Henry Kissinger

American politician and diplomat (1923–2023)

Henry Alfred Kissinger (born Heinz Alfred Kissinger; May 27, 1923November 29, 2023) was a German-American politician, diplomat, and geopolitical consultant who served as United States Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He was a Jewish refugee who fled Nazi Germany with his family in 1938. For his actions negotiating a ceasefire in Vietnam, Kissinger received the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize under controversial circumstances, with two members of the committee resigning in protest.

Having once planned to write a book on Bismarck's diplomacy and, indeed, having finished half of it, I could think of few policies more likely to lead to catastrophe in present circumstances.

A practitioner of Realpolitik, Kissinger played a prominent role in United States foreign policy between 1969 and 1977. During this period, he pioneered the policy of détente with the Soviet Union, orchestrated the opening of relations with China, engaged in what became known as shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East to end the Yom Kippur War, and negotiated the Paris Peace Accords, ending American involvement in the Vietnam War.


Covert action should not be confused with missionary work.
Blessed are the people whose leaders can look destiny in the eye without flinching but also without attempting to play God.
Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.


  • It is a mistake to assume that diplomacy can always settle international disputes if there is "good faith" and "willingness to come to an agreement". For in a revolutionary international order, each power will seem to its opponents to lack precisely these qualities. [...] In the absence of an agreement on what constitutes a reasonable demand, diplomatic conferences are occupied with sterile repetitions of basic positions and accusations of bad faith, or allegations of "unreasonableness" and "subversion". They become elaborate stage plays which attempt to attach as yet uncommitted powers to one of the opposing systems.
    • A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace, 1812-22 (1957), p. 2
  • [T]he most fundamental problem of politics, which is not the control of wickedness but the limitation of righteousness.
    • A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace, 1812-22 (1957), p. 206
      • Paraphrased variant: The most fundamental problem of politics is not the control of wickedness but the limitation of righteousness.
      • Quoted by Walter Isaacson, "Henry Kissinger Reminds Us Why Realism Matters", Time, 4 September 2014
  • In some respects the intellectual has never been more in demand; that he makes such a relatively small contribution is not because he is rejected but because his function is misunderstood. He is sought after enthusiastically but for the wrong reasons and in pursuit of the wrong purposes.... All too often what the policymaker wants from the intellectual is not ideas but endorsement.
    • The Policymaker and the Intellectual, Reporter (March 5, 1959), 30, 33.


  • I...was a little puzzled by your suggestion that we should return to a diplomacy like Bismarck's. Having once planned to write a book on Bismarck's diplomacy and, indeed, having finished half of it, I could think of few policies more likely to lead to catastrophe in present circumstances.
  • [T]hat it is unable to relate man to the forces outside himself whose makings he sees but whose motives he can grasp only by analogy. Conservatives have always insisted that the balance between these two sides aspects of human conduct is derived from a sense of reverence, a recognition of forces transcending man and WHICH IS THE REVERSE SIDE OF A RECOGNITION of the limitations of the individual apprehension of reality. The great rebels have denied this and insisted on finding in their own demoniac nature a sufficient motive for commitment. To the conservative the bond of society is a myth which reconciles the point of view which treats man as a means and his experience of himself by an analogy superior to analytical truth.
    • Ibid., Folder 5, The Contingency of Legitimacy
  • Thus, the more Bismarck preached his doctrine the more humanly remote he grew; the more rigorous he was in applying his lessons the more incomprehensible he became to his contemporaries. Nor was it strange that the conservatives gradually came to see in him the voice of the devil. For the devil is a fallen angel using the categories of piety to destroy it. And however brilliant Bismarck’s analysis, societies are incapable of the courage of cynicism. The insistence on men as atoms, on societies as forces has always led to a tour de force evading ERODING all self-restraint. Because societies operate by approximations and because they are incapable of fine distinctions, a doctrine of power as a means may end up by making power an end. And for this reason, although Bismarck had the better of the intellectual argument, it may well be that the conservatives embodied the greater social truth.
    • Ibid., Folder 5, The Contingency of Legitimacy
  • The frequently voiced view that we should conduct our diplomacy so as to bring about a rift between Communist China and the USSR.
  • If Communist China agrees to renounce the use of force in the formosa strait, we could consider opening up channels of non-official contact... journalists, students, tourists, etc.
    • LOC, Position Papers (April 11, 1962)
  • The Metternich system had been inspired by the eighteenth century notion of the universe as a great clockwork: Its parts were intricately intermeshed, and a disturbance of one upset the equilibrium of the others. Bismarck represented a new age. Equilibrium was seen not as harmony and mechanical balance, but as a statistical balance of forces in flux. Its appropriate philosophy was Darwin's concept of the survival of the fittest. Bismarck marked the change from the rationalist to the empiricist conception of politics.... Bismarck declared the relativity of all beliefs; he translated them into forces to be evaluated in terms of the power they could generate.
    • Ibid., 909, 919.
  • What has come to be called the balance of terror may seem less frightful to fanatics leading a country with a population of 600 millions. Even a war directed explicitly against centers of population may seem to it tolerable and perhaps the best means of dominating the world. Chou En-lai is reported to have told a Yugoslav diplomat that an all-out nuclear war would leave 10 million Americans, 20 million Russians, and 350 million Chinese.
    • NFC, 253. (the missing passages to the Chinese edition)
  • Where eminence must be reached by endless struggle, leaders may collapse at the top, drained of creativity, or they may be inclined to use in high office the methods by which they reached it. When political leaders are characterized primarily by their quest for power, when they decide to seek office first and search for issues later, then their technique to maintain power is necessarily short-range and manipulative.
    • "Et Caesar, Et Nullus", Reporter (June 1, 1967), 51f.
  • We fought a military war; our opponents fought a political one. We sought physical attrition; our opponents aimed for our psychological exhaustion. In the process we lost sight of one of the cardinal maxims of guerrilla war: the guerrilla wins if he does not lose. The conventional army loses if it does not win. The North Vietnamese used their armed forces the way a bull-fighter uses his cape — to keep us lunging in areas of marginal political importance.
    • "The Vietnam Negotiations", Foreign Affairs, Vol. 48, No. 2 (January 1969), p. 214; also quoted as "A conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerilla army wins if he does not lose."
  • There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.
    • As quoted in The New York Times Magazine (June 1, 1969)


