Henry Kissinger, Dead at 100

Henry Kissinger, a prominent figure in U.S. diplomacy during the Cold War era, has passed away at the age of 100. Born in Germany in 1923, Kissinger was a Jewish refugee who later became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He played a pivotal role in shaping American foreign policy, leaving a lasting legacy that is both celebrated and criticized.

Kissinger’s career spanned from academia to diplomacy, and his influence extended into his later years. He died at his home in Connecticut, where he had been running his geopolitical consulting firm, Kissinger Associates. A memorial service is planned in New York, and he will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

During the 1970s, the height of the Cold War, Kissinger served as national security adviser and secretary of state under President Richard Nixon. He continued to wield diplomatic influence under President Gerald Ford after Nixon’s resignation due to the Watergate scandal.

One of Kissinger’s most significant achievements was the opening of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China, a landmark move during the Cold War. He also played a key role in U.S.-Soviet arms control negotiations, fostered closer ties between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and contributed to the Paris Peace Accords that brought an end to the Vietnam War. His efforts earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, although controversy surrounded the award due to questions about the secret U.S. bombing of Cambodia.

While many praised Kissinger for his strategic brilliance and statesmanship, others vehemently criticized him for supporting anti-communist dictatorships in Latin America. In his later years, some countries sought to question or even arrest him for his involvement in past U.S. foreign policy decisions.

The U.S. government, including President Joe Biden’s White House, acknowledged Kissinger’s death as a significant loss. They highlighted his World War II military service and his decades of public service. Kissinger’s impact on shaping America’s role in the world cannot be denied, even by those who disagreed with him on various issues.

Kissinger’s legacy also garnered international reactions. Beijing referred to him as a “good old friend of the Chinese people” for his role in normalizing U.S.-China relations. Russian President Vladimir Putin praised him as a “wise and farsighted statesman,” while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed his meetings with Kissinger as a “master class in statesmanship.” However, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abdul Momen criticized Kissinger for his role in the 1971 conflict between West and East Pakistan.

Throughout his career, Kissinger was known for his distinctive German-accented voice and willingness to express his opinions. He had a reputation for both brilliance and a thin skin, with former President Ford describing him as someone who “never made a mistake.”

Born Heinz Alfred Kissinger, he moved to the United States in 1938 to escape Nazi persecution. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II and later attended Harvard University, where he earned a doctorate and spent 17 years on the faculty. During this time, he also worked as a consultant for various government agencies and played a behind-the-scenes role in diplomacy, including aiding in peace negotiations between the U.S. and North Vietnam.

Kissinger’s tenure as national security adviser and secretary of state was marked by complex diplomatic endeavors, including shuttle diplomacy between Israel and Arab nations and outreach to China to counter Soviet influence. He played a pivotal role in easing U.S.-Soviet tensions and shaping the framework for strategic arms agreements.

Despite his successes, Kissinger’s career had its share of controversies, such as his involvement in toppling democratically elected leaders in Chile and his stance during the India-Pakistan War of 1971. His influence waned during the Reagan era, and he shifted to a career in consulting, writing books, and providing commentary on international affairs.

Even in his later years, Kissinger remained active, participating in various discussions and meetings, including a visit to Beijing in 2023 to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping. He was married twice and had two children from his first marriage.

Henry Kissinger’s death marks the end of an era in American diplomacy, leaving a complex legacy that continues to be a subject of debate and reflection.