Kissinger: The Uses of Power
Metternich is Kissinger’s hero. There are many resemblances between them. There are even a few between Metternich and Nixon. Like Nixon, Metternich hated “campus bums,” though he would never have used so vulgar an expression. In the Metternich era, as in the Nixon Administration, editors and newspapermen generally ranked with university teachers and students among the prime objects of suspicion. Agnew’s ghost writers might like to quote in his next attack on us “effete snobs” that gloomy passage in Metternich’s secret memorandum to the Tzar Alexander which questioned whether “society can exist with the liberty of the press, a scourge unknown to the world before the latter half of the seventeenth century….”1
The earliest secular analogue to our own House Un-American Activities Committee, whence Nixon began his rise to the Presidency, was the Central Commission set up by Metternich under the infamous Carlsbad Decrees to watch over any sign of subversive activity in the German Confederation. A censorship was established over the press and a system of surveillance in the universities. Suspect professors were blacklisted, as were many of our own two decades ago. In the memorandum which led to the Carlsbad Decrees, Metternich stressed “the absolute necessity that professors whose sentiments are notoriously bad and who are involved in the intrigues of the latter-day disorders among the students shall be immediately deprived of their chairs.”2 Metternich “had a very low opinion of the political capacity of the professors,” the German nationalist historian von Treitschke wrote, “basing this judgment, characteristically enough, upon the opinion that no professor knew how to pay due regard to the value of property.”3 The House Un-American Activities Committee in Nixon’s day took a similar view.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan kept his seat in the White House warm and sold his family assistance plan by telling Nixon he bore a striking resemblance to Disraeli, a comparison some touchy people might regard as anti-Semitic. Moynihan seemed to be applying Disraeli’s own maxim, that in dealing with a reigning monarch you lay it on with a trowel. 4 One wonders whether in tired moments Nixon gets a pickup by hearing Kissinger tell him that in Nixon’s early years as a hunter of radicals and as a founding father of the Subversive Activities Control Board he was walking in the aristocratic footsteps of Prince von Metternich.
Kissinger’s first book, A World Restored, dealt with Metternich’s career and provides a kind of blueprint for his own. Kissinger seems to have modeled himself on his hero in small ways as well as large. Metternich was also “a swinger,” in fact he seems to have found his one recreation in chasing women. So extensive—and politically important—were his conquests that it took a two-volume work, Metternich und die Frauen,5 to do them justice. A major source of information on Metternich’s thinking lies in his letters to…
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