Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Kissinger Was Right

The release of Nixon era tapes involving comments by Henry Kissinger has unleashed a torrent of condemnation, including plenty from the right. I'm going to use this post at Right Wing News, which includes excerpts from Christopher Hitchens, as a prime example. Here's what Kissinger said, while discussing with Nixon an appeal from Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir for the U.S. to pressure the Soviet Union to allow Soviet Jews to emigrate.
The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.
For this comment, made during a private foreign policy discussion with the president, Kissinger is being labeled a "despicable," "evil" anti-Semite. Hitchens thinks he should be shunned.
Henry Kissinger should have the door shut in his face by every decent person and should be shamed, ostracized and excluded.
In my opinion, these attacks on Kissinger are ludicrous. Let's look at some excerpts from the linked post.
How can a Jew, who escaped from the Holocaust and had relatives who did not, knowingly turn his back on his fellow Jews who are being murdered in another country?
The U.S. Secretary of State's job should be to advance the foreign policy interests of the United States. It is not, and should not be his job to allow the plight of people of the same ethnicity and religion, no matter how sympathetic, to trump his focus on American interests.
What could be more evil than an elitist, Americanized Jew who sits fat and satisfied in safety and in a position of power where he could help, who would not move heaven and earth to get Jews to safety?
There's nothing at all evil about it. That wasn't his job, and it isn't the job of the U.S. to help everyone in the world who needs helping. By expressing his opinions on the foreign policy interests of the United States, he was giving exactly the type of advice a U.S. president needs to hear more of.
This is an endorsement of a second “Holocaust,” which thankfully did not take place. Kissinger fancies himself to be practicing “Realpolitik.” He is nothing but a preening opportunist.
It was obviously not an "endorsement" of anything. Kissinger wasn't advocating Soviet atrocities against Jews, he was merely pointing out -- correctly -- that doing anything about such a hypothetical event was not in the U.S. interest. The U.S. wasn't going to war with the nuclear-armed Soviet Union on behalf of Soviet Jews.
I agree with Christopher Hitchens about Kissinger’s rightful place in history and society given this final revelation of anti-Semitism. There must be consequences in history. Henry Kissinger should be made persona non grata everywhere.
There was nothing at all anti-Semitic about Kissinger's comments. And Hitchens has allowed his hatred of Nixon and Kissinger to color his usually more rational analysis. Saying that Kissinger is an anti-Semite because he didn't think intervening to help Soviet Jewry was in the U.S. interest is flat-out idiotic.

The reaction to the Kissinger tape illustrates that many people are clueless about how foreign policy is conducted, what realism means, and that the interests of a state are often different from personal interests. Having leaders who put aside their personal attachments such as ethnic or religious solidarity, and coldly and rationally calculate policy on the basis of U.S. national interests is a good thing. We have far too few such leaders directing our foreign policy. There is also a strong element of hypocrisy present in this criticism. What if President Obama advocated a policy of massive help for Africans because he has African ancestry and relatives living there? Many places in Africa are in desperate need greater than that of Soviet Jewry. Would the same people condemning Kissinger for putting the interests of the U.S. above sympathy for Soviet Jews applaud Obama for doing everything possible to help suffering Africans? Somehow I doubt it. The foreign policy of the United States should be directed at advancing U.S. interests. Although I don't agree with all of his decisions and opinions, Kissinger understood that. He's being condemned by fools who in large part don't even understand why their outrage makes them look foolish.

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