The irony of getting a peace prize by means of carpet bombing.
Richard Nixon: “Pray with me, Henry”
Now history has come full circle. Around the world, we see a resurgence of autocracy and ethnonationalism, most acutely in Russia’s war against Ukraine. In Gaza the United States has supported an Israeli military operation that has killed civilians at a pace that has once again suggested to much of the world that we are selective in our embrace of international laws and norms. Meanwhile, at home, we see how democracy has become subordinate to the pursuit of power within a chunk of the Republican Party. This is where cynicism can lead. Because when there is no higher aspiration, no story to give meaning to our actions, politics and geopolitics become merely a zero-sum game. In that kind of world, might makes right.
All of this cannot be laid on Henry Kissinger’s shoulders. In many ways, he was as much a creation of the American national security state as its author. But his is also a cautionary tale. As imperfect as we are, the United States needs our story to survive. It’s what holds together a multiracial democracy at home and differentiates us from Russia and China abroad.
That story insists that a child in Laos is equal in dignity and worth to our children and that the people of Chile have the same right of self-determination as we do. For the United States, that must be a part of national security. We forget that at our peril.
"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, created the one of the worst genocides in the history of the world."— Bernie, 2016.