  • I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.
    • Meeting of the "40 Committee" on covert action in Chile (June 27, 1970) quoted in The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence (1974); the quotation was censored prior to publication due to legal action by the government. See The New York Times (September 11, 1974) "Censored Matter in Book About C.I.A. Said to Have Related Chile Activities; Damage Feared" by Seymour Hersh
    • Omi, M.; Winant, H. (2014). Racial Formation in the United States. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-135-12751-0. Retrieved on November 2, 2018. 
  • [Nixon] wants a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. He doesn't want to hear anything about it. It's an order, to be done. Anything that flies on anything that moves.
  • Intellectuals are cynical and cynics have never built a cathedral.
    • As quoted in Sketchbook 1966-1971 (1971) by Max Frisch, p. 230
  • It is barely conceivable that there are people who like war.
  • [Referring to the people of India] They are superb flatterers, Mr. President. They are masters at flattery. They are masters at subtle flattery. That’s how they survived 600 years. They suck up — their great skill is to suck up to people in key positions. (June 17, 1971)
  • I tell you, the Pakistanis are fine people, but they are primitive in their mental structure. [...] They just don't have the subtlety of the Indians. (August 10, 1971)
  • I've always acted alone. Americans like that immensely.
    Americans like the cowboy who leads the wagon train by riding ahead alone on his horse, the cowboy who rides all alone into the town, the village, with his horse and nothing else. Maybe even without a pistol, since he doesn't shoot. He acts, that's all, by being in the right place at the right time. In short, a Western. … This amazing, romantic character suits me precisely because to be alone has always been part of my style or, if you like, my technique.
The accumulation of nuclear arms has to be constrained if mankind is not to destroy itself.
  • The accumulation of nuclear arms has to be constrained if mankind is not to destroy itself.
    • Press conference held on (February 13, 1974)
  • If we do not get a recognition of our interdependence, the Western civilization that we now have is almost certain to disintegrate. (October 1974)
  • Adapted from Niall Ferguson, THE SQUARE AND THE TOWER: Networks and Power, from Freemasons to Facebook, Penguin Press, 2017. As quoted in Niall Ferguson, The Secret to Henry Kissinger's success (January 20, 2018)
  • I think of myself as a historian more than as a statesman. As a historian, you have to be conscious of the fact that every civilization that has ever existed has ultimately collapsed. History is a tale of efforts that failed, of aspirations that weren't realized, of wishes that were fulfilled and then turned out to be different from what one expected. So, as a historian, one has to live with a sense of the inevitability of tragedy. As a statesman, one has to act on the assumption that problems must be solved.
  • I think that any attempt at domination in a nuclear age is going to involve risks that are catastrophic and would not be tolerated. If we remain strong enough to prevent the imposition of Communist hegemony, then I believe that transformations of the Communist societies are inevitable. I believe that the imposition of the kind of state control that communism demands is totally incompatible with the requirements of human organization at this moment. The pressure of this realization on Communist systems is going to bring about a transformation apart from any conscious policy the United States pursues, so long as there is not a constant foreign danger that can be invoked to impose regimentation. What inherent reason is there that keeps the Communist societies in Eastern Europe from achieving the standard of living of those of Western Europe? The resources are about the same, the industrial organization is there. I think the reason is inherent in the type of society that has been created, and that I believe must inevitably change.
  • Wherever a lessening of population pressures through reduced birth rates can increase the prospects for such stability, population policy becomes relevant to resource supplies and to the economic interests of the United States.
    • National Security Study Memorandum 200. Adapted as policy by President Gerald Ford originally classified. [2]
  • The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer.
    • As quoted in The Washington Post (December 23, 1973); he later joked further on this remark, on 10 March 1975 saying to Turkish Foreign Minister Melih Esenbel in Ankara, Turkey:
Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings "The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer." … But since the Freedom of Information Act, I'm afraid to say things like that.
  • How many people did (Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary) kill? ... Tens of thousands?
  • You should tell the Cambodians (i.e., Khmer Rouge) that we will be friends with them. They are murderous thugs, but we won't let that stand in the way. We are prepared to improve relations with them. Tell them the latter part, but don’t tell them what I said before.
  • In the 1950s and 1960s we put several thousand nuclear weapons into Europe. To be sure, we had no precise idea of what to do with them.
    • Statement of 1973, as quoted in Canadian and World Politics (2005) by John Ruypers, Marion Austin, Patrick Carter, and Terry G. Murphy
  • Ever since the secret trip to China, my own relationship with Nixon had grown complicated. Until then I had been an essentially anonymous White House assistant. But now his associates were unhappy, and not without reason, that some journalists were giving me perhaps excessive credit for the more appealing aspects of our foreign policy while blaming Nixon for the unpopular moves.
    These tendencies were given impetus by an interview I granted to the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, without doubt the single most disastrous conversation I ever had with any member of the press. I saw her briefly on Nov. 2 and 4, 1972, in my office. I did so largely out of vanity. She had interviewed leading personalities all over the world. Fame was sufficiently novel for me to be flattered by the company I would be keeping. I had not bothered to read her writings; her evisceration of other victims was thus unknown to me.
  • The superpowers often behave like two heavily armed blind men feeling their way around a room, each believing himself in mortal peril from the other, whom he assumes to have perfect vision. Each side should know that frequently uncertainty, compromise, and incoherence are the essence of policymaking. Yet each tends to ascribe to the other a consistency, foresight, and coherence that its own experience belies. Of course, over time, even two armed blind men can do enormous damage to each other, not to speak of the room.
    • The White House Years (1979)
  • Nelson Rockefeller, I am certain, would have made a great President. He possessed in abundance the qualities of courage and vision that are the touchstones of leadership. But at the moments when his goal might have been realized, in 1960 and again in 1968, he uncharacteristically hesitated. In the service of his beliefs he could be cold-blooded and ruthless; he was incredibly persistent. Yet there was in him a profound ambivalence.
    • The White House Years (1979)
  • In contemporary America, power increasingly gravitates to those with an almost obsessive desire to win it. Whoever does not devote himself monomaniacally to the nominating process, whoever is afraid of it or disdains it, will always be pursuing a mirage, however remarkable his other qualifications. With candidates for the highest office, as with athletes, everything depends upon timing, upon an intuitive ability to seize the opportunity.
    • The White House Years (1979)
  • As Kissinger complained to the president, “We are the ones who have been operating against our public opinion, against our bureaucracy, at the very edge of legality.”
    • FRUS: Documents on South Asia, 1969–1972, vol. E-7 (online at http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76ve07), White House tapes, Oval Office 637-3, 12 December 1971, 8:45–9:42 a.m. Hereafter cited as FRUS, vol. E-7. quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • We are the ones who have been operating against our public opinion, against our bureaucracy, at the very edge of legality.
    • Kissinger to Nixon, quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • If the President had his way, we’d have a nuclear war every week.
    • Henry Kissinger on Nixon, as quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide. chapter 19


