‘On all sides of the Syrian conflict, the commitment of the belligerents to democratic values and alignment with Western interests is, at best, untested. Al-Qaeda has now entered the conflict, effectively on the side that the United States is being asked to join. In such circumstances, U.S. policymakers encounter a choice not between a “realistic” and an “idealistic” outcome but between competing imperfections, between considerations of strategy and of governance. We are stymied on Syria because we have a strategic interest in breaking the Assad clan’s alliance with Iran, which we are reluctant to avow, and the moral objective of saving human lives, which we are unable to implement through the U.N. Security Council.’
Kissinger’s 90th birthday celebration is taking place in NYC. It’s worth roaming around his site.
From my limited understanding, Kissinger had an amazing grasp of the ideology of the Soviet Union, the philosophical backstory, and the practical politics of the Cold War. His essays on American political structure and the culture that produced it are a thing of beauty to read. For decades he pushed for detente, and beat a path away from nuclear brinksmanship and the polarity we’d drifted into. There are always compromises to be made in the chess game, and to recall and realize why you’re playing, what’s at stake and what’s possible.
I’m not always convinced we’re heading towards an ideal point, or the ideal bundle of universal values and institutions which have sprung from European philosophical idealism, but despite this deep and fruitful debate, Kissinger’s realpolitik always recognized the need for alliances, shared interests, treaties, and strategic common cause. It’s rare to find such a serious intellect as well as a practical, nuanced, thinker with so much experience in war, peace, politics and diplomacy.
Here’s a conversation with Kissinger at Harvard (complete with the brief protest of a more idealistic, rigidly ideological, shouter of the ‘war criminal’ epithet):
Related On This Site: Kissinger says our relations with China are incredibly fragile, and that due to its own past, it may not fit as easily into the Western models of statecraft as some would think: From The Online WSJ: ‘Henry Kissinger on China. Or Not.’