Kissinger, one of America's most controversial foreign policy advisors,
has been lauded for his many accomplishments during his tenure as
Security Adviser under President Nixon and Secretary of State for both
President Ford. He is credited with some for "thawing" US
diplomatic relations with
the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and he helped to bring about the
end of American intervention in Vietnam.
Kissinger's successed in foreign policy, however, have also arroused
much criticism. In fact, many of his critics accuse him of war
German Jew, was born on 23 May 1923, in the Bavarian city of Fuerth.
His family immigrated to London in 1938 after it had become clear what Hitler's intentions were. The family then
moved to New York city. Kissinger attended high school at night and
worked in a factory during the day. While attending City College of New
York in 1943, he was drafted into the Army, where he began his public
career as a German interpreter.
After Germany surrendered in 1945, he held a variety of positions
within the military government.
Once Kissinger was discharged from the military, he attended Harvard
University, where he earned his B.A. with highest honors in 1950
(and subsequently his M.A. and Ph. D. by 1954). By 1962, Kissinger was
working as a professor at Harvard University and consulting closely
with the Council on Foreign Relations and Governor Nelson Rockefeller.
His resultant body of work was published in a book , Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy. This book helped
establish his reputation as a foreign policy scholar. In his book,
he introduced the idea that America's success abroad depended not just on its
military strength, but also on its ability to recognize and respond to aggression.
Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968, Kissinger was brought into
the administration as National Security Advisor. Later he was appointed
to be Secretary of State, a term he held through both the Nixon and
Ford administrations. During his term as Secretary of State, Kissinger
played a major, albeit secretive, role in diplomatic relations. His
secret trip to Beijing in July 1971 prepared the way for Nixon's visit
to China in February 1972 which has been credited with opening frozen relations with
the People's Republic of China. His behind-the-scenes work
allowed him to negotiate the Paris agreements of 1973, which ended
direct U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and earned him the Nobel
Peace Prize alongside Le Duc Tho, a North Vietnamese peace
As an admirer of the principles of realpolitik,
Kissinger was able to coordinate a short term period of détente with the Soviet Union, leading to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. In 1973, he negotiated the end
of the Yom Kippur War, which began with Egypt's invasion of the Sinai
Peninsula and Syria's invasion of the Golan Heights. Later, with his help, a peace
treaty between Egypt and Israel was reached in 1979, after the Camp
David meetings brokered by President Jimmy Carter, in 1978.
Kissinger's most controversial
foreign relations occurred in December 1975 when Kissinger and
met with President Suharto of Indonesia; giving US approval for the
Indonesian invasion of East Timor. This invasion led to the massacre of
Timorese and caused Kissinger's critics to call for his prosecution for
what they consider war crimes. They had also called for his
prosecution for the secret bombing of
Cambodia in 1969 to which he had allegedly given "go ahead." (He
has never been charged nor convicted of any offense related to any of
his diplomatic actions.)
Kissinger left office
when President Jimmy Carter defeated Ford in the 1976 elections. He
later continued to play a minor advisory role in the Reagan and Bush
administrations and participated in policy groups such as the Trilateral Commission.
In 2002, he was appointed to chair a committee by President George W. Bush to investigate the events
that led up to the September 11 attacks. Criticism from across
party lines, partially due to his past secrecy towards the public and his
refusal to provide financial disclosures,
caused him step down as chairman in December 2002, citing a conflict of interest with his clients.
Henry Kissinger continues to work,
speak, write commentary, and take an
active role in public life through his consulting firm, Kissinger and
- May 27, 1923: Born in Fuerth, Germany
- 1938: Moved from London to New York with family to
escape Nazi Germany.
- 1943: Drafted in Army, served with U.S. Army
Counter-Intelligence Corps as a translator. This is the year Kissinger
also became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
- 1954: Earned his Ph.D. in International Relations
from Harvard University and began a career as a Harvard professor.
- 1957: Published Nuclear Weapons and Foreign
- 1958: Received the Woodrow Wilson Prize for Nuclear
Weapons and Foreign Policy
- 1961: Worked as a consultant to National Security
- 1965-1968: Served as a consultant to the U.S.
Department of State
Appointed Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs by
President Richard Nixon. This is the year he also became the head of
the National Security Council and the U.S. military conducted air raids
in Cambodia without Congressional knowing or approval with permission
of Kissinger and Nixon, intended to repel North Vietnamese forces,
which were advancing over into Cambodia. Hundreds of thousands of
civilian deaths followed.
- 1971: Kissinger's secret trip to Beijing paved the
way to reestablishing relations with China. Subsequent visits by Nixon
- 1972: Negotiated the Strategic Arms Limitations
Talks (SALT) agreements with the Soviet Union. Prompted a short period of
- 1973: Kissinger became the 56th Secretary of State
under Nixon. Paris treaties led to Vietnam cease-fire pact which lead to
the U.S. withdrawal. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Helped with
negotiating the end of the Yom Kippur war.
- 1975: President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger met with President
Suharto of Indonesia; giving approval for the invasion of East Timor,
leading to the death of an estimated 200,000 civilians.
- 1977: Kissinger exited office after President
Carter's election. Began new career as professor of diplomacy at
Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.
- 1978: Started Kissinger Associates, to continue his work
with foreign affairs. Kissinger Associates
works with businesses and governments on a consultancy basis.
- 1980: Won American Book Award for his memoir
entitled The White House Years.
