Fateful Decisions: Inside the National Security Council

By Karl F. Inderfurth; Loch K. Johnson | Go to book overview
Save to active project


Marvin Kalb and Bernard Kalb

Doubtless the most famous of the national security advisers, Henry Kissinger, who served
during the Nixon Administration, converted the NSC staff into another—and more impor-
tant—Department of State within the White House. The Kalbs profile his meteoric career
through the 1960s and 1970s, and reveal a few sides of this notable statesman's complex

Henry Alfred Kissinger is an extravaganza—all by himself. At fifty-one, after only five years in Washington, this energetic balancer of power has emerged from the relative obscurity of a Harvard professorship to become the most celebrated and controversial diplomat of our time. He has come to be recognized as the very portrait of American diplomacy, the way George Washington is identified with the dollar bill. A legend in half a decade, he has been described as, among other things, the "second most powerful man in the world," "conscience of the Administration," "official apologist," "compassionate hawk," "vigilant dove," "Dr. Strangelove," "household word," "the playboy of the Western Wing," "Nixon's Metternich," "Nixon's secret agent," "the Professident of the United States," "Jackie Onassis of the Nixon Administration," "Nobel warrior," "Mideast cyclone," "reluctant wiretapper," and "Secretary of the world"—a long list, especially in Washington, where praise of any sort is the only thing that never exceeds its budget.

From the beginning, Kissinger outraged the gray men who guarded the corridors of Richard Nixon's White House. His accent, his brilliance, his flair for self-promotion labeled him a heretic, destined for banishment. Yet it turned out that they—the Haldemans, the Ehrlichmans, those caught up in the torrent of Watergate—were to go, and he was to go on to even greater heights. From his start in the basement of the West Wing of the White House, as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, he would vault to the seventh floor of the State Department as Secretary of State, a position once held by Thomas Jefferson, Daniel Webster, and John Foster Dulles. It was an unprecedented leap for someone of his origins—a refugee from Nazi Germany, a Jew. En route, Kissinger acquired such a formidable reputation that, by the beginning of 1974, he would be viewed by many of Nixon's critics as the sole legitimizer of a President discredited by Watergate. Whereas Kissinger had once needed Nixon as a channel to power, Nixon now needed Kissinger to help him remain in power. Their relationship had become so topsy-turvy that the academic aide at Nixon's side was seen as perhaps the last fortress against the unmaking of a President.

Henry Kissinger arrived in Washington at a ripe moment internationally. The United States and the world, he recognized, were in a fluid, transitional period. For the first time, the nuclear superpowers were beginning to appreciate the limits of their own power and the need to find some way of reducing tensions. And the other fellow's increasingly bigger bomb wasn't the only convincing reason; wherever Kissinger looked, he saw significant changes taking place within countries and among countries.

From Marvin Kalb and Bernard Kalb, Kissinger (Boston: Little, Brown, 1974), 3–13.

The brothers Marvin and Bernard Kalb are journalists who have covered U.S. foreign affairs.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Fateful Decisions: Inside the National Security Council
Table of contents

Table of contents



Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 378

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?