  • Blessed are the people whose leaders can look destiny in the eye without flinching but also without attempting to play God.
    • The End of the Road (1982), Ch. 25 "Years of Upheaval"
  • If you believe that their real intention is to kill you, it isn't unreasonable to believe that they would lie to you.
    • Observation made privately, quoted by Time journalist Michael Kramer, The Case for Skepticism Time, (26 December 1988), in the context of doubts about PLO sincerity in hinting about recognition of Israel.
  • Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.
    • As quoted in The Other 637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said (1984) by Robert Byrne


  • I was working for Kennedy in those days, and [Truman] said what I had learned from Kennedy, and I said, "I've learned that the president can't do everything he wants because the bureaucracy is the fourth branch of government." ... He said, "The trouble with Kennedy is he has too many opinions. A president has to know what he wants to do."
    • "Oral History Interviews With Dr. Henry Kissinger", Harry S. Truman National Historic Site, May 7, 1992
  • A country that demands moral perfection in its foreign policy will achieve neither perfection nor security.
    • "Reflections on Containment", Foreign Affairs, Vol. 73, No. 3 (June 1994), p. 130
  • Empires have no interest in operating within an international system; they aspire to be the international system. Empires have no need for a balance of power. That is how the United States has conducted its foreign policy in the Americas, and China through most of its history in Asia.
  • The study of history offers no manual of instructions that can be applied automatically; history teaches by analogy, shedding light on the likely consequences of comparable situations.
    • Diplomacy (1994)
  • [T]he bargaining position of the victor always diminishes with time. Whatever is not exacted during the shock of defeat becomes increasingly difficult to attain later — a lesson America had to learn with respect to Iraq at the end of the 1991 Gulf War.
    • Diplomacy (1994)
  • For centuries, the Middle Kingdom had assured its security by playing off distant barbarians against immediate neighbors. Deeply worried about Soviet expansionism, Mao adopted the same strategy in his opening to the United States.
    • Diplomacy (1994)
  • For nearly twenty years, Bismarck preserved the peace and eased international tension with his moderation and flexibility. But he paid the price of misunderstood greatness, for his successors and would-be imitators could draw no better lesson from his example than multiplying arms and waging a war which would cause the suicide of European civilization.
    • Diplomacy (1994)
  • Richard Milhous Nixon had inherited near-civil war conditions. Deeply suspicious of the Establishment, and in return mistrusted by many of its representatives, he nevertheless held fast to the conviction that the world's leading democracy could neither abdicate its responsibilities nor resign from its destiny. Few presidents have been as complex as Nixon: shy, yet determined; insecure, yet resolute; distrustful of intellectuals, yet privately deeply reflective; occasionally impetuous in his pronouncements, yet patient and farsighted in his strategic design, Nixon found himself in the position of having to guide America through the transition from dominance to leadership.
    • Diplomacy (1994)
  • Since the time America entered the arena of world politics in 1917, it has been so preponderant in strength and so convinced of the rightness of its ideals that this century's major international agreements have been embodiments of American values — from the League of Nations and the Kellogg-Briand Pact to the United Nations Charter and the Helsinki Final Act. The collapse of Soviet communism marked the intellectual vindication of American ideals and, ironically, brought America face to face with the kind of world it had been seeking to escape throughout its history. In the emerging international order, nationalism has gained a new lease on life. Nations have pursued self-interest more frequently than high-minded principle, and have competed more than they have cooperated. There is little evidence to suggest that this age-old mode of behavior has changed, or that it is likely to change in the decades ahead.
    • Diplomacy (1994)
  • Gorbachev knew what his problems were but he acted both too fast and too slowly: too fast for the tolerance of his system, and too slowly to arrest the accelerating collapse.
    • Diplomacy (1994)
  • In my dual role of National Security Adviser and Secretary of State, my constant nightmare as Watergate accelerated was that, sooner or later, some foreign adversary might be tempted to test what remained of Nixon's authority and discover that the emperor had no clothes. Probably the greatest service rendered by the Nixon Administration in those strange and turbulent final months was to have prevented any such overt challenge. For even as it approached dissolution, the Nixon Administration managed to navigate the Arab-Israeli War of 1973, diminish the Soviet position in the Middle East by sponsoring two disengagement agreements, and conduct successfully a complicated triangular diplomacy with Moscow and Beijing.
    • Years of Renewal (1999)
  • As the impeachment proceedings gathered momentum, Nixon's personal conduct began to mirror his political decline. He kept fully abreast of the various foreign policy issues and at no point failed to make the key decisions. But, as time went on, Watergate absorbed more and more of Nixon's intellectual and emotional capital. As day-to-day business became trivialized by the increasingly apparent inevitability of his downfall, I felt enormous sympathy for this tormented man whose suffering was compounded by his knowledge that his tragedy was largely self-inflicted. Yet by early July 1974, I, like the other few survivors of Nixon's entourage, was so drained by the emotional roller coaster that I was half hoping for some merciful end to it all.
    • Years of Renewal (1999)
  • Nixon was one of the most gifted of American Presidents, prepared to make tough decisions and courageous in doing so. But he needed solitude for such an act. Face-to-face, Nixon was obsessively incapable of overruling an interlocutor or even disagreeing with him.
    • Years of Renewal (1999)
  • The Nixon Administration had systematically sought to change the context of the Cold War. This was not because we had become blind to Soviet ideology; rather we had concluded that the Soviets' ideological reach was collapsing. In two generations of Communist history, no Communist Party had ever won a free election. The only allies of the Soviet Union were in Eastern Europe, and they were being held in line by what amounted to Soviet military occupation. Once our opening to China was completed, the Soviet Union faced a coalition of all the industrial nations in the world in tacit alliance with the most populous nation. Sooner or later this equation would work in favor of the democracies, provided they could contain Soviet adventures by deterrence and give the Soviets a chance to reduce confrontation by opportunities for cooperation.
    • Years of Renewal (1999)


