tv After Words CSPAN November 21, 2015 10:00pm-11:01pm EST
>> i'm not sure, there's no question there has been a convergence at the end of the cold war and if you look like issues like was me or iraq itself but there were people on the left who had documentary challenges working on a regular isolationist, that's certainly true and that is what is an independent is other than perhaps someone who chooses case-by-case. >> guest: writer somebody that recognizes that can be as simple party line on these national security issues and somebody who doesn't want to be bound by a partyline on social and cultural issues. interestingly i find kissinger as a young man was in rather the same position. he thought of himself as a small c. conservative. he certainly didn't self-identify as a liberal in the 1950s or harvard. but what being counters real
american conservatism by goldwater supporters of 1964 republican convention he was appalled and he had an uneasy relationship with the rise of the republican party with the neoconservatives as well. that's one of the interesting things that kissinger's predicament may explain why he is a controversial figure. he had enemies on the left. christopher hitchens, he really attacks him for that but he also has many enemies on the right. whether détente with the soviet union was a --. >> host: so the book is called the idealist with is a rather country and taken kissinger who is even the most timely description is described as the ultimate idealist. so your choice of the word idealists which are explained in the book is really not a wilsonian notion of idealism. it's more of a kantian notion of
idealism. can you explain for the audience at home what you mean idealist when it comes to kissinger and why are notion of course traditionally is wilsonianism but that's not the description you give. >> guest: it's true that most people think of henry kissinger as the realist and then names they throw around our macular aid. maybe it's not surprising that people have fallen into that fat but i'd like to show in the book that he really wasn't a realist. there were realist who argued that the united states should follow its narrow national self-interest but he wasn't one of them and those who were realist were often critical of him, not to prove there was something wrong with this machiavellian notion. when i started to read his writings which i began to think
that many people had done i was really struck a something. they were in fact critical of realism. the book about the congress pretty critical. the things they say on bismarck the white revolution is critical of the maestro of 19th century reality so i started to think and then i delve deeper into kissinger's intellectual development and three things are really striking. one, it's an experience growing up in the 20s and 30s made them not surprisingly highly critical of the foreign-policy appeasement of the dictators. in a very interesting essay they thought they were pursuing the kind of narrow self-interest approach to foreign policy and disregard of the human rights abuses of the dictatorship. number one, his own experience
in the 1930s makes him suspicious of what he saw as the realist of pieces. number two, he comes to harvard and to try to get rid of this rather push a undergraduate william elliott professor government said if you go away and read immanuel kant expecting you'll never see him and underestimating kissinger. andy put it into his thesis. particularly in the problem that on the one hand can't solve this freedom, free will and free choice but the experience of freedom is real but on the other hand can't argue there some kind of plan for the world, the humanity meaning -- leading ultimately to potential peace and kissinger senior thesis is whether there's a way of
reconciling these to positions and he concludes there is some ultimately the experience of choice is a real one, and freedom as kissinger pointed his in the experience and intellectual sample experience. the third point which is perhaps the crucial one given the cold war concept in his early academic career was that kissinger was an idealist in the sense that he had a materialist view of history like marxism and leninism but theory. the soviet bloc and he also rejected capitalist purists midtier -- which said if our growth rate is higher than their growth rate than we will win the cold war. so i think on those three kissinger emerges as an idealist. a realty in the harvard of the 1950s i think it's what made his contribution fundamentally distinct and made them stand out
that you could solve the cold war with systems or something of that sort. >> although you have many quotes in the book that make him sound as if he is an idealist and certainly someone who is horrified by the appeaser, someone that believes the u.s. and is more likely to win on ideals than a materialist issues. at the same time, his writing and other browder freezer filled with a pretty brutal rail quality quotes as well as i noticed in walter isaacson's biography kissinger is pushing that give me 70s pressing pakistan to be less repressive asking why is it her business to govern? he defends cutting off aid to the kurds in iraq's thing covert action should not be confused as missionary work. this is a sort of -- that doesn't sound to me like an
idealist, someone who doesn't feel that the u.s. has to be defending human rights are pressing allies because of their repressive nature. >> there are two answers to that. one is we are really talking about volume two which i haven't written yet and there's no telling what the subtitle will be. it's not the idealist, let's put it that way and i'm cautious about talking that since i'm frankly still doing research and i won't make up my time -- might until i've gone through a lot of documents so it's early days in the 1970s for me. the most i can risk saying secondly in response is that we can't really understand what kissinger and for that matter nixon and the president he served were trying to achieve if you just look at isolated cases and throw up your hands and say how shocking and callous because these isolated countries, these
particular instances that you mention have to be seen as part of the ground strategy. most books that are highly critical of kissinger tend to focus on a particular issue and disregard the strategic framework. the strategic framework as kissinger says in his early writings, something that imposes a hierarchy if your primary goal is to avoid world war iii and seek some kind of accommodation to détente with the soviet union then there may be other things on the chessboard that you have to sacrifice to that end. if your second goal is to use an opening to china to put pressure on the soviets, then for the sake of that you may have to make compromises with the pakistani government. if you have no other concerned but any judgment you might make about foreign policy has to be done not on a case-by-case basis but in the strategic framework.
