the traditional American distrust of indi"idual choice and
conceptualiFation$ Kissinger called the committee approach to decision1ma;ing 5less an
organiFational de"ice than a spiritual necessity:6
This again leads (ac; to the
importance of con7ecture and conceptualiFation in (oth 5The Meaning of History6 and A
World Restored: From his research in history and philosophy$ Kissinger understood the
importance of conceptual "ision and applied that to the American policy1ma;ing system's
lac; of indi"idual 7udgment and responsi(ility:
.hile the structure of the system allo0ed e9ecuti"es to a"oid personal
responsi(ility$ the (usyness of committees caused policy1ma;ers to confuse momentum
0ith purpose: .hile momentum is often a sign of progress$ the (usyness of committees
,+2%(id:$ >,:
0as mo"ement in an undefined direction$ or e"en multiple different directions:
-ommittees typically inhi(ited progress through inno"ation (ecause inno"ation re'uired
ris;: The committee system sought to a"oid ris; through the maintenance of the status
'uo$ for 5the status 'uo has at least the ad"antage of familiarity$6 rather than em(race the
5(oldness of conception6 0hich 0ould ena(le inno"ation creation of purposeful
.ithout a clear definition of purpose$ the momentum and apparent progress
of committees 0as meaningless:
The committee approach to policy1ma;ing also led to the fragmentation of policy$
resulting in a lac; of underlying conception and purpose: ecause committees 0or;ed
separately and on different (ut interconnected issues$ they did not share a sense of
direction 0ith one another other than the maintenance of the status 'uo: Kissinger
thought that this process of fragmentation led to the distortion of the spirit of policy (y
encouraging policy1ma;ers to focus on indi"idual mo"es$ rather than understanding the
interrelation of e"ents: )i;e Kissinger e9pressed 0hile 0or;ing in the Kennedy
administration$ focusing on indi"idual mo"es out of the conte9t of a se'uence of e"ents is
li;e ma;ing a mo"e in the middle of a chess game 0ithout ha"ing 0atched the
de"elopment of the game: Thin;ing of policy1ma;ing in this 0ay sho0ed that this
method of specialiFation 0ithin committees 0as irrational if it did not contri(ute to the
o"erall progression of policy to0ard an end goal: 5%t is as if in commissioning a
painting$6 Kissinger 0rote$ 5a patron 0ould as; one artist to dra0 the face$ another the
(ody$ another the hands$ and still another the feet$ simply (ecause each artist is
particularly good in one category: Such a procedure 0ould lose the meaning of the
,,,%(id:$ >*:
Kissinger's use of the chess game and portrait analogies again re"ealed that he
put the most importance on the spirit of policy and its underlying purpose$ rather than
technicalities: These a(stract elements are the same ideals he first identified in 5The
Meaning of History6 and A World Restored:
Kissinger argued that an incorporation of intellectuals into the policy1ma;ing
system 0as not necessarily the solution to the pro(lem of (ureaucratic policy1ma;ing: %n
fact$ as Kissinger pointed out$ there 0ere more intellectuals than e"er in the system and it
still had ma7or fla0s: The pro(lem then 0as not the lac; of intellectuals$ (ut the lac; of
understanding concerning their roles in policy1ma;ing: %nstead of incorporating
intellectuals as decision1ma;ers$ the system incorporated them as ad"isors: .hile the
system's main pro(lems 0ere 0ith purpose and conception$ e9ecuti"es only as;ed
intellectuals to sol"e immediate or technical pro(lems instead of helping to define long1
term goals: E9ecuti"es "ie0ed intellectuals as specialists on technical pro(lems rather
than outside perspecti"es: E"en 0orse$ e9ecuti"es often percei"ed intellectuals as a
0eight on the scale in an argument (et0een committee mem(ers$ or essentially an
endorsement of certain policies: %ntellectuals 0ere as;ed to accept criteria as the
e9ecuti"es had already defined it$ and to sol"e the technical pro(lems gi"en only that
criteria: The area that Kissinger thought the e9ecuti"es needed help in$ defining criteria$
they ;ept intellectuals out of:

The (ureaucratic system also pressured intellectuals to sacrifice their creati"ity
and indi"iduality in fa"or of (ureaucratic processes$ such as the memoranda 0riting
,,*%(id:$ >,:
,,>%(id:$ >?:
Kissinger disli;ed so much: %f intellectuals did not thin; 0ithin the (ureaucratic (o9$
their ideas 0ould (e discarded: Kissinger pointed out that many intellectuals$ eager to
retain an 5acti"e life6 0ould change themsel"es to fit the system: Det this only 0or;ed
against them and the administration (y sapping them of the "ery 'uality they 0ere
(rought in for: their position as outsiders:
Another pro(lem 0ith intellectuals in the policy1ma;ing system had to do 0ith
intellectuals' misperception of policy1ma;ing: Kissinger ac;no0ledged that intellectuals
had a tendency to simplify pro(lems theoretically that 0ere not so simple in reality:
Many intellectuals 5ha"e refused to recogniFe that policy1ma;ing in"ol"es not only the
clear conception of ideas (ut also the management of men: %n the process analysis has
(een too often identified 0ith policy1ma;ing:6 Kissinger referred to this as the confusion
of analysis 0ith policy: The difference (et0een the t0o has much to do 0ith perspecti"e
and pace: Policy loo;s to0ards the future$ (ut must ma;e decisions in the immediate