  • The domestic divisions that grew out of Vietnam were generally treated in the public discourse as a clash between those who were "for" the war and those who were "against" it. That, however, was not the fundamental issue. Every administration in office during the Vietnam war sought to end it - nearly desperately. The daunting and heartrending question was how to define this goal.
    • Ending the Vietnam War: A History of America's Involvement in and Extrication from the Vietnam War (2003)
  • Nixon feared for our alliances if America abdicated in Indochina; he was concerned about the impact on Soviet restraint if the United States simply abandoned what four administrations had affirmed, and he believed that a demonstration of American weakness in Asia would destroy the opening to China based in part on America's role in thwarting Soviet moves toward hegemony in Asia. But as he entered office, he found that by the end of the Johnson administration, the goal of victory had been abandoned and a commitment had been made to end the bombing of North Vietnam and to seek a negotiated compromise solution. These objectives had been affirmed by both candidates in the presidential campaign. No significant American political or intellectual leader opposed them. When a negotiated solution proved unattainable, Nixon proceeded unilaterally to implement his concept of an honorable withdrawal.
    • Ending the Vietnam War: A History of America's Involvement in and Extrication from the Vietnam War (2003)
  • I was intellectually convinced that Hanoi would settle only if deprived of all hope of victory by a determined military strategy. But I was emotionally close to many of the more moderate of the protesters who had been my contemporaries at university; therefore I was also the principal advocate in the administration for negotiations for a political solution to give the people of Indochina a genuine opportunity to choose this future. It turned out to be a rough ride, rougher by far than I imagined when I started on the task. Since then, the categories of our national debate on Vietnam have remained largely unchanged, compounded with the passage of time by an amnesia that suppresses events but remembers encrusted hatreds. A balanced judgment on Vietnam continues to elude us - and therefore the ability to draw lessons from a national tragedy which America inflicted on itself.
    • Ending the Vietnam War: A History of America's Involvement in and Extrication from the Vietnam War (2003)
  • The great contribution of President Ford was that he managed to strike a balance between the American temptation toward perfectionism and the absolute, and the temptation to abandon everything because one cannot have the perfect and the absolute. He brought about an approach that I believe is essential to the conduct of a continuing foreign policy that works toward the maximum one can achieve but does not go beyond what the American people can sustain or what the international community can comprehend.
  • The issue before us is whether the 21st century belongs to China. And I would say that China will be preoccupied with enormous problems internally, domestically with its immediate environment, and that I have enormous difficulty imagining it will be dominated by China, and indeed, as I will conclude, I believe that the concept that some country will dominate the world, is in itself a misunderstanding of the world in which we now live...In the geopolitical situation, China historically has been surrounded by a group of smaller countries, which themselves were not individually able to threaten China, but which united, could cause a threat to China, and therefore historically, Chinese foreign policy can be described as "barbarian management". So China had never had to deal in a world of countries of approximately equal strength, and so to adjust to such a world, is in itself a profound challenge to China, which now has 14 countries on its borders, some of which are small, but can project their nationality into China, some of which are large, and historically significant, so that any attempt by Chinese to dominate the world, would evoke a counter-reaction that would be disastrous for the peace of the world.


