Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Is the Time-Tested Kissinger Pattern Doomed to Repeat Itself?

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Is the Time-Tested Kissinger Pattern Doomed to Repeat Itself?

Article excerpt

Richard H. Curtiss is executive editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

Henry A. Kissinger was one of the lucky German refugees who immigrated to the United States in 1938, after his family realized that nothing good would happen as Adolf Hitler increased his influence in their native country. Born into a family of Orthodox Jews, he was called Heinz Alfred before he Americanized his name. It was a little too late for Kissinger to correct his thick German accent, however. In retrospect, it also was a little too late to change his pessimistic Old World views, which only increased as he grew older.

Almost as soon as Kissinger adopted his new identity he found himself in the U.S. Army. That is a sobering experience, even for those not handicapped by the problems of Americanization. He has written virtually nothing about those early years.

When his service was completed, Kissinger demonstrated his intelligence by eventually earning a doctorate at Harvard University and becoming a member of the faculty there. He later became a protege of Republican New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller.

When Richard Nixon reentered politics after his defeat by John F. Kennedy, the former vice president was aware that accusations of anti-Semitism that had shadowed that campaign--whether accurate or not--had to be expunged. Nixon was determined never to make the same mistake twice, so he chose Kissinger as his national security adviser and appointed William P. Rogers as his secretary of state.

It was then that Henry Kissinger revealed his conspiratorial tendencies by immediately setting out to denigrate and undercut his associates. Day in and day out, Kissinger plotted to increase his political stature at the expense of Rogers.

Kissinger took one prerogative after another from Rogers, eventually paring away most of Rogers' responsibilities. Believing that Kissinger, being Jewish, would not be neutral, Nixon had said from the beginning of his administration that it was important that Rogers concentrate on the Middle East.

So, of course, control of Middle East policy became Henry Kissinger's greatest goal. It was only after Nixon was reelected to a second term that Kissinger made his final move in promoting himself and elbowing Rogers out of any authority at all. When Rogers resigned, "Henry the K.," as the national press had begun calling him, became the sole occupant of the two positions of secretary of state and national security adviser. This had never happened before.

In President Nixon's first term, an amazing number of crises presented themselves, and very few were solved. Almost from the time that Nixon began his second term, however, a long and rapidly growing blight manifested itself. That was "Watergate," the attempt to cover up the traces of an incipient scandal that eventually brought a disgraceful end to Nixon's presidency.

Kissinger, however, convinced Nixon that it was essential that he, Kissinger, be kept at a distance from the scandal. This, he explained, would save Nixon's presidency in the long run. Of course, this never happened.

In fact, it was a hallmark of Kissinger's tenure that he always had an excuse for being somewhere else when the going got tough. Therefore, when Nixon resigned, an unblemished Kissinger continued on his Middle East journeys without dropping a stitch.

It was only two years later, when President Gerald Ford lost his own bid for election, that Kissinger retired. …

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