in his earlier writings of kissinger says it is the nature of statesmanship that you have to make choices and you are free to make these choices but they are really choices between evils and challenges to decide what's the better of the two evils is. kissinger says right from the very earliest writing that is the problem. that is the challenge in the states that there are sometimes no good options. there are just evils that you have to choose between. >> all of that is persuasive but i don't put that into the real politic camp of seeking stability for the sake of peace. we are not in i leisha but having to look the other way on repression or his decision, his joint decision for the bombing of cambodia and you do engage
some of us this in the book, his role in chile. he himself has suggested while he was engineered the coup that he supported the idea that it didn't want to end there. he said some transcendent things that sound real politic to me and it is the reason there is no controversy itself. >> one of the things they do in volume one which ended january 1969 is to imply that there is a question. the question is does he remain in idealist? does he adhere to the principles that he set out and a critic of u.s. foreign-policy or give the experience of government changing into realist. that question i have yet to answer. it's very central to volume two of this biography.
this biography, the first volume covers the first half of his life and in that period although he was involved in government and an adviser to kennedy mosley writes books and articles and i think it's fascinating to study him as an intellectual. imagine if you like he was hit by a bus in january of 1969. this book would have been impossible. it seems to me the intellectual contribution is quite a substantial one. at a time when international relations became more and more divorced and have become even more so since then. kissinger argued you have to have a historical framework. history is what characters did individuals that if you don't know the history you won't understand. i think that was a very important insight that still resonate today or think about the problem of conjecture which
i thinks get to the heart of some of questions you're racing. kissinger says not choosing between two evils but when you make the choice you don't really know how things are going to turn now. he may take a difficult preemptive action and avert disaster. but if you are successful can you be grateful? know because it didn't happen and foreign-policy does this great asymmetry that the early edition may get you low payouts because in preempting disaster you basically prevented from happening and therefore prevent people from suffering. you may get lucky and people will think you are wise and if you are not lucky and things turned out badly you can always say well i did my best. the temptation as we see these days is to keep the can down the road. when you assess any of the
decisions taken after 1968 in a position to advise the decision-maker you have to ask yourself how does this fit into the grand strategy but also the question at the time the decision was made was this the right decision? at the time could you say with certainty or with confidence, not with certainty, this is the lesser evil of any two courses of action. that's the goal i set for myself in the second volume. >> host: so is she said the book begins with this childhood in germany. he notes several times the impact on this world view of that childhood and that he lost many friends and many members of his family in the holocaust, and you quote in a 2007 interview with him when he says my first experience was a member of a persecuted jewish minority. many members of my family and
70% of the people i went to school is with died in concentration camps of that's not something i can forget. i do not agree with the view that analyzes everything in terms of my alleged jewish origin. i've i have not thought of myself in those terms. i am a jewish american and a lot of my attitudes towards my horror in the world, repression, extremism as well as my notion of american responsibility to try to fix things comes i believe ... patch. so what's going on there and i would say it's origin is a disturbing one. would what do you think is happening with him? >> guest: i have tried in the book to tell the story is accurately as i can. it's a remarkable one although not a unique one. nazism was violent and as he
grew up he became a teenager of the nazi regime came to power and his rights were whittled away just as his parents were and tell his parents had to flee. when he came back six years after leaving in a u.s. army uniform he witnessed the liberation of the concentration camp in ireland and then he discovered after the war was over that nearly all those family members who had left germany had died including his grandmother. so clearly these were searing experiences and i think the reason he subsequently sought to downplay them was the tendency of maybe earlier rightists who describe so much importance to those events that his subsequent development was the kind of response to trauma.