Ukraine has always had a special significance for Russia. It was a mistake not to realize that.... Ukraine was part of Russia for a long time. You can’t accept the principle that any country can just change the borders and take a province of another country.
  • American exceptionalism is missionary. It holds that the United States has an obligation to spread its values to every part of the world. China's exceptionalism is cultural. China does not proselytize; it does not claim that its contemporary institutions are relevant outside China. But it is the heir of the Middle Kingdom tradition, which formally graded all other states as various levels of tributaries based on their approximation to Chinese cultural and political forms; in other words, a kind of cultural universality.
  • Facts are rarely self-explanatory; their significance, analysis, and interpretation—at least in the foreign policy world—depend on context and relevance.
    • World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History (2014)
  • Rarely has a diplomatic document so missed its objective as the Treaty of Versailles. Too punitive for conciliation, too lenient to keep Germany from recovering, the Treaty of Versailles condemned the exhausted democracies to constant vigilance against an irreconcilable and revanchist Germany as well as a revolutionary Soviet Union.
    • World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History (2014)
  • Far too often the Ukrainian issue is posed as a showdown: whether Ukraine joins the East or the West. But if Ukraine is to survive and thrive, it must not be either side’s outpost against the other — it should function as a bridge between them. Russia must accept that to try to force Ukraine into a satellite status, and thereby move Russia’s borders again, would doom Moscow to repeat its history of self-fulfilling cycles of reciprocal pressures with Europe and the United States. The West must understand that, to Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country. Russian history began in what was called Kievan-Rus. The Russian religion spread from there. Ukraine has been part of Russia for centuries, and their histories were intertwined before then.
  • In recent decades, Europe has retreated to the conduct of soft power. But besieged as it is on almost all frontiers by upheavals and migration, Europe, including Britain, can avoid turning into a victim of circumstance only by assuming a more active role.
  • Here, according to the mythology of the liberals, was a peaceful little country that Nixon attacked. The fact that there were four North Vietnamese divisions within 30 miles of Saigon coming across the border killing Americans—killing 500 a week starting within two weeks of Nixon’s inauguration—was ignored in the debate on Cambodia by protesters emphasizing the technical neutrality of Cambodia and ignoring that its ruler had invited our response.
  • For 400 years, world history was made by Europeans. Many of the great ideas by which we live — constitutional government, freedom of the individual, the ideas of the Enlightenment — originated in Europe and were spread by Europe around the world. Now this region, which was dynamic and built the world, has become too preoccupied with itself. It confines itself basically to the exercise of soft power. At present, no European government has the capacity to ask its people for sacrifices on behalf of foreign policy. Unless Europe can recover some of its historic dynamism, there will be a big hole in the world system as it has until now manifested itself.
  • Few countries in history have started more wars or caused more turmoil than Russia in its eternal quest for security and status. It is also true, however, that at critical junctures Russia has saved the world’s equilibrium from forces that sought to overwhelm it: from the Mongols in the 16th century, from Sweden in the 18th century, from Napoleon in the 19th century, and from Hitler in the 20th century. In the contemporary period, Russia will be important in overcoming radical Islam, partly because it is home to some 20 million Muslims, particularly in the Caucasus and along Russia’s southern border. Russia will also be a factor in the equilibrium of Asia.
  • Both countries [the United States and China] consider themselves exceptional. The United States believes that our exceptionalism entitles us to educate others because if they adopt our principles, the world will be more peaceful. The Chinese do not strive for conversion. In their view, if you do not belong to Chinese culture, you can never become fully Chinese. Thus, they feel America has no moral right to intervene in their domestic affairs. Their analogy to conversion is that the majesty of their performance will so awe other societies that they will follow enough of the Chinese pattern to become cultural and political tributaries.
  • An understanding between Washington and Beijing is the essential prerequisite for the denuclearization of Korea. By an ironic evolution, China at this point may have an even greater interest than the U.S. in forestalling the nuclearization of Asia. Beijing runs the risk of deteriorating relations with America if it gets blamed for insufficient pressure on Pyongyang. Since denuclearization requires sustained cooperation, it cannot be achieved by economic pressure. It requires a corollary U.S.-Chinese understanding on the aftermath, specifically about North Korea’s political evolution and deployment restraints on its territory.


  • Negotiations need to begin in the next two months ... before it creates upheavals and tensions that will not be easily overcome. Ideally, the dividing line should be a return to the status quo ante. Pursuing the war beyond that point would turn it into a war not be about the freedom of Ukraine ... but a new war against Russia itself. ... Parties should be brought to peace talks within the next two months. Ukraine should've been a bridge between Europe and Russia, but now, as the relationships are reshaped, we may enter a space where the dividing line is redrawn and Russia is entirely isolated. ... We are facing a situation now where Russia could alienate itself completely from Europe and seek a permanent alliance elsewhere. This may lead to Cold War-like diplomatic distances, which will set us back decades. We should strive for long-term peace...



Attributed: Quotes found in a reputable secondary source but not sourced to an original work. Read more at Wikiquote:Sourced and Unsourced sections.

  • Nixon should be told that it is probably an objective of Clifford to depose Thieu before Nixon is inaugurated. Word should be gotten to Nixon that if Thieu meets the same fate as Diem, the word will go out to the nations of the world that it may be dangerous to be America's enemy, but to be America's friend is fatal.
    • November 1968, following the election of Richard Nixon as US president
    • Quoted by William F. Buckley in United Nations Journal: A delegate’s odyssey. New York: Putnam, 1974. Pages 56–7.


