Henry Kissinger’s “state art” about six extraordinary people. – Politics
Henry Kissinger certainly hasn’t written quite as many books as have been written about himself. However, the diplomat, strategist, historian, politician, lobbyist and presence master of world politics does not let up even at the remarkable age of 99 and feeds the estate apparatus with another massive work. “Statecraft” (leadership in the original) is already in line with the choice of title in the monumental works on China, diplomacy, world order and crisis, which, in addition to the autobiographical books, form the basis of the Kissinger legend. After the title “World Order” was declared the man’s legacy eight years ago, there is now hesitation in proclaiming one final Kissinger epic – who knows what’s on Kissinger’s mind.
At the beginning an essay on leadership
“Statecraft” is subtitled “Six Lessons for the 21st Century,” all of which, of course, need some sort of translation help. Because Kissinger tells the political biographies of six personalities who he identified as historical figures of the time after the Second World War and whose work he considers trend-setting. He introduces these short biographies with a detailed essay on statesmanship and leadership, before finally returning to the type of leader, garnished with a few current observations on the Ukraine war, for example.
The advantage: personal acquaintance
So what remains are the six statesmen who are raised to the nobility by Kissinger: Konrad Adenauer, Charles de Gaulle, Richard Nixon, Anwar el-Sadat, Lee Kuan Yew and Margaret Thatcher. This is an illustrious combination, for which Kissinger repeatedly gives reasons for his choice. However, even after 600 pages, the impression cannot be blurred that the role models came together quite by accident. The fact that Kissinger knew everyone personally and had met more or less frequently for talks was of course not insignificant in the selection. Only the French President de Gaulle had a rather distant relationship, which did not diminish Kissinger’s admiration.
Selection criterion number two is, of course, size or importance, which must meet Kissinger-typical criteria: courage, willingness to do something meaningful, foresight, historical roots, virtue, character. The ideal mix between a prophetic, visionary leader and a cool, deliberative security thinker – this results in the type to which Kissinger ascribes historical potential. The fact that the six chosen ones resemble the author himself in many of their character traits, that he is able to interpret their innermost drive brilliantly in some cases – all this is no coincidence. Kissinger always writes a bit about himself and the character he thinks he exemplifies. The fact that all six showed authoritarian, even autocratic traits and that Nixon, Lee and Thatcher in particular were highly controversial and divisive during their reigns is probably one of the characteristics of the extraordinary. “They didn’t expect or seek consensus,” writes the realist Kissinger, who knows what he’s talking about.
This is how portraits and character miniatures were created that no biographer could have written with this authority. Kissinger always writes from the richness of his life experience, which then has six lessons for the 21st century in store. The chapters on Adenauer, de Gaulle and Sadat in particular give an insight into the decision-making cosmos of statesmen who took on a truly historical burden. Thanks to hard-working assistants, Kissinger is still committed to historians and scientific accuracy.
He has already put the Nixon chapter on paper in one form or another – in his own memoirs, for example. But now another intimate character study of the foreign politician Nixon succeeds, whose dark sides Kissinger, however, only superficially illuminates. The crash in the Watergate and wiretapping scandal thus degenerates into the accidental conclusion of an otherwise grandiose global political project. The fact that it was Kissinger himself who drove Nixon to this foreign policy tour de force to China, the Middle East, Vietnam and Russia is embellished by the author with atypical humility. It remains a mystery why the characterless Nixon of all post-war US presidents should be ennobled as a model statesman.
No less puzzling is the highlighting of Margaret Thatcher. Although she had all the characteristics of a relentless leader, beyond her brute revolutionary drastic cure for the British state, a gunboat excursion to the Falkland Islands and a grandiose misjudgment of the dynamics of German unification are remembered.
From the visual age and from Putin
Kissinger ends a little disparate. He introduces two observations that seem to haunt him about the future and stability of the planet: the transition from the written to the visual age and what he sees as a diminishing ability to delve into problems and make decisions with historical awareness; and the fragility of the China-Russia-US triangular relationship.
Yes, Russia is forcing Kissinger to make an almost daily digression, because he has been shaken in his belief in his ability to strike a balance with Russia and obviously senses that nobody out there has the statecraft to do it Wladimir Putin to fix the mess that has been made. The previous pages provided a lot of ideas – only the statesman or stateswoman is missing.