he is very clear and the letters that he writes home to his parents in the late 1940s and the things that he writes about the works. , that he is not traumatized, is something that he explicitly says. i think we need to understand the war experience was not quite as we imagine it those of us who were too young to experience this. for example i think it's very striking that he writes this short essay really a thing for some use to record the experience after seeing the liberation of the concentration camp and it's addressed to one of the polish inmate. it's a remarkable document which i reproduce in full because it captures how searing the witnessing of the holocaust to be. at the same time the war changed him and a very important way.
it had destroyed his religious faith and he and his younger brother have to confront particularly the orthodox father with this change. kissinger writes very openly i am different. this has changed me. this exposure not just to the holocaust but to the war has made me fundamentally different. i know longer can really believe in what you brought me up to believe so that moment is a profoundly important one. i think it explains some of the ambivalence which he subsequently discussed, his jewishness and kissinger is a man who identifies as jewish but he is not. he is not an observant. that's by no means an unusual predicament that what i try to do is to show how he arrives at that position after the orthodox
upbringing that have been germany an extraordinary experience that he had during the war. >> host: being a believer is different from being orthodox for any religion. >> guest: absolutely. hosts are you suggesting that he is no longer believing that god existed because of experience in germany? >> guest: that's not something that's entirely specific to anything he has said. cisco does that go to his core idealism as well? >> guest: he is not writing i am reformed. that is definitely not the message and he did not subsequently so in that sense it was at complete loss but not something that led him to denying his jewishness. it's not as if he was looking to convert.
on the contrary. he is not a believer. it's an important consequence of the war experience and its unusual that is so well-documented that he wrote very frankly to his parents what this meant for the rest of his life. >> host: believer in idealism, don't those two things relate to each other in a way? >> guest: what is clear is if you are steeped in philosophy is kissinger was, you don't necessarily subscribe to a traditional deity although you may acknowledge the possibility of a supreme being and the ultimate divine or providential purpose. but kissinger is much more adjusted in the experience of freedom of choice, individual choice of freedom and a possible than all-knowing deity that plays a role in the subsequent thought.
>> host: so2 move that notion of one to another one of the things that i hadn't realized is that he really made his name and became something of a rock of a rock star of a rock star at a recently young age when writing about nuclear weapons. and being a strong advocate of this concept of limited war, the limited use of nuclear weapons. you go out of your way to say that he was not the model for dr. strangelove but there is something strange about the idea that you could have the limited use of nuclear weapons without its spiraling out of control. what drove him to think that and why do you think it made him so popular at that point? it seems now people think he was pretty crazed. >> guest: first of all you can't imagine an encounter in harvard yard with his friend arthur schlessinger junior.
essentially he -- eisenhower's concept was that you had to threaten massive retaliation to deter the soviets from expansion. and he was very binary. you either blow up the world are you except the world is tolerable. the debate was whether they could be in the middle position or it had shrunk to this all or nothing strategy which implied brinksmanship which risked armageddon every time he wants me to soviet move around the world. on the basis run the conversation harvard yard the thoughts on this question they impress other people and he has gradually drawn away from the study of diplomacy which he wrote his ph.d. about and debate about nick lear strategy. he begins discussions at the
council of foreign relations with far more experience strategic thinkers. he didn't think about the unthinkable question could you use nuclear weapons in a limited way and avoid full-scale armageddon? cam me put it like that? it does down sound like dr. strangelove legitimizing the use of the most destructive weapon that had ever been devised. that's how he tries to make the case of nuclear weapons and foreign policy that you can have limited tactical nuclear exchanges that won't escalate to full-blown armageddon. two interesting things. one, he later reversed that position and came to the conclusion that he couldn't be sure it wouldn't escalate so he did a kind of intellectual flip-flop or do you turn on that key question. that was after the book it made him famous book arrives at the
critical moment in history. sputnik has just been launched. it's 1957. americans are thinking that the soviets have not only caught up with them but this book dynamic you think who argues there is a way of dealing with this problem that would not load the world to smithereens. the key point that is often overlooked is although kissinger himself pulled back from the idea of a nuclear-free war, the u.s. military did not an order to soviet military or for the batman or did any of the native countries because from that point on, strategy in the cold war assumed the possibility of a limited nuclear war. he became the basis for nato's plans to descend on western europe from soviet invasion. this wealth was tactical battlefield nuclear weapons were for. that's why the superpowers didn't just have
intercontinental ballistic missiles. the key point that i try to make in the book is that although kissinger himself was ambivalent about intellectual breakthrough, the idea of a nuclear war he didn't practice it and it became doctrine for the military's on both sides in the cold war. just because it didn't happen, just because there never was a limited nuclear war doesn't mean that it was science fiction. in fact to this day it is a real possibility and it has resurfaced in the most recent debates about how europe and nato responded to soviet aggression and western europe. it's an idea that hasn't gone away at all. hajj stories suggesting there are serious leakers in europe who would advocate for the limited use of tactical nuke layer and if the russians decide to roll and to one of the box?