present: %n contrast$ analysis happens at the pace of reflection$ through the a(sorption of
a large set of facts: Policy cannot 0ait for all the 5facts to (e in$6 (ecause (y the time this
happens$ 5the future has (een reduced to an aspect of the past:6
This meant that policy
cannot (e created 0ith certainty and must rely on the process of con7ecture: More
intellectuals in the policy1ma;ing system is not the ans0er to (ureaucratic issues 0ith
con7ecture$ (ecause intellectuals can (e 7ust as hesitant as e9ecuti"es to ma;e decisions
that are not (ased on certainty:
Kissinger ended his article 0ith a reminder that the o"er1(ureaucratiFation of
,,?%(id:$ >>:
,,@%(id:$ >?:
policy is a dangerous and immediate pro(lem: 5The sta;es could hardly (e higher$6 he
0rote$ 5the deepest cause of the inhumanity of our time is pro(a(ly the pedantic
application of administrati"e norms:6 The sym(ol of this 5pedantic application6 0as the
5commissar$6 the ideal (ureaucrat 50ho condemns thousands 0ithout lo"e and 0ithout
hatred simply in pursuance of an a(stract duty:6 To get the attention of his American
audience$ sure in its cause for humanity and in its superiority o"er the So"iets$ Kissinger
compared American officials to their arch enemy$ the heartless communist 0ho is
concerned only 0ith regulations$ and 0hose reality remains only 0ithin his go"ernmental
Kissinger hoped that Americans 0ould respond to his pleas (y shifting the process
of policy1ma;ing to focus onto the indi"idual 5Gur challenge is to rescue the indi"idual
from this process:::The 0ay 0e face this challenge 0ill (e the ultimate test of our long1
proclaimed (elief in the dignity of the indi"idual:6 Kissinger's emphasis on the
indi"idual in policy1ma;ing traces (ac; to his philosophy of the agency of the indi"idual
in 5The Meaning of History6 and A World Restored: %ndeed$ he noted that for mem(ers
of the policy1ma;ing system$ 5our challenge is to rescue the indi"idual from this
To ma;e his assertions more rele"ant to Americans$ he related a return to
emphasis on the indi"idual to the American "alue of respect for the 5dignity of the
y connecting the t0o issues$ he sho0ed that if Americans stood for
freedom$ independence$ and the other intangi(le purposes of li(erty and democracy$ they
needed to represent this 0ithin their policy1ma;ing system rather than displaying the
,,3%(id:$ >@:
"alues of the So"iet commissar:
After Kissinger resigned from the Kennedy administration for the reasons he
e9pressed in his letters to Schlesinger as 0ell as in the reasons he outlined in 5Policy1
Ma;er and the %ntellectual$6 Kissinger 0ent (ac; to pu(lishing his "ie0s as an outsider in
(oo;s and articles: Kissinger's disappointment 0ith the Kennedy administration as 0ell
as his close ties to the people there made at least the first article he 0rote after his
resignation 5the hardest thing % ha"e e"er had to 0rite:6 Det Kissinger felt that it 0as his
duty to ma;e clear the pro(lems 0ithin the administration$ and 0ithin American policy1
ma;ing in general$ 0riting that he 5did so only after all other means of presenting my
"ie0s had pro"ed futile:6
.hile Kissinger 0ould ma;e these negati"e criticisms in articles such as
5!nsol"ed Pro(lems of European #efense6 and 5#omestic Structure and Foreign
Policy$6 he had something positi"e to say a(out Kennedy's actions during the -u(an
missile crisis: Kissinger's "ie0s of the Kennedy during the -u(an missile crisis reflect a
positi"e reinforcement of Kennedy's actions$ an outline for future action$ and a layer of
Kissinger's o0n personal philosophy: %n the article 5&eflections on -u(a$6 he focused on
the importance of personal action and initiati"e$ as 0ell as the creation of a national
purpose and the need for con7ecture and imagination in policy1ma;ing:
Kissinger praised Kennedy for acting (oldly 0ith the opportunity gi"en him
through the -u(an missile crisis: the opportunity 5to change the course of e"ents (y one
dramatic mo"e:6 Kissinger's praise 0as rooted in his personal philosophy 0hich
emphasiFed the a(ility of indi"iduals to shape the flo0 of history through purposeful
action: 5The President's stro;e demonstrated that a great po0er leads not so much (y its
0ords as (y its actions$ that initiati"e creates its o0n consensus:6 he 0rote: y praising
the President's actions$ Kissinger 0as chiefly praising his acti"ism and imagination:
Most importantly$ he 0as grateful that Kennedy 5e9ploded the myth6 that the So"iets
0ould ta;e greater ris;s than the !nited States$ again sho0ing the acti"ism and initiati"e
of the !nited States to push (eyond the status 'uo in this situation:

.hile Kissinger ga"e Kennedy the credit for "ictory in the -u(an missile crisis$
he 0as also shoc;ed (y the So"iets' stupidity in initiating the crisis$ calling their mista;e
a 5colossal (lunder:6 %nterestingly$ he attri(uted the mista;e to So"iet leadership falling
"ictim to its o0n propaganda: He called this pro(lem$ 0hen those on top are told only
0hat they 0ant to hear$ the5disease of dictatorships:6 Kissinger contrasted this failure on
the part of the So"iet leadership to Kennedy's "ictory: 8ot only did Khrushche" mista;e
his o0n propaganda for the truth$ (ut he also misread 5the character of the President and
the mood of the country$6 0hich 0as to stand triumphantly in the face of ris;:

This rare positi"e account of American action in the -old .ar displayed