- 1983-1985: Appointed to chair the National
Bipartisan Commission on Central America by President Reagan.
- 1984-1990: Served on Foreign Intelligence Advisory
Board for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. Bush.
- 2002: Kissinger appointed to head a government inquiry into the terrorist attacks of 11 September
2001. The next month Kissinger stepped down, citing potential conflicts of interest
due to his private political consulting firm.
- The Beijing-Washington Backchannel and Kissinger's Secret Trip to China: George Washington University's archive of declassified DOS documents from Henry Kissinger's secret trip to China.
- The Nobel Peace Prize 1973: The Nobel Peace Prize for 1973 website including the transcripts from Kissinger's acceptance speech.
- East Timor Revisited:
Documents concerning Ford, Kissinger, and the Indonesian invasion,
1975-1976. New information on the politics and standpoints involved in
this action from the archives of George Washington University.
- Henry Alfred Kissinger, Secretary of State:
Biography and notes on the travels of Henry Kissinger during his tenure
as Secretary of State, from the Department of State website.
- Nixon's China Game: This website is a supplement to the PBS documentary on Nixon's secret negotiations with China and the
events that led to the end of the Vietnam War. It contains multimedia information on Kissinger and other
administration officials involved in negotiations.
- The Cold War Digital Library:
Memos, graphics, transcripts and photographs from the Cold War, from
Academic Info's Cold War Digital Library, including information on the
Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Radioworks: The President Calling: Transcripts and photographs explaining the events that led up
to the Watergate scandal and uncovering of the secret bombing of Cambodia.
There are many telephone transcripts between Kissinger and Nixon available
from American Radioworks.
- Timeline of the Vietnam War: Timeline of the Vietnam War from PBS. Well done.
- Nixon Presidential Materials:
Provided by the National Archives and Records Administration, this
resources contains historical materials created and received by the
White House during the administration of President Richard M. Nixon, in
accordance with the Freedom of Information Act.
Trials of Henry Kissinger: Website for the documentary, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, in
which journalist Christopher Hidgens presents evidence that he believes should
make Kissinger liable for war crimes. The website itself contains links to
supporting articles, photographs, and online research that supports this point
- Current Kissinger News:
Henry Kissinger remains a public figure and the media often quotes and
him. You can use Google's news spider to locate current news articles
from newspapers, magazines, and websites across the world concerning
- Official Website of Henry A. Kissinger
- Henry Kissinger interviewed by Mike Wallace on The Mike Wallace Interview July 13, 1958
- The National Security Archives at George Washington University
- Transcripts of Nixon and Kissinger
Diplomacy by Henry Kissinger. From the book introduction: "Almost as if
according to some natural law, in every century there seems to emerge a
country with the power, the will, and the intellectual..." ISBN:
The White House Years by Henry Kissinger. This book is a memoir of Kissinger's days working
with the Nixon and Ford administrations. ISBN: 0316496618
Years of Upheaval by Henry Kissinger. This book is the second volume of Henry Kissinger's memoirs,
beginning with Nixon's victory in the 1972 presidential election. ISBN:
Years of Renewal by Henry Kissinger. From the book introduction: "Gerald Rudolph Ford
was an uncomplicated man tapped by destiny for some of the most
complicated tasks in the nation's history..." ISBN: 0684855720
Ending the Vietnam War : A History of America's Involvement in and Extrication from the Vietnam War by Henry Kissinger. ISBN: 074321532X
: The ANatomy of Two Major Foreign Policy Crises: Based on the Record
of Henry Kissinger's Hitherto Secret Telephone Conversations by Henry Kissinger. From the book introduction: "The Middle East crisis
that erupted into war in 1973 had many components: the Arab-Israeli
conflict; the ideological struggle between Arab moderates and radicals;
and..." ISBN: 0743249100
Does America Need a Foreign Policy?: Toward a Diplomacy for the 21st Century
by Henry Kissinger. From the book introduction: "At the dawn
of the new millennium, the United States is enjoying a preeminence
unrivaled by even the greatest empires of the past..." ISBN: 0684855682
Books About Henry Kissinger
The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens. The most prominent critic of Henry Kissinger,
Hitchens argues that Kissinger deserves vigorous prosecution "for war
crimes, for crimes against humanity, and for offenses against common or
customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder,
kidnap, and torture." An alternative perspective of the events of
the Nixon and Ford administration's foreign policy. ISBN: 1859843980
The Flawed Architect: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy by Jussi M. Hanhimaki. Which is more accurate, the picture of Kissinger
the skilled diplomat or Kissinger the war criminal? Hanhimaki examines
the charges against Kissinger and tries to find an in-between. ISBN:
Makers of American Diplomacy: From Benjamin Franklin to Henry Kissinger. by Frank J. Merli, Theodore A. Wilson. A collection of essays examining key moments in American diplomatic history
and the policy makers that shaped these events. ISBN: 0684137984
The secret conversations of Henry Kissinger: Step-by-step diplomacy in the Middle-East
by Matti Golan. This book examines the process behind-the-scenes that took
place, resulting in the end of Yom Kippur War. ISBN: 081290608X
Kissinger: A Biography : An American Life by Walter Isaacson. This book is considered to be one of the fullest
accounts of Kissinger's life and career to date, examining his choices,
accomplishments, and alleged misteps when shaping foreign policy. ISBN: