Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state who had a huge amount of power and was known as a wise negotiator but was also criticised and accused of war crimes around the world for his major part in expanding American military involvement in Vietnam and bombing Cambodia, died Wednesday. He was 100 years old.
His consulting company said he died at home in Connecticut when they made the announcement. There was no reason given.
Kissinger was a Jewish man who fled Nazi Germany and made it to the top of American politics. He then became a well-known figure in everyday life. He worked for two Republican presidents, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, as secretary of state and national security director. For decades, he gave advice to important people in both parties in the United States.
People saw him as one of the most important officials and thinkers on international relations of the 20th century. He was a proponent of "realpolitik" who helped ease tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and improve ties with China.
Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prise for helping to negotiate the end of the Vietnam War. He shared the award with Le Duc Though of North Vietnam, who turned it down. As Nixon was in office in the early 1970s, Kissinger helped get the U.S. and China to start talking to each other diplomatically.
However, he was also one of the most hated public leaders of his time, and his name is linked to a lot of deaths around the world. Some people didn't like him because they thought he represented the harshness of American power and some of the worst foreign policy choices in modern times.
Some people didn't like Kissinger because he was a big part of increasing U.S. military activity in Vietnam, starting a large-scale bombing campaign in Cambodia, and backing cruel governments in Argentina, Chile, Indonesia, and Pakistan. People who spoke out against him called him a war criminal, and some wanted him to be charged at the Hague.
Mario Del Pero wrote a book in 2009 called "The Eccentric Realist: Henry Kissinger and the Shaping of American Foreign Policy" in which he says Kissinger tried to "project the myth of being a no-nonsense, half-European realpolitiker capable of explaining to naive America how to behave on the international stage."
"Great power competition" was central to Kissinger's thinking. This is the idea that the U.S., its friends, and its enemies make choices based on their own national interests, not on caring about others or even moral standards.
Del Pero, an international history professor at SciencesPo in Paris, said that this "dark narrative" spreads "in the U.S. during times of great crisis and difficulty," like the 1970s and now. It didn't do so during the 1990s, when Westerners were feeling hopeful after the Cold War.
Kissinger became so famous across the country that it's rare for a president's Cabinet member to reach that level of fame. On magazine spreads and daily front pages, he was seen. He met with North Vietnamese officials in secret in the summer of 1971. Time magazine wrote, "he enjoys a global spotlight and an influence that most professors only read about in their libraries."
He won a lot of awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977), which is the greatest citizen honour in the country, and the Medal of Liberty (1986), which is given to 10 of America's most culturally important foreign-born celebrities.