Kissinger's (elief that the country could indeed succeed in the -old .ar if it mustered the
initiati"e to act 0ith purpose and con"iction: Further$ he sho0ed that despite the
President's position in the midst of a controlling (ureaucracy$ he still had the po0er to
ma;e important decisions and to use his character and 0ill to lead the nation to0ards its
long1term goals: .hile Kissinger 0ould often implicate that the So"iet system of
leadership 0as superior to the American system its fle9i(ility$ in this case he emphasiFed
,,2Kissinger$ 5&eflections on -u(a$6 *,:
his preference for the democratic system (ecause of the character of its leaders:
Kennedy's actions not only displayed to the So"iet !nion the confidence and
(oldness of the !nited States$ (ut also illustrated to European allies and uncommitted
nations the American capacity for leadership: As Kissinger e9pressed in earlier 0or;s$ he
feared that European allies and de"eloping nations 0ere (eginning to lose confidence in
the !nited States and 0ould turn to the So"iet !nion on their o0n terms: 8o0$ he sa0
Kennedy's (oldness in -u(a as a 5chance to "indicate the leadership of the .est6 and an
opportunity to create a stronger .estern alliance: The time 0as especially opportune
(ecause it had a 5moral (asis$6 or underlying purpose that 0ould allo0 the alliance to
pursue their aims 50ith greater moral con"iction:6
The "ictory of the !nited States in the -u(an missile crisis 0ould also allo0 for
fresh dialogue among its citiFens on its hopes for the future: Kissinger encouraged
Americans to discard the empty ad7ecti"es 5tough6 and 5soft6 policy in these
con"ersations$ and to focus on defining the su(stance of their policies:
Kissinger's suggestions re"ealed an emphasis on the necessity of conception and purpose
o"er technicalities in American policy1ma;ing:
Kissinger thought that Americans could only fulfill the ne0 opportunity for
leadership if they dropped their insistence on certainty in policy1ma;ing and realiFed that
they needed to learn ho0 to deal 0ith the une9pected$ li;e the -u(an missile crisis$ (y
creating a strategy in ad"ance: &ather than returning to the 50eary treadmill of
proposals6 that he had 0itnessed in the Kennedy administration$ Kissinger encouraged
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American leaders to ta;e the opportunity presented to them to define 0hat they stood for$
and not 0hat they thought the So"iets might agree on:

The a(ility of Americans to ta;e up this opportunity especially depended on a
change in attitude of American leaders to0ards con7ecture: Kissinger e9pressed that5the
dilemma of any statesman is that he can ne"er (e certain a(out the pro(a(le course of
e"ents: %n reaching a decision$ he must ine"ita(ly act on the (asis of an intuition that is
inherently unpro"a(le: %f he insists on certainty$ he runs the danger of (ecoming a
prisoner of e"ents: His resolution must reside not in 'facts' as commonly concei"ed (ut in
his "ision of the future:6 This statement re"eals a repetition of the themes of leadership
from A World Restored and 5The Meaning of History:6 These thoughts on leadership
reflected his philosophy of human action$ purpose$ and con"iction no0 translated to the
leadership of a nation: Kissinger reconciled his idealism 0ith the technical talents of the
administration 0hen he 0rote that 5most situations 0ill pro"e more am(iguous$ most
opportunities 0ill appear less clear: The challenge$ then$ is to couple the prudence$
calculation$ and s;ill of a go"ernment of e9perts 0ith an act of imagination that
encompasses the opportunities (efore us$6 articulating a middle 0ay that 0ould allo0 the
nation more fle9i(ility 0ithout completely reno"ating its policy1ma;ing system:
T0o months after 0riting on the -u(an missile crisis$ Kissinger analyFed in
another article ho0 the Kennedy administration had used its opportunities in the S;y(olt
affair: After its "ictory in -u(a$ Kissinger 0as disappointed in the administration's
actions during the S;y(olt affair: The affair concerned an American agreement to pro"ide
,*?%(id:$ *?:
S;y(olt missiles to ritain$ 0hich the Americans did not follo0 through 0ith (ecause
they discontinued the S;y(olt missile: This (ro;en promise caused a flutter of dissent in
ritain: The affair dominated the con"ersation (et0een ritish Prime Minister
Macmillan and President Kennedy at their ne9t meeting$ although they initially planned
to spend the time reassessing the 0orld situation after the -u(an crisis: Kissinger
complained that the resulting 8assau agreement$ a plan in 0hich the !nited States 0ould
supply Great ritain 0ith Polaris missiles in place of the promised S;y(olt missiles$ 0as
of 5e9traordinary am(iguity:6 Kissinger sa0 that American statesmen had once again
slipped into the ha(it of not clearly defining their strategies or goals:
.hile the administration prided itself that the 8assau agreement 0as a 5historic
step to0ard Atlantic partnership$6 Kissinger sa0 the affair as a step (ac;0ards in the
ma;ing of an Atlantic alliance: Kennedy percei"ed the decision as a technical one$ (ut
Kissinger understood it as a political decision 0ith 0ide1ranging conse'uences for other
European nations: 5This difference in approach$6 he 0rote$ 5is at the heart of the
pro(lems of the Atlantic Alliance:6 He 0as first upset 0ith the am(iguity of the
document$ 0riting that 50e ha"e changed our proposals to 8ATG so often that no one
