During his time in the Nixon and Ford administrations he cut a flamboyant figure, appearing at social occasions with many celebrities. His foreign policy record made him a nemesis to the anti-war left and the anti-communist right alike.
He spent his high school years in the Washington Heights section of upper Manhattan, but never lost his pronounced German accent, perhaps due to childhood shyness which made him hesitant to speak. Henry Kissinger attended George Washington High School at night and worked in a shaving-brush factory during the day. While attending City College of New York, in 1943, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, trained at Clemson College in South Carolina, and became a German interpreter for the 970th Counter Intelligence Corps, with the rank of sergeant.
Henry Kissinger received his B.A. degree summa cum laude at Harvard College in 1950, where he studied under William Yandell Elliott. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees at Harvard University in 1952 and 1954, respectively. In 1952, while still at Harvard, he served as a consultant to the Director of the Psychological Strategy Board. His doctoral dissertation was "Peace, Legitimacy, and the Equilibrium (A Study of the Statesmanship of Castlereagh and Metternich)."
Kissinger remained at Harvard as a member of the faculty in the Department of Government and at the Center for International Affairs. He became Associate Director of the latter in 1957. In 1955, he was a consultant to the National Security Council's Operations Coordinating Board. During 1955 and 1956, he was also Study Director in Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He released his Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy the following year. From 1956 to 1958 he worked for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund as director of its Special Studies Project. He was Director of the Harvard Defense Studies Program between 1958 and 1971. He was also Director of the Harvard International Seminar between 1951 and 1971. Outside of academia, he served as a consultant to several government agencies, including the Operations Research Office, the Rand Corporation, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and the Department of State.
A liberal Republican and keen to have a greater influence on American foreign policy, Kissinger became a supporter of, and advisor to, Nelson Rockefeller, Governor of New York, who sought the Republican nomination for President in 1960, 1964 and 1968. After Richard Nixon won the presidency in 1968, he made Kissinger National Security Advisor.
With his first wife, Ann Fleischer, he had two children, Elizabeth and David. He lives with his second wife, Nancy Maginnes, in Kent, Connecticut. He is the head of Kissinger Associates, a consulting firm.
He had triple coronary bypass heart surgery in May 1982.
He has a brother, Walter, who is one year younger.
Kissinger is a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. A life long soccer fan, Kissinger is a supporter and honorary member of the German soccer club Spielvereinigung Greuther Fürth from his hometown, where he was a member in his youth. During the 1970s, Kissinger was among the many celebrity fans of the New York Cosmos.
A proponent of Realpolitik, Kissinger played a dominant role in United States foreign policy between 1969 and 1977. In that period, he extended the policy of détente. This policy led to a significant relaxation in U.S.-Soviet tensions and played a crucial role in 1971 talks with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. The talks concluded with a rapprochement between the United States and the People's Republic of China, and the formation of a new strategic anti-Soviet Sino-American alliance. He was awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for helping to establish a ceasefire and U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. The ceasefire, however, was not durable.
As National Security Advisor under Nixon, Kissinger pioneered the policy of détente with the Soviet Union, seeking a relaxation in tensions between the two superpowers. As a part of this strategy, he negotiated the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (culminating in the SALT I treaty) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party. Negotiations about strategic disarmament were originally supposed to start under the Johnson Administration but were postponed in protest to the invasion by Warsaw Pact troops of Czechoslovakia in August 1968.
He sought to place diplomatic pressure on the Soviet Union; facilitated by Pakistan, he made two trips to the People's Republic of China in July and October 1971 (the first of which was made in secret) to confer with Premier Zhou Enlai, then in charge of Chinese foreign policy. This paved the way for the groundbreaking 1972 summit between Nixon, Zhou, and Communist Party of China Chairman Mao Zedong, as well as the formalization of relations between the two countries, ending 23 years of diplomatic isolation and mutual hostility. The result was the formation of a tacit strategic anti-Soviet alliance between China and the United States. While Kissinger's diplomacy led to economic and cultural exchanges between the two sides and the establishment of Liaison Offices in the Chinese and American capitals, full normalization of relations with the People's Republic of China would not occur until 1979 as Watergate overshadowed the latter years of the Nixon presidency and the United States continued to recognize the Republic of China government on Taiwan. The idea of opening up formal relations with the People's Republic of China is often cited as Kissinger's international masterstroke and the prime example of his faith in realpolitik.
