Henry Kissinger, Former Diplomat And Controversial Political Figure, Dies At 100

Henry Kissinger, the influential diplomat who shaped 20th-century U.S. foreign policy during the Nixon and Ford administrations, died at 100 at his Connecticut home on Wednesday, the Washington Post reported.

The cause of death was not specified.

Well-known for his diplomatic achievements and pragmatic approach to foreign policy, he has faced scrutiny for controversial policies, particularly concerning U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia, where he originally advocated for a hard-line policy in Vietnam and helped engineer the U.S. bombing of Cambodia.

Kissinger served as a consultant on security matters to various U.S. agencies from 1955 to 1968, spanning the administrations of Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson.

In 1968, President Richard Nixon appointed him as assistant for national security affairs, leading to roles as head of the National Security Council (1969-1975) and secretary of state (1973-1977). After Nixon's resignation in 1974, he continued directing foreign affairs under President Gerald Ford.

During these years, he played a pivotal role in shaping U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War. His realpolitik approach emphasized practical considerations in diplomacy.

During his tenure, he engaged in diplomatic endeavors such as:

Normalization of Relations with China: Kissinger was instrumental in the groundbreaking effort to normalize relations between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China. His secret visit to Beijing in 1971 paved the way for this historic diplomatic shift. Paris Peace Accords: He played a central role in negotiating the Paris Peace Accords, contributing to the end of the Vietnam War and the withdrawal of U.S. troops, which was signed on Jan. 27, 1973. Kissinger went on to receive the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1973 with North Vietnam's Le Duc Tho, who refused it. Détente with the Soviet Union: Kissinger pursued a policy of détente aimed at easing tensions with the Soviet Union, leading to the arms control agreement, Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) in 1969. During the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, Kissinger was able to promote a truce. He also helped resume diplomatic relations between Egypt and the U.S.

Kissinger was accused of endorsement via inaction of deadly anti-democratic activities by right-wing Latin American governments This included Operation Condor, for which several South American military governments coordinated their efforts to systematically eliminate opponents in the 1970s and '80s.

After leaving government service, Kissinger remained active in the field of international relations. In 1983, President Ronald Regan appointed him to head a national commission on Central America and served on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy. 

He founded a consulting firm and continued to write and speak on global issues. His books, including “Diplomacy” and “On China,” offered insights into his diplomatic experiences and perspectives on world affairs.

Kissinger was born on May 27, 1923, in Fürth, Germany. His early years were marked by the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany. His Jewish family fled to the U.S. in 1938 to escape persecution. Settling in New York City, Kissinger learned English, though kept a distinctive German accent. He became a naturalized citizen in 1943.

Kissinger served in the U.S. Army during World War II and in the postwar U.S. military government of Germany.

He graduated from Harvard College in 1950 with a bachelor of arts and later earned his doctorate in international relations in 1954.

He joined the faculty at Harvard University in 1954, where he taught and conducted research on international affairs, particularly focusing on diplomacy and foreign policy. His scholarly work gained recognition in academic circles.

In addition to the Nobel Prize for Peace, Kissinger was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977), America’s highest civilian honor, and the Medal of Liberty (1986), given to 10 of America's most important foreign-born leaders.

Kissinger married Anneliese “Ann” Fleischer, who was also born in Fürth, Germany, on February 6, 1949. They had two children, Elizabeth and David, and divorced in 1964. In 1974, he married Nancy Maginnes. 

Photo by Truba7113 on Shutterstock

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