can tell any more 0hat 0e 0ant or (elie"e$6 again arguing for a clarification of doctrine
in order to ensure progress to0ards ideals:
Kissinger 0as also concerned 0ith the impression the 8assau agreement left on
other European allies: The American "ictory in the -u(an missile crisis sho0ed the
nation's allies that the !nited States had a capacity for (old leadership: Kissinger feared
,*3Henry A: Kissinger$ 5S;y(olt Affair$6 Reporter *4 B,23>C: ,@1,3:
,*A%(id:$ ,@1,A:
that the S;y(olt affair only underscored its earlier am(iguity and lac; of sensiti"ity
to0ards its European allies$ diminishing the psychological "ictory of the -u(a crisis: For
e9ample$ Kissinger thought that the French 0ould 5reason that if 0e (eha"e so (rutally
e"en to ritain$ 0hich su(ordinated almost e"erything to its special relationship 0ith us$
0hat prospects are there for the -ontinental countriesN6
Kissinger 0as again
concerned 0ith the lac; of cohesion among the Atlantic alliance$ for to him the
restoration of the alliance 0as also the restoration of .estern purpose: Gnly through a
re"i"al of the Atlantic alliance and a definition of its ideals could the !nited States
purposefully counter the So"iet !nion in the -old .ar: He 0rote that the 8assau
agreement created 5the urgency of reconsidering the assumptions and$ e"en more$ the
spirit underlying our strategy$6 hoping that Americans 0ould go forth 0ith a 5less
hectoring spirit:6 This change in attitude 0ould free American allies from their lac; of
confidence in American leadership and 0ould restrain American statesmen from accusing
its allies of irresponsi(ility: %n this 0ay$ ne0 opportunities could arise that 0ould allo0
the alliance to discuss 8ATG strategy from the perspecti"e of 50hat the alliance as a
0hole should really 0ant:6
Kissinger hoped that despite the fum(le of the S;y(olt
affair$ a change of attitude could restore the purpose of the Atlantic alliance:
The same month he 0rote on the S;y(olt affair$ Kissinger pu(lished an article in
!oreign Affairs titled 5Strains on the Alliance:6 5Strains6 0ent into further detail on the
need for unity in the Atlantic alliance: Kissinger thought that many o(stacles stood in the
0ay of the consolidation of the alliance including internal di"ision$ allies' s;epticism of
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!:S: intentions$ and especially French and German distrust of American negotiations on
%n 5Strains$6 Kissinger argued that the !nited States could only (enefit from
the credi(ility it gained after the -u(an missile crisis if it made 5an effort to understand
recent European attitudes to0ards our policies:6
He stressed the importance of
understanding and sympathiFing 0ith European attitudes$ again pointing out the
importance of intangi(les in policy: As he e9pressed in his comments on -u(a and
S;y(olt$ he thought that only through a unified spirit and attitude could the .estern
alliance create a common strategy:
The first section of 5Strains6 dealt 0ith the pro(lem of the erlin crisis: Kissinger
criticiFed the Kennedy administration's acceptance of the status 'uo in erlin$ referring to
a theme in A World Restored a(out a nation's historical "ision or historical e9perience to
descri(e the situation in Europe: 5The perspecti"e of nations differs 0ith the o(ligations$
their geography$ their history$ and their po0er$6 he 0rote:
%n order to function as an
alliance$ its mem(ers needed to consider and not contradict the 5deepest aspirations6 of
their partners: Kissinger asserted that the American hesitation during the erlin crisis
shoc;ed the German people and sacrificed their (asic interests as a people: The di"ision
of Germany 0ould only further em(itter the German people and feed the cycle of
resentment that led to the Second .orld .ar: 5The younger generation in Germany 0ill
not (e fore"er content to pay for the sins of its fathers (y (eing considered morally
second1class:6 %nstead$ Germany's historical e9perience$ its 5deepest aspirations$6 needed
to (e considered in the creation of .estern policy: The only 0ay that the .est could
,>+Henry A: Kissinger$ 5Strains on the Alliance$6 !oreign Affairs ?, B=anuary ,23>C: *3,:
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include Germany as a relia(le mem(er of the alliance 0ould (e to 5treat her li;e one:6
This intangi(le change in attitude 0ould not only (enefit the .estern alliance$ (ut 0ould
also ;eep the So"iet !nion from appealing to German nationalism in (ilateral
Kissinger sa0 the (ilateral negotiations of American leaders as especially harmful
to the Atlantic alliance (ecause !:S: allies could interpret the negotiations to mean that
American statesmen 0ere colla(orating 0ith the enemy at the e9pense of their allies: He
0as especially concerned that American statesmen did not use the tal;s to 5define the
.est's conception of the future of Germany6 or to 5ad"ance a program either for e"entual
German unification or for ameliorating conditions in East Germany:6 %nstead$ American
leaders let the So"iets call the shots (y gi"ing them the initiati"e to define the situation:
5This set up a pattern of negotiations in 0hich$ in return for .estern concessions$ the
So"iets 0ould 0ithdra0 the threat 0hich they themsel"es had initiated:6
complaints amounted to a lac; of American acti"ism$ initiati"e$ creati"ity$ construction$
and "ision in the 0orld scene:
Although Kissinger placed great importance on the Atlantic alliance$ he sa0 the
!nited States as its leader and e9pected the country to acti"ely pursue its ideals$
especially in the conse'uential area of erlin: Again$ the !nited States failed to li"e up
to Kissinger's philosophy of reaching long1term ideals through specific steps: 5Those
0ho e9tol fle9i(ility in the a(stract$ the political realists 0hose e9pertise consists in
finding 0ays of ad7usting to immediate pressures$ are not al0ays the most relia(le allies
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in time of crisis: .e must ta;e care lest in the effort to achie"e short1range o(7ecti"es 0e
encourage a political style 0hich in the long run may pro"e demoraliFing for the .est$6
he 0rote:
This 0as a condemnation of the American strain of realism 0hich ad7usted
to$ rather than created$ facts:
Kennedy's fle9i(le response 0as also an issue that caused pro(lems 0ith allied
nations: Fle9i(le response represented Kissinger's thoughts in theory$ (ut missed the
point of (eing fle9i(le (y (ecoming caught up in technicalities: The most important
thing for the Kennedy administration to do at the time 0as to not focus on technical
solutions$ (ut on o"er1all strategy to lead the alliance in the right direction: 5.e should
(e more concerned 0ith political coordination than 0ith technical safeguards$6 he 0rote
of Alliance relations: This again defines Kissinger's philosophy: first concei"ing of "ision
and purpose$ then framing specific steps in order to reach those ideals: The Alliance first
had to 5define 0hat Atlantic relationships should (e li;e fi"e or ten years from no0:6
Then$ 5leaders on (oth sides of the Atlantic6 0ould need to 5ha"e the "ision to de"elop
common purposes and a structure to gi"e them effect:6 .hate"er agreement the nations
came to$ Kissinger insisted that 5a generous approach to our allies 0ill in the long run
pro"e the most producti"e:6 A 5generous approach6 meant one in 0hich the Americans
rela9ed their insistence on technicalities and (egan ha"ing an attitude more sympathetic
to the desires of the European nations:

%n emphasiFing the de"elopment of o"er1all strategy 0ithin the alliance$ Kissinger
0as most concerned 0ith confidence on (oth sides of the Atlantic in order to promote
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unity of "ision and action and to guarantee the longe"ity of the Alliance: Technical
pro(lems could only (e resol"ed 0ithin the de"elopment of a larger frame0or; 0ith a
fully de"eloped purpose$ "ision$ and long1term goals: 5%f 0e 0ish to shape e"ents$ 0e
can no longer rely on time to do our 0or; for us$6 he 0rote:
This again outlined
Kissinger's philosophical concept of first concei"ing of long1term ideals and then acti"ely
outlining specific steps to reach them:
.hile encouraging acti"e statesmanship$ Kissinger discouraged 0hat he called
5e9cessi"e realism:6 5E9cessi"e realism may 0ell (e the chief o(stacle to realiFing the
opportunities (efore the .est$6 he 0rote: This ;ind of realism ;ept leaders from
recogniFing the opportunities (efore them (ecause they 0ere inclined to 0or;ing 0ith the
e9isting frame0or; instead of constructing a ne0 one: %f they did not recogniFe this$ they
could confuse creati"ity 0ith pro7ecting the status 'uo into the future: To assert the need
for statesmen to not get stuc; in an o"eremphasis on realism$ Kissinger 0rote that 5today
0e stand in danger of (eing mired (y the prudent$ the tactical or the e9pedient: .hat is
needed no0 is an assertion of our future goals to gi"e us perspecti"e:6
Kissinger contrasted the difference (et0een American and European leaders in
order to highlight the American tendency to0ards e9cessi"e realism: .hereas American
leaders' concept of reality 0ere their daily ca(les and memos$ these aspects of policy
seemed particularly ephemeral to European leaders li;e Adenauer and de Gaulle: The
reality of these European leaders 0as 5their concept of the future or of the structure of the
0orld they 0ish to (ring a(out:6
Americans' e9cessi"e pragmatism 0ithout purpose
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seemed pointless the European statesmen 0ho created policy 0ith the future in mind:
%n order to (e more li;e the Europeans$ the !nited States 0ould 5ha"e to lift its
sights to encompass a more em(racing concept than that 0hich is today fashiona(le:6
They 0ould ha"e to see the larger "ersion of reality that Kissinger e9pressed in his
undergraduate thesis$ one that ac;no0ledged purpose o"er techni'ue and "ision of the
future o"er ad7ustment to the present: 5There are t0o ;inds of realists$6 Kissinger 0rote
as a conclusion to 5Strains$6 5those 0ho manipulate facts and those 0ho create them:
The .est re'uires nothing so much as men a(le to create their o0n reality:6
Kissinger further ela(orated on this concept in an article entitled 58ATG's
8uclear #ilemma:6 He descri(ed fle9i(le response as changing the position of nuclear
0eapons from 5s0ord6 to 5shield6 and con"entional forces from 5shield6 to 5s0ord:6 y
s0itching the 5s0ord6 and the 5shield$6 fle9i(le response heightened the tension (et0een
the allies: Europeans 0anted to (uild up their o0n nuclear stoc;piles to ensure their
safety$ 0hile Americans 0anted supreme command o"er nuclear 0eapons in the alliance:
Kissinger asserted that the American desire for supreme control o"er nuclear 0eapons