>> guest: nobody's writing up updates about this but the weapons exist. if they exist there must be a rationale. >> host: if you recall the beginnings of which 43 and the negotiations of the soviets was very focused on pulling it out tactical nukes. >> guest: the nuclear arsenals are smaller than they were but they haven't disappeared. >> host: we don't know what the russians have. >> guest: because there has been significant for reparation and kissinger's heyday the possibility of a nuclear war involving a smaller nuclear power with another smaller nuclear power is more likely now than it was then when the sisley there were superpower monopolies on the capability so i think this was an important contribution to the debate. it's not too surprising that it may remain because in a sense these weapons could be, at least
they could be credibly threatened and that's the point. if he weapons exist through the rest of the cold war than the rationale can't be wholly observed and certainly not as observed as the movie dr. strangelove. >> host: so, berlin. he has very strong opinions about berlin and how it's handled. but he doesn't seem to be, unless i misread this, advocating the use of tactical nuclear weapons on what is pretty much a frontline issue, far more important in cuba and any other things that are going on. >> guest: when the berlin crisis comes ahead in the tanks come at the u.s. and soviet tanks are facing one another in central berlin, kissinger is hawkish and he is arguing for a tougher line than kennedy does. kennedy often says awol is better than a war.
>> that is part of military doctrine now. >> the point that i make is that in military circles, these weapons still exist for a reason. they have made it very clear in his interviews that they want nuclear weapons. >> i would suggest perhaps, and maybe i'm misreading this, that the issue with berlin was either he had changed his mind or the other part of his argument is that you have to signal to the soviets that we are not looking for your complete surrender.
were not looking for your of liberation and if we were to use tech you learn nuclear weapons. >> certainly he draws a distinction between central europe and the less populous, so that's part of it. it is difficult to imagine how a war over berlin would not happen given how density the population was and the weapons. how do you solve the german problem? what's interesting, kissinger tends to be attracted to the self-determination argument that we associate with woodrow wilson. he says will guess what, it is
there and there has to be free votes. they can't become just another east germany. so through the debates about berlin, i don't think there blowing germany off for the sake of showdown. they are just sympathetic to them that they get nervous. they want the americans to be engaged over the whole question of berlin. what happened to germany to be divided?
that wasn't kissinger's view. he ultimately aspired to free germany. >> can you talk a little bit about his position with the kennedy administration? he seems to, at one point, hope to be brought into the inner circle and then blamed bundy for pushing him out. how much was that accurate? >> it goes back to an earlier conversation about his conservatism he felt that he could simultaneously advise and then go and join the kennedy administration if asked, just as later on, in the late 1960s he was speaking with multiple people.
he wanted to be available to anybody who happen to become president. [inaudible] when the administration was formed, he discussed with the faculty and advisors. this is when the plot thickens because it seems that kissinger will be involved, but then they're puzzled by this whole arrangement. why did you agree to be a consultant, bundy instantly saw
what kissinger was doing. i think what happened was a little lesson for the young kissinger. he never got to see kennedy more than a handful of times. he had a frustrating experience. hardly ever in the presence of the president, treated by bundy as an insider so this is the beginning of what i call a political education for kissinger. it's an introduction to the dark arts of washington politics. >> you can certainly see certain foreshadowing with the way he ends up this education leads to
fairly sustained view of how it should work. he has written a whole series of papers about how the president should be advised with the role of the national security council should be. it's a history of the cold war. we see how this institutional evolution progresses from the bureaucratic style of national security council through the more freewheeling kennedy style through lyndon johnson.
