“I think of myself as a historian more than as a statesman,” Henry Kissinger once reflected.
Kissinger, who died Nov. 29 at the age of 100, left an extensive legacy of government service and foreign policy writings.
He served Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford as secretary of state in the 1970s, but frequently insisted that he was a historian first.
“As a historian, you have to be conscious of the fact that every civilization that has ever existed has ultimately collapsed,” he said, adding:
History is a tale of efforts that failed, of aspirations that turned out to be different from what one expected. So, as weren’t realized, of wishes that were fulfilled and then a historian, one has to live with a sense of the inevitability of tragedy.
Kissinger built up an extensive and often much criticized record in policy and academics. His detractors labeled him a monster and a war criminal in life, and they’ve certainly continued after his death. His policy ideas often came under fire from the Left and the Right.
Regardless of the criticism, Kissinger undoubtedly was one of the most consequential architects of American foreign policy in the 20th century.
On the latest episode of my weekly podcast “History Reconsidered,” I discuss Henry Kissinger’s legacy with co-host Sumantra Maitra. I hope you’ll check it out.
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