Henry Kissinger on U.S. Foreign Policy
I don’t know how many of you remember Henry, but he was President Nixon’s Secretary of State and the man who accompanied Nixon on his 1972 secret visit to communist China. An interesting man.
Kissinger has a powerful intellect and is someone to pay attention to when he comments on the American diplomatic service—and he has just done that
According to The Hill, Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said in a new interview that modern U.S. diplomacy is “very responsive to the emotion of the moment.” I have not always agreed with Kissinger, but have respected his opinion. Not only has he a career few humans can aspire to, but he is twelve years older that me and that takes some doing. If you’re reaching for a calculator, I am eighty-seven at the moment.
Emotion of the moment sounds more like a troubled marriage than a national strategy.
But Henry goes on to say that “U.S. leadership is focused on condemning ideas it disagrees with, instead of negotiating and engaging with adversaries’ thinking.” He also cautioned against what he sees as “disequilibrium in the international power balance as tensions between the U.S. and fellow world powers Russia and China escalate.”
A man sharp enough at 99 to casually use ‘disequilibrium’ in a spontaneous interview is someone to listen to with care
In case you missed the article, “We are at the edge of war with Russia and China on issues which we partly created, without any concept of how this is going to end or what it’s supposed to lead to,” Kissinger said, adding that the U.S. ought “not to accelerate the tensions and to create options. How to marry our military capacity to our strategic purposes, and how to relate those to our moral purposes—it’s an unsolved problem.”
Well, indeed it is
Powerful nations, at least those that purport to have democratic tendencies, have always created in-depth diplomatic services, with the distinct absence of the United States. As an example, when America blundered into its misguided interference in the Middle East, our diplomatic service had but two Arabic speakers. Essentially, we entered into a military conquest of two Arabic-speaking nations (Iraq and Afghanistan) with no ability to communicate.
As further evidence of our shortcomings at the diplomatic level, Bob Gates said when he was secretary of defense, “there are about as many members of the Armed Forces marching bands as there are American diplomats." One might argue about the accuracy of that statement, but it’s frighteningly close.
The Diplomatic Service boasts some 13,000 employees, yet the IRS has 76,832 and is woefully understaffed
Well now, woefully understaffed is an arguable term, but let’s look at another source for comparison. Great Britain, a nation with far less global power at the present time, employs around 17,000 staff in their diplomatic and development offices worldwide, including in 280 overseas embassies and high commissions. Understand that, as America’s power and influence has been on the rise, Great Britain has been shorn of its worldwide empire, but in those earlier times their diplomatic service was not only huge, but staffed with foreign language experts. The British diplomatic service was hip-deep in the traditions and customs of their colonial empire.
Colonial empires are a white man’s invention, yet anyone who doesn’t think America is creating one simply hasn’t been paying attention
According to the article, “Beijing maintains that Taiwan is part of the mainland under its “One China” policy while the U.S. has remained strategically ambiguous about its policy toward the self-governing democratic island.” Strategic ambiguity is very often a precursor to war and a serious military confrontation between the United States and China is in neither’s interest.
Nancy Pelosi jus visited Taiwan and China got its military knickers in a twist. It’s been 73 years since Chiang Kai shek got his murderous ass kicked out of China, fleeing to Taiwan and instigating the White Terror there. Chiang was a lovely guy, as 3,000 to 4,000 were directly executed for perceived opposition to the Chiang government.
But history gets over such things. If Taiwan would stop calling itself the Republic of China, tearing the scab off all those old wounds, perhaps a compromise could be reached. Most Taiwanese are in favor of such a solution, which would solve the ‘one China’ demand from the mainland.
America has always been all over the place diplomatically
For one thing, we vote in (or out) new leaders every four years, mostly with widely divergent views of how the world should be run. That’s both the strength and weakness of a democratic republic, but it generally runs pretty well if we don’t forget to grease its bearings every once in a while. But it’s hell for long-term strategy and that makes us very hard to understand for both our allies and not-yet-friends, which is how I choose to call enemies.
Case in point, Russia was an ally (against Nazi Germany), then an enemy because we worry ourselves to death about communism. Then briefly a friend after the wall came down and now an enemy again. China was an enemy until the above-mentioned Henry Kissinger went there with Nixon and made them a friend. They remained a friend and our best producer as well as customer for fifty years, until someone told us they planned to take over the world. Seeing that as our proper job, the military-industrial guys are cranking out weaponry.
Between the military industrial guys and the CIA, it’s hard to keep dog-shit off our shoes
I guess that’s because they only thrive when there’s war or the threat of war and so Boeing, Lockheed and others, as well as the CIA have made it their business plan.
What we need is a deep culture of diplomatic service. The United States cannot afford to waver back and forth between Richard Nixon opening China to trade and Donald Trump unilaterally imposing 25% tariffs on Chinese exports. An extensive and professional diplomatic service would ameliorate such variances and serve as an intelligent and trustworthy council to presidents and the Congress when fashioning long-term strategic directions for such cases as Vladimir Putin, Ukraine, Iran, Israel, China, Taiwan and the Saudi kingdom.
I remember Dwight Eisenhower—the first president I ever voted for—steadfastly keeping us out of wars. But the stakes were simpler then. I was a medic in the Army in those days, drafted in the brief time between Korea and Vietnam. We non-coms worried that Egypt would pull America into a conflict over their seizure of the Suez Canal, but Ike said no. He was able to say no, without a Republican or Democratic ‘base’ going nuts and threatening to burn the house down. These days the presidency is almost beyond the capacity of a single man or woman to manage.
The answer is more government, not less
A diplomatic service with deep roots that can advise presidents without political bias, an IRS well enough equipped to collect the taxes government imposes, and an environmental protection agency that has the same purpose from president to president.
It’s not even a political issue. We humans are an endangered species and we have chosen to dither and finger-point ourselves into a future none of us can survive.
Henry Kissinger is shaking a very profound finger in our direction and we fail to pay attention at great existential risk
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