  • The reason that university politics is so vicious is that the stakes are so small.
    • This remark was first attributed to Kissinger, among others, in the 1970s. The Quote Verifier (2006) attributes it to political scientist Paul Sayre, but notes earlier similar remarks by Woodrow Wilson. Clyde J. Wingfield referred to it as a familiar joke in The American University (1970)
    • Unattributed variants:
    • Somebody once said that one of the reasons academic infighting is so vicious is that the stakes are so small. There's so little at stake and they are so nasty about it.
      • The Craft of Crime : Conversations with Crime Writers (1983) by John C. Carr
    • The reason that academic politics is so vicious is that the stakes are so small.
      • Mentioned as an "old saw" in Teachers for Our Nation's Schools (1990) by John I. Goodlad
  • Accept everything about yourself — I mean everything, You are you and that is the beginning and the end — no apologies, no regrets.
    • Clark Moustakas, as quoted in Sacred Simplicities: Meeting the Miracles in Our Lives (2004) by Lori Knutson, p. 141
  • Who do I call if I want to speak to Europe?
    • Speaking in Warsaw in 2012, Kissinger said that he didn't think the saying originated with him, "I am not sure I actually said it, but it's a good statement so why not take credit for it?"[1]
  • Today, America would be outraged if UN troops entered Los Angeles to restore order. Tomorrow they will be grateful! This is especially true if they were told that there was an outside threat from beyond, whether real or promulgated, that threatened our very existence. It is then that all people of the world will plead to deliver them from this evil. The one thing every man fears is the unknown. When presented with this scenario, individual rights will be willingly relinquished for the guarantee of their well-being granted to them by the world government.
    • This is widely reported on many sites as coming from the Bilderberg Conference (1991) Evians, France, purportedly recorded by a Swiss diplomat, but no such recording has ever been provided.
  • Military men are "dumb, stupid animals to be used" as pawns for foreign policy.
    • Kissinger has denied saying it.
    • The only evidence that Kissinger ever said this was a claim in the book, The Final Days, by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, in chapter 14 (p.194 in the 1995 paperback edition). Woodward & Bernstein claimed that one of Kissinger's political foes, Alexander Haig, had told someone unnamed, that he (Haig) had heard Kissinger say it. That's triple hearsay, made even weaker by the fact that one of the parties is anonymous. Kissinger has denied ever saying it, and it was never substantiated by Haig, nor by anyone of known identity who claimed to have heard it. As Kirkus Reviews noted about the whole book, "none of it is substantiated in any assessable way."
  • America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.
    • There is no evidence that Kissinger said this.
    • In his book What’s So Great About America (2002) Dinesh D'Souza attributes it to Kissinger, citing p. 54-70 in Kissingers book The White House Years (1979). However, there is no such sentence in the said section nor something to that effect.
    • Kissinger spoke of no permanent enemies, but without the no friends, only interests part: "We have always made it clear that we have no permanent enemies and that we will judge other countries, including Communist countries, and specifically countries like Communist China, on the basis of their actions and not on the basis of their domestic ideology". Link
    • It echoes an actual quote by former british Prime Minister Lord Palmerston who said in a speech in the House of Commons in 1848: Therefore I say that it is a narrow policy to suppose that this country or that is to be marked out as the eternal ally or the perpetual enemy of England. We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.
    • Kissinger once used Palmerston's quote to describe the foreign policy of Joseph Stalin. In his Book Diplomacy (1994) he writes on page 398: Cooperation with Hitler had made him no more sympathetic to Nazism than his subsequent alliance with the democracies impelled him to appreciate the virtues of free institutions. He would take from each temporary partner whatever was possible through diplomacy, and seize by force whatever had not been granted to him freely — as long as he could do so without risking war. His lodestar remained the Soviet national interest as refracted through the prism of communist ideology. To paraphrase Palmerston, he had no friends, only interests.