0as un7ustified$ and that Americans needed to (e more sympathetic to the political and
psychological fears of their European allies: For e9ample$ if the So"iet !nion attac;ed
Europe$ only the !nited States could decide 0hen$ 0here$ and if to (om(: Europe did not
0ant such an am(iguity of options after the second .orld .arE they 0anted to ha"e a say
in their o0n fate: 5Europeans$ li"ing on a continent co"ered 0ith ruins testifying to the
falli(ility of human foresight feel in their (ones that history is more complicated than
systems analysis:::They do not (elie"e that they must (e a(le to descri(e the e9act
circumstances in 0hich they might ha"e to rely on their nuclear forces in order to 0ish to
reser"e some degree of control o"er their destiny$6 Kissinger 0rote:
Further$ the s0itch
to fle9i(le response caused Europeans to dou(t the credi(ility of the American nuclear
threat$ and they (egan to fear the possi(ility that the !nited States might not counter
attac; if the So"iet !nion (om(ed Europe:
Kissinger highlighted that the tensions (et0een allies reflected the contrast
(et0een the European philosophy of history and the American preoccupation 0ith the
present: He e'uated American reluctance to grant European 0eapons for their o0n
defense to thin;ing that they 0ere 5too irresponsi(le to (e entrusted 0ith the ultimate
means for their protection:6
This is ho0 8ATG's pro(lem 0as political and
psychological$ not technical: The t0o sides of the Atlantic needed to sol"e these
pro(lems of conception (efore they could (e unified in their specific steps:
%n many of his 0ritings$ Kissinger presented de Gaulle as a foil to American
leadership: !nli;e the Americans$ 0ho treated the pro(lem of Germany as a technical
pro(lem$ de Gaulle grasped that if the Germans felt li;e outsiders$ they 0ould not (e
relia(le partners in the Atlantic alliance: Kissinger 0rote that to de Gaulle 5de"ising
negotiation formulas on erlin is less important than ma;ing the Germans feel that 0hen
under stress they do not stand alone:6 %n contrast$ American leaders approached the
pro(lem 0ith a 5some0hat schoolmasterish6 attitude$ increasing the chances for irritation
(et0een the nations of the alliance and acting 0ith a technical attitude and lac; of
sympathy for the European countries:
The main difference (et0een de Gaulle and
,?,Henry A: Kissinger$ 58ATG's 8uclear #ilemma:$6 Reporter *4 B,23>C: ,*A:
,?>Kissinger$ 5Strains on the Alliance$6 *33:
American statesmen 0as that of attitude: .hile de Gaulle understood the intangi(le
elements inhi(iting positi"e German relations$ the Americans sa0 only the technical
differences (et0een the t0o and could not understand the e9istence of a reality (eyond
Kissinger pointed out that de Gaulle approached matters concerning his o0n
country differently than American statesmen: 5He has pursued a tactic of announcing a
goal and then mo"ing to0ard it 0ithout further discussion<regardless of the "ie0s or
feelings of his allies:6 Kissinger ac;no0ledged this as an e9treme$ indeed 5irritating$6
approach to policy$ and 0ould e"entually suggest that this attitude ;ept de Gaulle from
achie"ing his goals (ecause of its a(rasi"eness: Det$ Kissinger also found the essence of
0hat he 0as as;ing the Americans to do in de Gaulle's actions: #e Gaulle clearly defined
his goals and acti"ely mo"ed to0ards them: This 0as the same 5strength of character and
"ision6 0hich he encouraged American statesmen to emulate:
Kissinger depicted de Gaulle as a foil to American statesmen in order to sho0 the
creation of purposeful policy in action$ and the flip side of the empiricism1idealism
dichotomy: .hile American statesmen focused on the pragmatic conception of policy$ de
Gaulle sa0 his tas; as restoring the identity of France through his policies$ approaching
them 0ith a more "isionary mindset: Kissinger called de Gaulle an 5illusionist6 for his
a(ility to do this so 0ell: 5%n the face of all e"idence to the contrary$ he has stri"en to
restore France's greatness (y his passionate (elief in it:6 Policy for de Gaulle 0as
pointless if it did not restore the soul of his nation or promote the 5redisco"ery of a
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specifically French sense of purpose:6
#e Gaulle's conceptual policy1ma;ing thus
created conflict (et0een the the pragmatic and "isionary approaches to foreign policy:
Kissinger claimed that one reason for de Gaulle's intransigence 0ith the !nited
States 0as part of his strategy to recreate and nurture the sense of purpose in his country:
#e Gaulle's o(7ecti"e 0as pedagogical$ as he stro"e to teach his demoraliFed country
attitudes of self1sufficiency and independence after decades of fear and impotence:
Kissinger admired de Gaulle's a(ility to shepherd the attitudes of his countrymen: A true
leader$ as Kissinger outlined in A World Restored$ should (e an educator for his people
and a (ridge to their future: Kissinger sa0 de Gaulle as a modern manifestation of this
ideal leader: y saying that American statesmen 5misread de Gaulle$6 Kissinger implied
that there 0as more to the French statesman than his frustrating personality:
.hile the
!nited States did not typically agree 0ith de Gaulle's policies$ Kissinger 0anted
Americans to see past these technicalities in order to realiFe a more important aspect of
de Gaulle: his a(ility to lead his nation and create policy purposefully through an
