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Henry Kissinger, who dominated international relations with charisma, intellect and cynicism, dies at 100

Norman Kempster, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Henry A. Kissinger, the architect of U.S. foreign policy at the apex of the Cold War and a towering intellectual force in world affairs for more than half a century, has died at his Connecticut home.

Kissinger died Wednesday, according to his consulting firm, Kissinger Associates. He was 100.

As national security adviser and secretary of State in the administrations of Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, Kissinger dominated international relations from 1969 to 1977 with charisma, intellect and a wry cynicism.

Although his tenure in the Nixon and Ford administrations marked his only senior government position, he had an impact on policy both before and after his years in office. From 1956, when he was study director of an influential panel on nuclear policy, until well into the 21st century, Kissinger advised presidents of both parties.

“Any student of American foreign policy will need to be familiar with his philosophy of realism,” said Peter Rodman, the late Pentagon official and scholar who served as an aide to Kissinger. “He suggests there is a diplomatic approach to everything.”

In November 1968, when Nixon surprisingly picked Kissinger to be his national security adviser, the two men hardly knew each other — and what they knew, they did not much like. Nixon loathed the Eastern Establishment typified by Harvard men and protégés of New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, Kissinger’s first patron. The president-elect also exhibited a recurrent antisemitism, sometimes in Kissinger’s presence. And before taking the job, Kissinger made no secret of his suspicions of Nixon’s intellect.

 

But in their enigmatic relationship, Kissinger and Nixon shared an overarching objective to concentrate the government’s foreign policy power in the White House to an extent not seen before. Toward that end, they emasculated the authority of Secretary of State William P. Rogers and imposed an unusually heavy-handed supervision on the Pentagon, CIA and other foreign policy centers.

In 1973, Kissinger replaced Rogers as secretary of State and became the only person to hold the posts of national security adviser and head of the State Department simultaneously. Kissinger established the standard by which all subsequent foreign policy advisers have been judged. Ford, Nixon’s successor, eventually stripped Kissinger of the NSA role saying, years later, that it was a conflict of interest for him to hold both positions.

As the architect of U.S. foreign policy, Kissinger had a crowded agenda, much of it consumed by the Vietnam War.

He and North Vietnamese negotiator Le Duc Tho were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for hammering out a plan intended to end the war, but the agreement, announced in January 1973, failed to stop the fighting and the war dragged on for more than two more years until Saigon finally fell. Kissinger accepted the honor, although he did not attend the ceremony, blaming the pressure of official duties. Tho refused the prize, explaining that he considered the negotiations to have been a failure.

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