Quotes about Kissinger

  • I believe that Henry Kissinger acted immorally in Latin America. He supported a murderer and it’s very conflicted for me that a Jew should be supporting this evilness. For me, this is not the kind of good Jew who inspires better lives for our people. I feel very conflicted about [Kissinger] having so much power, even now.
  • Nixon and Kissinger bear responsibility for a significant complicity in the slaughter of the Bengalis. This overlooked episode deserves to be a defining part of their historical reputations. But although Nixon and Kissinger have hardly been neglected by history, this major incident has largely been whitewashed out of their legacy—and not by accident. Kissinger began telling demonstrable falsehoods about the administration’s record just two weeks into the crisis, and has not stopped distorting since. Nixon and Kissinger, in their vigorous efforts after Watergate to rehabilitate their own respectability as foreign policy wizards, have left us a farrago of distortions, half-truths, and outright lies about their policy toward the Bengali atrocities...
    To this day, four decades after the massacres, the dead hand of Nixonian cover-up still prevents Americans from knowing the full record. The White House staff routinely sanitized their records of conversations, sometimes at Kissinger’s specific urging. Even now, mildewed and bogus claims of national security remain in place to bleep out particularly embarrassing portions of the White House tapes. Kissinger struck a deal with the Library of Congress that, until five years after his death, blocks researchers from seeing his papers there unless they have his written permission. Even if you could get in, according to the Library of Congress, many of Kissinger’s most important papers are still hidden from daylight by a thicket of high-level classifications, security clearances, and need-to-know permissions... For all the very real flaws of human rights politics, Nixon and Kissinger’s support of a military dictatorship engaged in mass murder is a reminder of what the world can easily look like without any concern for the pain of distant strangers.
    • Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • Kissinger’s memoirs are a lengthy masterpiece of omission. Although he devotes a long chapter to glossing up his record in South Asia, he says almost nothing about the slaughter of Bengalis, while still insisting that Pakistan’s atrocities were “clearly under its domestic jurisdiction.”... He sanitizes out Nixon’s racial animus toward Indians. No book has done more to bury the memory of the Bengalis.
    • Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide. Epilogue
McCain could have also perused the warrant issued by French Judge Roger Le Loire to have Kissinger appear before his court. When the French served Kissinger with summons in 2001 at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, Kissinger fled the country. More indictments followed from Spain, Argentina, Uruguay — even a civil suit in Washington DC... ~ Medea Benjamin
  • A very angry Senator John McCain denounced CODEPINK activists as “low-life scum” for holding up signs reading “Arrest Kissinger for War Crimes” and dangling handcuffs next to Henry Kissinger’s head during a Senate hearing on January 29. McCain called the demonstration “disgraceful, outrageous and despicable,” accused the protesters of “physically intimidating” Kissinger and apologized profusely to his friend for this “deeply troubling incident.”
    But if Senator McCain was really concerned about physical intimidation, perhaps he should have conjured up the memory of the gentle Chilean singer/songwriter Victor Jara. After Kissinger facilitated the September 11, 1973 coup against Salvador Allende that brought the ruthless Augusto Pinochet to power, Victor Jara and 5,000 others were rounded up in Chile’s National Stadium. Jara’s hands were smashed and his nails torn off; the sadistic guards then ordered him to play his guitar. Jara was later found dumped on the street, his dead body riddled with gunshot wounds and signs of torture...
    Rather than calling peaceful protesters “despicable”, perhaps Senator McCain should have used that term to describe Kissinger’s role in the brutal 1975 Indonesian invasion of East Timor, which took place just hours after Kissinger and President Ford visited Indonesia. They had given the Indonesian strongman the US green light — and the weapons — for an invasion that led to a 25-year occupation in which over 100,000 soldiers and civilians were killed or starved to death. The UN's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (CAVR) stated that U.S. "political and military support were fundamental to the Indonesian invasion and occupation" of East Timor.
  • You might think that McCain, who suffered tremendously in Vietnam, might be more sensitive to Kissinger’s role in prolonging that war. From 1969 through 1973, it was Kissinger, along with President Nixon, who oversaw the slaughter in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos — killing perhaps one million during this period. He gave the order for the secret bombing of Cambodia. Kissinger is on tape saying, “[Nixon] wants a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. He doesn't want to hear anything about it. It's an order, to be done. Anything that flies on anything that moves.”
    Senator McCain could have...[read] the meticulously researched book by the late writer Christopher Hitchens, The Trial of Henry Kissinger. Writing as a prosecutor before an international court of law, Hitchens skewers Kissinger for ordering or sanctioning the destruction of civilian populations, the assassination of “unfriendly” politicians and the kidnapping and disappearance of soldiers, journalists and clerics who got in his way. He holds Kissinger responsible for war crimes... from the deliberate mass killings of civilian populations in Indochina, to collusion in mass murder and assassination in Bangladesh, the overthrow of the democratically elected government in Chile, and the incitement and enabling of genocide in East Timor.
    McCain could have also perused the warrant issued by French Judge Roger Le Loire to have Kissinger appear before his court. When the French served Kissinger with summons in 2001 at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, Kissinger fled the country. More indictments followed from Spain, Argentina, Uruguay — even a civil suit in Washington DC.
  • Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking. Witness what Henry did in Cambodia – the fruits of his genius for statesmanship – and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milošević. While Henry continues to nibble nori rolls & remaki at A-list parties, Cambodia, the neutral nation he secretly and illegally bombed, invaded, undermined, and then threw to the dogs, is still trying to raise itself up on its one remaining leg.
  • The military established a pattern during and after the Vietnam War of forcibly removing indigenous peoples from sites deemed strategic for the placement of military bases. The peoples of the Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific and Puerto Rico's Vieques Island are perhaps the best-known examples, but there were also the Inughuit of Thule, Greenland, and the thousands of Okinawans and Indigenous peoples of Micronesia. During the harsh deportation of the Micronesians in the 1970s, the press took some notice. In response to one reporter's question, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said of the Micronesians: "There are only ninety thousand people out there. Who gives a damn?" This is a statement of permissive genocide.
  • Henry Kissinger. While many in the United States still see Nixon and Ford's former secretary of state as an elder statesman, the rest of the world sees him as a war criminal responsible for the deaths and suffering of millions in Chile, Vietnam, Laos, Argentina, East Timor, and Cambodia, to name a few.
    • Amy Goodman, The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them (2004)
  • Reporter Nick Turse has revealed unreported mass killings, after examining formerly classified U.S. military documents and traveling to 12 remote Cambodian villages to interview more than 75 witnesses and survivors of the U.S. attacks. With this new piece, Nick Turse also publishes transcripts of Kissinger’s phone calls that show his key role in Cambodia, and CIA records connecting Kissinger’s actions to the growth of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge, the regime that massacred 2 million people from 1975 to 1979.
  • Kissinger, Griffel thought, had “a disdain for anyone on the subcontinent,” and had “the Lawrence of Arabia view of the locals. If they don’t ride horses, they’re no good.” He says, “He’s impressed by Pakistani men in uniform and he doesn’t like shopkeepers.
    • Eric Griffel on Kissinger, (Library of Congress, Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection, Joseph Wheeler interview, 17 June 1998, and Robert Mark Ward interview, 27 May 1998.) quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide.
  • In Gold’s conservative opinion, Kissinger would not be recalled in history as a Bismarck, Metternich or Castlereagh but as an odious schlump who made war gladly.
    • Joseph Heller, (Good as Gold, 1976), quoted in Christopher Hitchens, The Trial of Henry Kissinger (2002)
  • A good liar must have a good memory: Kissinger is a stupendous liar with a remarkable memory. So perhaps some of this hysterical lying is explained by its context—by the need to enlist China’s anti-Soviet instincts. But the total of falsity is so impressive that it suggests something additional, something more like denial or delusion, or even a confession by other means.
  • I think Henry Kissinger grew up with that odd mix of ego and insecurity that comes from being the smartest kid in the class. From really knowing you're more awesomely intelligent than anybody else, but also being the guy who got beaten up for being Jewish.
  • Here we begin to see the outlines of the misconceived lesson that Henry Kissinger appears to have drawn from his study of international relations in the past. Secured by his own bureaucratic devices and habits of mind from having to respond to critics or other branches of government, though he could always get his opinion or policy echoed and supported by a well-placed article or interview or congressman, he indeed related to Richard Nixon much as did Metternich to the Emperor Francis II. An ambitious and intelligent courtier with the ear of an absolute ruler is in a position of unique influence, especially if he carries no responsibility for domestic affairs—this much history does indeed teach us. Moreover, although the courtier runs obvious risks if he incurs the ruler’s wrath, it is the ruler himself who is truly vulnerable in a crisis. The cleverest courtiers—Talleyrand comes to mind—will survive the fall of their masters, with some quick footwork and a recasting of the historical record; and Kissinger was among the cleverest of them all.
  • Back in 1957, Henry Kissinger—then a brilliant, iconoclastic young Harvard scholar, with his eventual career as cynical political manipulator and, later, as crony capitalist still far in the future—published his doctoral dissertation, A World Restored. One wouldn't think that a book about the diplomatic efforts of Metternich and Castlereagh is relevant to U.S. politics in the twenty-first century. But the first three pages of Kissinger's book sent chills down my spine, because they seem all too relevant to current events.
    [...] It seems clear to me that one should regard America's right-wing movement--which now in effect controls the administration [...] as a revolutionary power in Kissinger's sense. That is, it is a movement whose leaders do not accept the legitimacy of our current political system.
  • The opposition to Ford-Kissinger-the names became joined by a hyphen-was so deep in the Greek-American community that there would have been enthusiastic endorsement for whomever the Democrats nominated...The true measure of the Greek-American impact on the 1976 election was a more subtle one. Because the Kissinger policy in the eastern Mediterranean had alienated Greeks, Turks, and Cypriots all at the same time, the Cyprus issue became a test case in the fight for open government in American foreign policy. Greek Americans, that is, were the first to puncture the myth of Kissinger's infallibility, perhaps setting in motion enough erosion of the Republican position to make the difference in a close election. In Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, Greek Cypriots danced in the streets when Carter's victory became known. They praised Greeks in America for making the victory possible.
    • Peter C. Moskos, Greek Americans: Struggle and Success (2013)
  • Henry Kissinger is possessed of a truly superior intelligence, in addition to which he has two qualities which, unfortunately, many great men lack: he is able to listen and he has a very subtle sense of humour.
  • Pride comes before a fall- although in his case it's more conceit than pride.
  • I happen to believe that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country. I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger. And, in fact, Kissinger’s actions in Cambodia, when the United States bombed that country, overthrew Prince Sihanouk, created the instability for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to come in, who then butchered some 3 million innocent people — one of the worst genocides in the history of the world. So, count me in as somebody who will not be listening to Henry Kissinger.
  • Nixon and Kissinger maintained a strategy of containment; they supported anti-communist governments where they could and were largely oblivious to considerations of democracy, the rule of law and human rights. But negotiations were also initiated for a Conference on Security and Co-Operation in Europe (CSCE). This initiative came from west European governments but Nixon’s successor Gerald Ford supported it. The result was the Helsinki Final Act, signed in August 1975, which guaranteed fundamental freedom to all people throughout the continent. President Carter, entering office in January 1976, used the Act’s clauses to press for a slackening of the persecution of citizens in the communist states. The main advantage to the USSR was its formal acceptance by the rival superpower as a legitimate participant in the contests of global politics. The world seemed divided for decades ahead between the two contending ‘camps’ led by America and the Soviet Union. A commitment to avoid a third world war appeared to have been guaranteed.
    • Robert Service, Comrades: A History of World Communism (2009)
  • Contrary to his self-cultivated image as the ultimate realist in international affairs, the newly declassified documents of the Nixon administration show that Henry Kissinger remained much more influenced by concepts of modernization and American mission that did the president. Cynical he could be, but when push came to shove Kissinger preferred the traditional means of aid, political and economic pressure, and – in the final instance – intervention to keep Third World countries in line with US Cold War strategies. While noting, in his crucial October 1969 report to Nixon on changes in international politics since World War II, that ‘‘the increased fragmentation of power, the greater diffusion of political activity, and the more complicated patterns of international conflict and alignment that have emerged over the past decade have limited the capacity of the US and the USSR to control the effects of their influence and have revealed the limits of their capacity to control the actions of other governments,’’ Kissinger ended his report by stressing the significance of America for the world: ‘‘The US exerts immense and growing influence in the world through a broad range of international activities conducted by nongovernmental individuals, enterprises, and organizations. While the direct influence of the US Government over its international environment has been restricted in one way or another, the scope and reach of American commercial, technical, and cultural influence has continued to expand.’’ A main problem, according to Kissinger, was that while the United States remained the model for the world, the Americans themselves were increasingly unwilling to take up the leadership role that naturally had fallen to them.
    • Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Time (2012), pp. 196-197

In fiction

Huey: It’s Huey again. Got another hot lead on a terrorist.
FBI: Lord…Huey, we don’t have time for this. I’m hanging up.
Huey: Wait! I got a good one this time!
FBI: (sigh) .. (Uh-huh…
Huey: Kissinger, Henry, Former secretary of state under Nixon, allegedly responsible for the deaths of about 950,000 civilians in Laos and Cambodia in the early 1970s.
if you’re having trouble finding him, ask the guys who gave him the Nobel peace prize.
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