understanding of the interrelatedness of e"ents and the intangi(les of attitude$ and
%n order to restore the "itality of France$ de Gaulle had to (e a "isionary and
create his o0n reality: 5#e Gaulle has chosen to re"italiFe France (y an act of faith
po0erful enough to o"erride a seemingly contrary reality$6 Kissinger 0rote: He did this
through "ision$ action$ and the important element of in0ard purpose: 5Grandeur is not
simply physical po0er (ut strength reinforced (y moral purpose$6 Kissinger said of these
,?@Kissinger$ 5%llusionist: .hy .e Misread de Gaulle$6 A+:
elements: He then 'uoted de Gaulle to sho0 de Gaulle's assessment of the necessity of a
human aspect$ not a(stract realism: 5Des$ international life$ li;e life in general$ is a (attle:
The (attle 0hich our country is 0aging tends to unite and not to di"ide$ to honor and not
to de(ase$ to li(erate and not to dominate: Thus it is faithful to its mission$ 0hich al0ays
0as and 0hich remains human and uni"ersal:6
The most important difference (et0een de Gaulle and American statesmen$ then$
0as their differing perceptions of reality: #e Gaulle 0as5the leader of a country:::to
0hich the unforeseen is the most elemental1fact of history: American leaders 0hile
personally hum(le are much more confident that they can chart the future: .hat cannot
(e descri(ed concretely has little reality for them: %n"ol"ed$ ultimately$ are differing
conceptions of truth: The !nited States$ 0ith its technical$ pragmatic approach$ often has
analytical truth on its side: #e Gaulle$ 0ith his consciousness of the trials of France for
the past generation$ is fre'uently closer to the historical truth:6
%n his praise for de
Gaulle's "ision$ Kissinger asserted that only through an incorporation of intangi(le$ and
often idealistic$ elements of humanity could foreign policy purposefully lead to the
fulfillment of a nation's ideals:

,?A%(id:$ A+$ A>:
,?4%(id:$ A>:
A close reading of Henry Kissinger's early 0ritings$ including his undergraduate
thesis 5The Meaning of History$6 his graduate dissertation on the statesmanship of
-astlereagh and Metternich pu(lished as A World Restored$ and his criti'ues of Presidents
Eisenho0er and Kennedy's foreign policies$ re"eals a continuity of thought and a
surprisingly optimistic 0orld"ie0: This 0orld"ie0 manifested itself as Kissinger's
philosophy of the indi"idual in 5The Meaning of History$6 his ideals of statesmanship in
A World Restored$ and his call for American purpose in his modern foreign policy
Kissinger's (elief in the progress of humanity to0ards ideals and the potential of
indi"idual action stands in star; contrast to many historians' conception of him as a cold1
(looded practitioner of Realpolitik and a disciple of such realist statesmen as Metternich
and ismarc;: A closer loo; at Kissinger's 0or;s sho0s that Kissinger esche0ed an
o"eremphasis on realism and thought that Metternich's statesmanship failed (ecause of its
lac; of "ision: &eflecting on the 5Metternich theory$6 or the accusation that he stro"e to
(e li;e the nineteenth century statesman in his o0n policies$ Kissinger said in a ,2A4
inter"ie0 that 5-ontrary to popular (elief$ a policy (ased on pure (alance of po0er$6 a
central concept of realism$ 5is the most difficult foreign policy to conduct:::it demands a
total ruthlessness and means that statesmen must (e a(le to ignore friendship$ loyalty$ and
anything other than the national interest:6
&ather than follo0 this paradigm$ Kissinger
,?2Henry A: Kissinger$ !or the Record: elected tate$ents# .8661.8/9$ ,st ed: Boston: )ittle ro0n$
,24,C$ ,*+1,*,:
encouraged American statesmen to place emphasis on those seemingly 5soft6 or idealistic
aspects of foreign policy such as friendship and loyalty:
%n his (oo;s and articles on American foreign policy$ including 3uclear Weapons
and !oreign Policy$ 'he 3ecessity for %hoice$ and 'he 'rou-led Partnership$ Kissinger
argued that one of the !nited States' main pro(lems 0as its ina(ility to understand 5soft6
or idealistic concepts and to sympathiFe 0ith those$ especially Europeans and de"eloping
nations$ to 0hom the intangi(les of attitude$ purpose$ and a "ision of the future 0ere most
important: E"en as late as this ,2A4 inter"ie0$ Kissinger ac;no0ledged that (alance of
po0er 0as important$ (ut thought that 5if a (alance of po0er (ecomes an end in itself it
(ecomes self1destructi"e:6
His priorities in foreign policy lay outside a calcula(le
national interest and inside national purpose:
%n ,234$ Henry Kissinger agreed to act as national security ad"isor to incoming
President &ichard M: 8i9on: This decision 0ould fore"er change his life: Kissinger
0ent from Har"ard professor and pu(lic intellectual to one of the most po0erful men in
the 0orld$ 0ith closer access to the President and hands1on policy1ma;ing opportunities
than e"en 8i9on's Secretary of State$ .illiam &ogers: Kissinger e"entually replaced
&ogers as Secretary of State and held his position through President Gerald Ford's
administration: Kissinger's position in the .hite House allo0ed him to (e an acti"e
participant in one of the most dangerous periods of American history: He created
influential policies and dramatically changed relations 0ith Asian and )atin American
nations$ the So"iet !nion$ and Europe: %n addition$ his consolidation of po0er 0ithin the
.hite House$ com(ined 0ith the 8i9on's .atergate scandal$ caused many Americans to