Nixon had been elected in 1968 on the promise of achieving "peace with honor" and ending the Vietnam War. In office, and assisted by Kissinger, Nixon implemented a policy of Vietnamization that aimed to gradually withdraw U.S. troops while expanding the combat role of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) so that it would be capable of independently defending South Vietnam against the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam and North Vietnamese army (Vietnam People's Army or PAVN). Kissinger played a key role in a secret American bombing campaign of Cambodia to target PAVN and Viet Cong units launching raids against South Vietnam from within Cambodia's borders and resupplying their forces by using the Ho Chi Minh trail and other routes, as well as the 1970 Cambodian Incursion and subsequent widespread bombing of Cambodia. Some argue that the bombing campaign inadvertently contributed to the chaos of the Cambodian Civil War, which saw the forces of dictator Lon Nol unable to defeat the growing Khmer Rouge insurgency that would emerge victorious in 1975.
Kissinger was awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize along with North Vietnam diplomatic representative Le Duc Tho for their work in negotiating the ceasefires contained in the Paris Peace Accords on "Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam," even though the terms of the agreement were quickly broken. The conflict would continue for two more years after the American withdrawal. Tho declined the award, stating that his country was still not at peace; Kissinger accepted the award "with humility" but, having recently been appointed Secretary of State, did not collect the award in person, citing pressure of work, and it was accepted on his behalf by United States Ambassador to Norway Thomas R. Byrne. The conflict continued until an invasion of the South by North Vietnam resulted in a North Vietnamese victory in 1975 and the subsequent rise to power of Pathet Lao in Laos and the more independent Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.
Under Kissinger's guidance, the United States supported Pakistan in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971. Kissinger was particularly concerned about Soviet expansion into South Asia as a result of a treaty of friendship recently signed by India and the Soviet Union, and sought to demonstrate to the People's Republic of China (Pakistan's ally and an enemy of both India and the Soviet Union) the value of a tacit alliance with the United States.
In recent years, Kissinger has come under fire for private comments he made to Nixon during the Indo-Pakistan War in which he described the Indians as "bastards" and then-Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as a "bitch. Kissinger has since expressed his regret over the comments.
Israel regained the territory it lost in the early fighting and gained new territories from Syria and Egypt, including land in Syria east of the previously captured Golan Heights, and additionally on the western bank of the Suez Canal, although they did lose some territory on the eastern side of the Suez Canal that had been in Israeli hands since the end of the Six Day War. Kissinger pressured the Israelis to cede some of the newly captured land back to the Arabs, contributing to the first phases of lasting Israeli-Egyptian peace. The move saw a warming in U.S.–Egyptian relations, bitter since the 1950s, as the country moved away from its former pro-Soviet stance and into a close partnership with the United States. The peace was finalized in 1978 when U.S. president Jimmy Carter mediated the Camp David Accords, during which Israel returned the Sinai in exchange for an Egyptian agreement to recognize Israeli statehood and end hostility.
In a White House memorandum of a conversation from February 20, 1975, Kissinger said: “In all the world the things that hurt us the most are the CIA business and Turkey aid.” According to The Raw Story, the context and the time period suggests Kissinger had supported illegal financial and military aid to Turkey for the 1974 Cyprus invasion.
Kissinger initially supported the normalization of United States-Cuba relations, broken since 1961 (all U.S.–Cuban trade was blocked in February 1962, a few weeks after the exclusion of Cuba from the Organization of American States under U.S. pressure). However, he quickly changed his mind and followed Kennedy's policy. After Fidel Castro's involvement in the struggle in Angola and Mozambique, Kissinger made it clear that unless Cuba withdrew its forces relations would not be normalized.
United States-Chile relations remained frosty during Salvador Allende's tenure; following the complete nationalization of the partially U.S.-owned copper mines and the Chilean subsidiary of the U.S.-based ITT Corporation, as well as other Chilean businesses. The U.S. implemented partial economic sanctions, claiming that the Chilean government had greatly undervalued fair compensation for the nationalization by subtracting what it deemed "excess profits." The CIA provided funding for the mass anti-government strikes in 1972 and 1973; during this period, Kissinger made several controversial statements regarding Chile's government, stating that "the issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves" and "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its people." These remarks sparked outrage among many commentators, who considered them patronizing and disparaging of Chile's sovereignty.
