Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has died at 100. The New York Times obituary by David Sanger is posted here. Sanger’s obituary links to the statement announcing Kissinger’s death by his consulting firm. What a monumental American life he led.
Ah, yes, the Times. In 2011 the Times Book Review featured Kissinger’s laudatory review of the new biography of Bismarck by Penn’s Jonathan Steinberg on page one. On my copy of the Times Book Review , however, Kissinger’s name as the reviewer was missing on page one. The curious reader had to scout out the table of contents on page 3 or the contributor’s tag on page 10 to ascertain that the review was by Kissinger.
The Times posted a correction explaining what happened: “Because of a production error, a review on the cover of the Book Review, about Bismarck: A Life, by Jonathan Steinberg, omit the byline in some copies.” Lest we think anything was amiss, the Times added: “As noted in the table of contents and in the contributor’s biographical note, the review is by Henry A. Kissinger.”
I did wonder whether the error might not have been of the Freudian variety. Kissinger devotes a memorable passage (pages 293-295) of the first volume of his memoirs to the Times‘s editorial criticism of the Nixon administration’s efforts to end the Vietnam war. Was this someone’s subtle payback?
In the first volume of his memoirs Kissinger noted that in 1969 “the Times regularly called for American concessions when the other side seemed conciliatory, in order, it was explained, to seize the opportunity for peace. It also called for concessions, however, when the other side was intensifying the war, in that case because the Communist step-up had demonstrated that our military effort could never bring peace.”
And that wasn’t all. The Times‘s “calls for even further American concessions were regularly explained by the argument that the United States had a special obligation to prove its good faith to the other side and to abandon the quest for military victory.” Kissinger drily commented with a satirical touch: “No such obligation was discovered for the other side.” He called the Times‘s evolving editorial opinion “a vivid example of how our critics could rarely be satisfied for long, even by the adoption of their own proposals” (emphasis in original, footnotes omitted).
Taken together, the three volumes of Kissinger’s memoirs — to say nothing of his public service or his 18 other books — constitute a formidable contribution to American statesmanship and literature. Reviewing the third volume of Kissinger’s memoirs for Commentary in May 1999 in “Was Kissinger right?,” Gabriel Schoenfeld concluded: “In reconstructing his own very large part in this long saga in a spirit of both critical and self-critical inquiry, and in extensive and endlessly fascinating detail, he has given us in this volume, as in the previous two, the benefit of his undeniable lucidity and wisdom as well as one of the most majestically intelligent books about statecraft to have been written in this century.” RIP.