'uestion the integrity of their go"ernmental leaders: According to historian =eremi Suri$
Kissinger's policies and his 0ielding of po0er contri(uted to the turning a0ay of a 0hole
generation of Americans from politics:
Kissinger's decisions as national security
ad"isor and Secretary of State not only influenced the -old .ar 0orld$ (ut continue to
affect glo(al relations and American politics today:
To agree 0ith Kissinger's assertion that 5the con"ictions that leaders ha"e formed
(efore reaching high office are the intellectual capital they 0ill consume as long as they
continue in office6 is to agree that the the ideas outlined in this thesis 0ere fundamental
to Kissinger's later foreign policy decisions:
This argument complicates the historical
narrati"e of Henry Kissinger as the prototype of a realist statesman: %t also prompts
se"eral 'uestions that remain unans0ered: .hat do these findings mean in light of
Kissinger's actions 0hile in officeN Ho0 did his philosophy shape specific policiesN #id
his philosophical ideas change at any point in his careerN Ho0 does he reflect upon these
early philosophical musings no0N .hile % regret that % could not address these 'uestions
due to the scope of this pro7ect$ % loo; for0ard to resol"ing them in the future: %n the
meantime$ % intend for the conclusions of this thesis to shed a ne0 light on the mysterious
figure of Henry Kissinger: 8ot only should they add to the understanding of Kissinger$
(ut they also 'uestion generally held assumptions and clear up 0idespread
misconceptions concerning the nature of his ideas$ 0orld"ie0$ and early 0ritings:
,@,=eremi Suri$ Po+er and Protest: (lo-al Re*olution and the Rise of )etente B-am(ridge$ Mass: Har"ard
!ni"ersity Press$ *++>C:
,@*Henry A: Kissinger$ White House Years$ ,st ed: Boston: )ittle$ ro0n$ ,2A2C$ @3:
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,23+C: @@A1@A@:
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4$ ,2@2:
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<<<: 5-ontrols$ %nspection$ and )imited .ar:6 Reporter ,3 B,2@AC: ,?1,2:
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<<<: 5For a 8e0 Atlantic Alliance:6 Reporter >@ B,233C: ,41*A:
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,2@3C: >?21>33:
<<<: 5Gold0ater and the om(: .rong Juestions$ .rong Ans0ers::6 Reporter >,
B,23?C: *A1*4:
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<<<: 5)imitations of #iplomacy:6 'he 3e+ Repu-lic ,>* B,2@@C: A14:
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BFall ,23+C: 4++14,A:
<<<: 5Military Policy and #efense of the /Grey Areas/:6 !oreign Affairs >>$ no: >
BApril ,2@@C: ?,31?*4:
<<<: 5Missiles and the .estern Alliance:6 !oreign Affairs >3$ no: > BApril ,2@4C: >4>1
<<<: 58ATG's 8uclear #ilemma::6 Reporter *4 B,23>C: **1>>:
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,2@4C: ,1,4:
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,2@3C: >A1@3:
<<<: 5&eflections on -u(a:6 Reporter *A B,23*C: *,1*?:
<<<: 5S;y(olt Affair:6 Reporter *4 B,23>C: ,@1,3:
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<<<: 5The -ongress of Oienna: A &eappraisal:6 World Politics 4$ no: * B=anuary
,2@3C: *3?1*4+:
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Metternich:6 'he A$erican Political cience Re*ie+ ?4$ no: ? B#ecem(er ,2@?C:
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file7$ Septem(er 3$ ,2@2:
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!ndergraduate honors thesis$ Har"ard !ni"ersity$ ,2@+:
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Dor;: Harper$ ,23,:
<<<: 5The Search for Sta(ility:6 !oreign Affairs >A B=uly ,2@2C: @>A:
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8:D: #ou(leday$ ,233:
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BSummer ,234C: 44412*?:
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file7$ Septem(er *A$ ,2@2:
Papers of Arthur M: Schlesinger$ =r:$ =ohn F: Kennedy Presidential )i(rary$ oston$ Mass:
Secondary Sources
-le"a$ Gregory #: Henry Kissinger and the A$erican Approach to !oreign Policy:
-ran(ury$ 8=: Associated !ni"ersity Presses$ ,244:
-ouncil$ on Foreign &elations: Encyclopedia of U.. !oreign Relations: 8e0 Dor;:
G9ford !ni"ersity Press$ ,22A:
#ic;son$ Peter .: Kissinger and the Meaning of History: -am(ridge HEng:I: -am(ridge
!ni"ersity Press$ ,2A4:
Gaddis$ =ohn )e0is: trategies of %ontain$ent: A %ritical Appraisal of A$erican
3ational ecurity Policy )uring the %old War: &e": and e9panded ed: 8e0 Dor;:
G9ford !ni"ersity Press$ *++@:
Grau(ard$ Stephen &ichards: Kissinger: Portrait of a Mind: 8e0 Dor;: 8orton$ ,2A?:
HanhimQ;i$ =ussi M: 'he !la+ed Architect: Henry Kissinger and A$erican !oreign
Policy: G9ford: G9ford !ni"ersity Press$ *++?:
Ku;lic;$ ruce: ;lind <racles: &ntellectuals and War fro$ Kennan to Kissinger:
Princeton$ 8:=: Princeton !ni"ersity Press$ *++3:
MaFlish$ ruce: Kissinger: 'he European Mind in A$erican Policy: 8e0 Dor;: asic
oo;s$ ,2A3:
8oer$ Thomas =: 5Henry Kissinger's Philosophy of History:6 Modern Age BSpring ,2A@C:
Starr$ Har"ey: Henry Kissinger: Perceptions of &nternational Politics: )e9ington$ Ky:
!ni"ersity Press of Kentuc;y$ ,24?:
Suri$ =eremi: Henry Kissinger and the A$erican %entury: -am(ridge$ Mass: el;nap
Press of Har"ard !ni"ersity Press$ *++A:
:::.Po+er and Protest: (lo-al Re*olution and the Rise of )etente: -am(ridge$ Mass:
Har"ard !ni"ersity Press$ *++>: