Henry Kissinger, the controversial architect of US foreign policy, dies at 100

Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state and national security advisor who played a pivotal role in shaping the global order during the Cold War, has died at the age of 100, his consulting firm announced on Wednesday.

Kissinger, who was born in Germany and fled the Nazi regime with his family in 1938, was a towering figure in American diplomacy for more than half a century. He served under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and advised several others, including Donald Trump.

He was widely regarded as a master strategist and negotiator, who helped end the Vietnam War, opened relations with China, brokered peace in the Middle East, and eased tensions with the Soviet Union. He was also a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, along with his North Vietnamese counterpart Le Duc Tho, for their efforts to end the conflict in Vietnam.

Henry Kissinger

A legacy of achievements and controversies

Kissinger’s diplomatic achievements were often overshadowed by controversies and criticisms. He was accused of being complicit in human rights abuses, war crimes, and coups in various countries, such as Cambodia, Chile, Bangladesh, and East Timor. He was also blamed for prolonging the Vietnam War and expanding it into neighboring countries, resulting in millions of deaths and displacements.

Many of his critics considered him a war criminal, who should be held accountable for his actions. Some of his admirers, however, defended him as a realist, who acted in the best interests of the US and the world in a complex and dangerous era.

Kissinger himself acknowledged the moral dilemmas and trade-offs that he faced in his career. In his memoirs, he wrote: “The making of foreign policy is a struggle to reconcile the ideal and the possible, the moral and the practical.”

A lifelong scholar and consultant

Kissinger was not only a practitioner of foreign policy, but also a scholar and a consultant. He earned his PhD in political science from Harvard University in 1954, and taught there for more than a decade. He wrote several books and articles on international relations, history, and geopolitics, such as “Diplomacy”, “World Order”, and “On China”.

He also founded his own consulting firm, Kissinger Associates, in 1982, which provided strategic advice to governments and corporations around the world. He remained active and influential in his later years, frequently meeting with world leaders and offering his views on global issues.

He was also involved in various think tanks, foundations, and boards, such as the Council on Foreign Relations, the Aspen Institute, and the Bilderberg Group. He received numerous honors and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the US, in 1977.

A centenarian with a remarkable life

Kissinger celebrated his 100th birthday on May 27, 2023, becoming one of the oldest living former US officials. He had survived multiple health problems, including heart surgeries, hearing loss, and blindness in one eye. He told CBS News in May that he worked about 15 hours a day, and was still interested in learning new things.

He was married twice, first to Ann Fleischer, with whom he had two children, Elizabeth and David, and then to Nancy Maginnes, a philanthropist and former aide to Nelson Rockefeller. He lived in Kent, Connecticut, where he died peacefully on November 29, 2023, surrounded by his family and friends.

His consulting firm, Kissinger Associates, said in a statement: “We mourn the passing of our founder, mentor, and friend, Dr. Henry A. Kissinger. He was a visionary leader, a brilliant thinker, and a generous human being. His legacy will live on in the history he made, the books he wrote, and the people he inspired.”

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