In September 1973, Allende died during a military coup launched by Army Commander-in-Chief Augusto Pinochet, who became President. A document released by the CIA in 2000 titled "CIA Activities in Chile" revealed that the CIA actively supported the military junta after the overthrow of Allende and that it made many of Pinochet's officers into paid contacts of the CIA or U.S. military, even though some were known to be involved in human rights abuses, until Democratic challenger Jimmy Carter defeated President Gerald Ford in 1976 and implemented a tough stance against any state that violated human rights, regardless of its friendliness toward America.
In July 2001, the Chilean high court granted investigating judge Juan Guzmán the right to question Kissinger about the 1973 killing of American journalist Charles Horman at the hands of the Chilean military following the coup. The judge’s questions were relayed to Kissinger via diplomatic routes but went unanswered.
In September 1976 Kissinger was actively involved in negotiations regarding the Rhodesian Bush War. Kissinger, along with South Africa's Prime Minister John Vorster, pressured Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith to hasten the transition to black majority rule in Rhodesia. With FRELIMO in control of Mozambique and even South Africa withdrawing its support, Rhodesia's isolation was nearly complete. According to Smith's autobiography, Kissinger told Smith of Mrs. Kissinger's admiration for him, but Smith stated that he thought Kissinger was asking him to sign Rhodesia's "death certificate." Kissinger, bringing the weight of the United States, and corralling other relevant parties to put pressure on Rhodesia, hastened the end of minority-rule.
The book was later adapted into a documentary entitled The Trials of Henry Kissinger. The film focused on Kissinger's policies towards Vietnam, Cambodia, East Timor, and Chile.
In August 2001, Argentine Judge Rodolfo Canicoba sent a letter rogatory to the U.S. State Department, in accordance with the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), requesting a deposition by Kissinger to aid the judge's investigation of Operation Condor.
On September 10, 2001, a civil suit was filed in a Washington, DC, federal court by the family of Gen. René Schneider, former Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Army, asserting that Kissinger gave the order for the elimination of Schneider because he had refused to endorse plans for a military coup. Schneider was killed by coup-plotters loyal to General Roberto Viaux in a botched kidnapping attempt, As a part of the suit, Schneider’s two sons are attempting to sue Kissinger and then-CIA director Richard Helms for US$3 million.
On September 11, 2001, the 28th commemorations of the Pinochet coup, Chilean human rights lawyers filed a criminal case against Kissinger along with Augusto Pinochet, former Bolivian general and president Hugo Banzer, former Argentine general and dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, and former Paraguayan president Alfredo Stroessner for alleged involvement in Operation Condor. The case was brought on behalf of some fifteen victims of Operation Condor, ten of whom were Chilean.
Kenneth Maxwell's review, in Foreign Affairs November/December 2003, of Peter Kornbluh's book The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability, discussed Kissinger's relationship with Augusto Pinochet's regime, in particular concerning operation Condor and Orlando Letelier's assassination, in Washington, DC, in 1976.
A 1978 cable released in 2000 shows that the South American intelligence chiefs involved in Condor "[kept] in touch with one another through a U.S. communications installation in the Panama Canal Zone which [covered] all of Latin America". Robert E. White, the U.S. ambassador to Paraguay, was concerned that the U.S. connection to Condor might be revealed during the then ongoing investigation into the 1976 assassination of Letelier. Kornbluh and Maxwell both draw the conclusion from this and other materials that the U.S. State Department, on Kissinger's watch, had foreknowledge of the assassination.
Transcripts obtained by the National Security Archive show Kissinger receiving his orders from President Nixon:
A few minutes later, Kissinger transmits Nixon's orders to military assistant Alexander Haig:
Noam Chomsky commented about this accusations:
Simultaneously, Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, who had engaged in a failed attempt to get Pinochet extradited from the United Kingdom for questioning, requested that Interpol detain Kissinger for questioning. British authorities refused his request.
East Timor Action Network (ETAN) activists have repeatedly sought to question Kissinger during his book tours for his role in the Ford administration in supporting Suharto and the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975. Transcripts of Ford and Kissinger's endorsement of the invasion are available on the National Security Archive.
Kissinger had knowledge of the 1971 atrocities committed by the Pakistani army and its allies during the war (see above), but did not advise President Nixon to put pressure on the Pakistani government to stop them.
At the height of his popularity, he was even regarded as something of a sex symbol, earning him the nickname "Henry the Kiss. He was seen dating such starlets as Jill St. John, Marlo Thomas, Shirley MacLaine, and Candice Bergen. He was quoted as saying "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac". There was even discussion of ending the requirement that a U.S. president be born in America by amending the U.S. Constitution so that Kissinger could have a chance to run.
In 1992 Jornal do Brasil published an unflattering photo of Henry Kissinger on the front page. Kissinger's lawyer sent a cease and desist letter threatening to sue them if they sold the photo. The newspaper refused and one of the buyers was the advertising agency Woolward & Partners who were also threatened with legal action, after using it in an advertisement for computer equipment. The photo was featured in the 1996 book Washington Babylon by Alexander Cockburn and Ken Silverstein.
The musical satirist Tom Lehrer says that "political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Prize.
In a 1999 radio interview with BBC news presenter Jeremy Paxman, ostensibly to promote the latest volume of his memoirs, Dr Kissinger reportedly walked out after being asked some tough questions about the U.S. role in the bombing of Cambodia. However, BBC sources claim he was late for another appointment and merely had to leave early.
In 1977, Kissinger was appointed to Georgetown University's Center for Strategic and International Studies. Kissinger published a dialogue with the Japanese philosopher, Daisaku Ikeda, On Peace, Life and Philosophy.
In 1989, Kissinger founded a consulting firm, Kissinger Associates, and is a partner in affiliate Kissinger McLarty Associates with Mack McLarty, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. He also serves on board of directors of Hollinger International, a Chicago-based newspaper group, and as of March 1999, he also serves on board of directors of Gulfstream Aerospace.
From 1995 to 2001, he served on the board of directors for Freeport-McMoRan, a multinational copper and gold producer with significant mining and milling operations in Papua, Indonesia. In February 2000, then-president of Indonesia Abdurrahman Wahid appointed Kissinger as a political advisor. He also serves as an honorary advisor to the United States-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce.
Kissinger served for many years as a director of Hollinger International, the chief executive officer of which was disgraced media tycoon Conrad Black. Hollinger's board is widely viewed to have not exercised sufficient oversight, enabling Black and other senior executives to defraud the company.
Kissinger delivered eulogies during the state funeral of former President Richard Nixon and Gerald R. Ford in 1994 and 2007 respectively.
In June 2007, Kissinger received the Hopkins-Nanjing Award for his contributions to reestablishing Sino–American relations. This award was presented by the presidents of Nanjing University, Chen Jun, and of Johns Hopkins University, William Brody, during the 20th anniversary celebration of The Johns Hopkins University--Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies also known as the Hopkins-Nanjing Center.
Kissinger left office when a Democrat, former Governor of Georgia and "Washington outsider" Jimmy Carter, defeated Republican, Gerald Ford in the 1976 presidential elections. During the campaign, Carter criticized Kissinger, arguing he was "single-handedly" managing all of America's foreign relations. Through the 1980s and early 1990s, Kissinger's role in U.S. government and policy was minimized, as the neoconservatives who rose to dominance in the Republican Party under the Reagan administration beginning in 1981 considered Nixonian détente to be a policy of unwise accommodation with the Soviet Union. Kissinger continued to participate in policy groups, such as the Trilateral Commission, and to maintain political consulting, speaking, and writing engagements. He would often appear as a foreign-policy commentator on American broadcast networks.
In 2002, President George W. Bush appointed Kissinger to chair a committee to investigate the events of the September 11 attacks. This led to criticism from Congressional Democrats who accused Kissinger of being secretive and not supportive of the public's right to know. Leading Democrats insisted that Kissinger file financial disclosures to reveal any conflicts of interest. Both Bush and Kissinger claimed that Kissinger did not need to file such forms, since he would not be receiving a salary. However, following continual Democratic pressure, Kissinger stepped down as chairman on December 13, 2002.
In 2006, it was reported in the book State of Denial by Bob Woodward that Kissinger was meeting regularly with President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to offer advice on the War in Iraq. Kissinger confirmed in recorded interviews with Woodward that the advice was the same as he had given in an August 12, 2005 column in The Washington Post: "Victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy.
In a November 19, 2006 BBC Sunday AM interview, when asked whether there is any hope left for a clear military victory in Iraq, Kissinger said, "If you mean by 'military victory' an Iraqi Government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don't believe that is possible... I think we have to redefine the course. But I don't believe that the alternative is between military victory as it had been defined previously, or total withdrawal.
Kissinger has endorsed Senator John McCain in his bid for the presidency in 2008.
Kissinger met India's main Opposition Leader Lal Krishna Advani in early October 2007 and lobbied for the support of his Bharatiya Janata Party for the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement
Kissinger was present at the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Summer Olympics. He was in the Chinese capital to also attend the inauguaration of the new US Embassy complex.