Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Why Do We Take this Man Seriously?

The Washington Post chose to grant Henry Kissinger more space on its Op-Ed page today, this time to complain that Obama is ignoring Iraq. Iraq, he says, is a "strategic linchpin," and he says a lot about why it is important. He doesn't, though, say anything constructive about how our policies there ought to be different.

I am baffled. Here is a man who has been wrong in almost every public stand he has ever taken, yet he still commands attention. What's more, the reason he is wrong all the time is that his whole view of the world is dark and twisted. Think back to his days as Nixon's henchman: Kissinger's position was that totalitarian states have a great advantage in the conflict between nations, so to compete with the Soviets we had to become more like them. Conservatives in particular ought to be ashamed of this, since it was their own standard-bearer, Reagan, who most forcefully articulated the idea that the way to fight totalitarianism was to make our own country more free. Somehow Kissinger's reputation survived the collapse of the Soviet Union he so feared and admired. In 1989 Kissinger managed to insert himself into the negotiations over the reunification of Germany. His initial position was that reunification of Germany within NATO was too radical and too much to ask of the Soviets, so we ought to accept some lesser compromise. Fortunately for the world, the elder Bush ignored him and insisted on the full reunification that eventually took place. Then in 2002 Kissinger was back, this time endorsing Bush's planned invasion of Iraq and talking up how important it was for the future of the Middle East. With a record like that, why does the man keep getting speaking gigs?

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