The Flowering of Henry Kissinger

Kissinger: The Uses of Power

by David Landau
Houghton Mifflin, 270 pp., $5.95

Metternich

by Alan Palmer
Harper & Row, 405 pp., $12.50

For a book that developed from the pages of the Harvard Crimson as part of the student revolt against the Vietnam war and Kissinger’s part in it, David Landau’s Kissinger: The Uses of Power opens with a prologue full of romantic nonsense. “Kissinger,” he writes, “is not a man who blindly seeks power…. It is true that he has an unusual impulse toward power and authority, but it is an impulse that springs from a strong sense of personal mission….” This sounds more like a press release from Herbert Klein than a put-down from a campus radical.

Or what is one to make of the passage in which Landau tells us, echoing one of Kissinger’s favorite philosophers,

Hegel’s belief in history as an organic process is really mystical in origin…it may perhaps best be described as an article of faith. It is a faith to which Kissinger adheres. His belief that the United States has global responsibilities…cannot be described as nationalistic or self-centered [my italics]; it is a vision exposed by Hegelian lumière.

Hegelian horsefeathers! Every imperialism in the last two centuries has broadcast mystical nonsense about its mission civilisatrice.

Worst of all is to be told that Kissinger’s view of the US role in the world “might best be described as a kind of muscular liberalism, designed to defend a pluralistic world order and prevent the emergence of forces which might threaten it.” That has been the State Department line since the cold war began. “His opposition to wars of national liberation, brutal and unjustified though it has been,” Landau continues, “does not spring from any desire to suppress movements for national independence and is not without its measure of compassion for the peoples who are fighting them.” Compassion is one quality wholly lacking in everything Kissinger has ever written.

Landau concludes that Kissinger’s opposition to wars of national liberation springs from the fear that “if such wars should appear to succeed, then other great powers with less noble intentions [my italics] will be spurred toward ideological quests.” Those two Kissinger assistants Landau thanks for talking with him “at some length”—what poop did they feed this bright fledgling radical journalist to make him serve up such apologetic tripe?

Wars of national liberation” is a new term for an old imperial problem—how to deal with popular unrest that threatens friendly or puppet regimes. We have been intervening against such movements for a century in Central America and the Caribbean. Kissinger has been concerned with them for a long time. He even launched new terms for them in the Rockefeller Brothers Fund report called “International Security: The Military Aspect,” which was prepared under his direction.

This says we need to create a military establishment “diversified” enough in its weaponry and tactics to deal even with “concealed wars” or “non-overt aggression.” The latter is a metaphysical hobgoblin well suited to the paranoia of the cold war. The report becomes clearer when it …

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Letters

The Real Kissinger? February 22, 1973