Realistic and pragmatic | Profile

When thinking about Kissinger’s legacy, the first thing to note is his status as a realist academic. Academic not only because he is a professor, but because his mission was to educate the American people in the dilemmas, problems, and vicissitudes of the Cold War, so that they understood international politics from the point of view of their origins, European, and the global role that the United States must have as a hegemonic power. That academic role is a very clear role, without a lot of public discussion, so to speak, or it’s the least controversial.

There is a second role, which is the one that is subject to controversy, which is Kissinger’s political advisor, either in his position as Secretary of National Security or Secretary of State, which is reflected in his memoirs, especially regarding the war. of Vietnam, to his participation in what is known as the Vietnam papers. There are his recommendations in relation to coups in Latin America, such as Salvador Allende’s and Washington’s support for dictatorships or regimes in the Middle East.

In the Cold War, Kissinger understood that, in international politics, considerations tied to the type of regime were secondary or less relevant to the consolidation of North American hegemony in the face of a phenomenal threat like that of the Soviet Union. Thus, by following the dictates of realistic international politics, he maximized the pragmatic and sacrificed everything else. Every political decision, ultimately, depended on the national interest, which was the increase of the power of the United States, and at the same time, maintaining a political balance. It was based on that balance that he achieved, along with Richard Nixon, his greatest success, which was the policy towards China and the schism in the Soviet bloc between Beijing and Moscow.

In that Kissinger is a relic of the 20th century and the critical criticisms that have been leveled at him in relation to his position on the war in Ukraine are because he is read with the logic of the 21st century and not with the logic of the 20th century, as that idea that territorial concessions had to be made, that international politics is still a policy of great powers, and that therefore Ukraine plays a secondary role in that dynamic.

He was a citizen completely loyal to the United States, not to its politicians, but to the political system. He always understood the role that Unidos has for the world and for its citizens. That led him to write the book On China, where he asks to read China from the perspective of political realism, precisely trying to alert the Americans to read China from the perspective of political realism and carry out a realistic policy, albeit confrontational, but it did balance, to pay attention to the changes that China was going to show the United States.

And in another book, Does America need a Foreign Policy?, he makes a great criticism of the liberal foreign policy of the Clintons, of that idea that, being the only superpower, the United States could do without political dynamics. He saw this as something unnatural, because he believed that the North American leadership was much more necessary, and it did not happen to promote the transformational components of liberalism, but rather to build an order of balance of power, to try not to offend the other great powers, who have their interests and who are going to defend them. As a conclusion, the centrality of foreign policy in the greatness of nations is his most lasting legacy. That’s why when we talk about foreign policy, we always think of Henry Kissinger.

* Academic Secretary of CARI, professor of International Relations.

You may also like