kissinger is not alone in thinking that something is badly broken. they are trying to combine the best aspects of eisenhower with those that have worked well under kennedy. >> you argue in the book that those reviews are a big reason why nixon offers him the job. during the 1968 campaign they pass critical information and nixon in turn goes and tells them that they can get a better deal and you rebut that and say
as we mentioned, he had the practice of offering his advice to more than one party, more than one candidate for that matter and it's not too surprising when they approach him like they did. he gives them the usual, while i can tell you this, the response that he had previously given kennedy when kennedy approached him. so when one looks at it from that vantage point, we have seen this before. the second critical point is that there were no secrets. the negotiations were clearly not going anywhere in the paris peace talks were these public talks unlike the previous private talks.
[inaudible] it is clearly going to see what his incentive was. the nixon campaign had any number of cynicism that was going on. there was something top-secret that he was able to bring doesn't stand up. he was in paris. he knew other negotiators,, but i can't find any evidence that there was something that kissinger knew that nobody else knew. what is clear is that he
communicated his analysis that the administration was looking for a breakthrough ahead of the election. nixon already knew that. i find the idea that this was a dirty trick that then got him the job of national security simply on substantiated by any documentation that has survived. i find it unlikely since so much of what he had done the year before, he documented ways of trying to find ways to end the war. they kept very careful paperwork of all these initiatives to thwart the north vietnamese. there is no evidence that this was going on in 1968 except for
a few subsequent interviews. the most important pitch by his national security adviser is just sour grapes. i think the story, story, as i see it, is a good story. maybe it has what stephen colbert says to, but it isn't something you can document. >> in the last days of the campaign when he was providing us with information about the bombing halt, i became more aware of his knowledge and influence. this would suggest that at least there was information going there about the bombing halt and that they erase his profile with
nixon. >> he was communicated with other people and nobody denied that. the notion that the information was somehow classified that kissinger was leaking cannot be substantiated. >> in the book you did say that he worries that it is a trap and that he's been set up. so you can argue this even though you say that everybody knew it. >> but you said information. >> you're the expert on this. i guess. >> right but i think the issue here is that he was offering his advice in his analysis. that is very clear and that is documented. what is not there is some kind of smoking gun and i don't
believe there was one. >> seven years back when i was still a full-time journalist i was invited to a small dinner. i recall richard colbert was a key driver behind us, may he rest in peace. this was a senior iraqi professional. when it came time for the q&a, and being the journalist that i am, a asked a question about what was the plan for the iraqis and the oil deal. before the minister could answer this question, it kissinger cut in and said that's a very american question. i don't think he said that in a flattering way. what did he mean? >> while he was there and i wasn't. >> but you know him.
>> perhaps what he was alluding back to was the review of economics. we were disgusting earlier his point of view and he made the argument that the cold war would not be one by birthrates. he believed it would be one that democracy was a more ideal system. he sometimes tends to be submissive of those arguments, not always, but sometimes.
i think it's certainly like most people in their career to be skeptical of people who view economics as a dominant source. >> so you say he views me as a material girl? >> you must have noticed more than once how he was critical of the way americans do things. he discusses how players play too big a role in policy. i think there is a distant, critical distance between what he would have thought about the
american skepticism inheritance. how thin-skinned is he? i note in the book you have communications about how he is being shoved out by bundy and how he wants to quit and it sounds almost whiny, is he a thin skinned man? >> he is certainly somewhat insecure and even in academic politics, if given, if he's not getting promoted as he hopes he's should be, it's to show those sides of his personality.
not all of it is very flattering. it's certainly not an authorized biography in that sense because i think i've given the subject a good deal to mesh and think about. i was in two minds about whether to use a letter that he wrote to a girl when he was a teenager that is kind of awfully embarrassing but it seemed to me to help us get to the man and part of the problem,. [inaudible]
it's all part of the story. but that is also part of what drives the man. his story is that of relentless drive and a drive to be involved in the policymaking. i tried to make it clear to the reader that far from being in evil genius, he had frequent blunders and mistakes with the press in early press conferences. i thought that was a way to demolish, at least partly this
demonic doctor evil character. he was a real, credible human being. >> you have access to documents, letters, including teenage letters and things of that sort, but you also interviewed him extensively. you don't quote from him in the book unless i've missed it. >> i do, there are some quotes from the interview. relative to the documents, the interviews count for a really small percentage of the total source materials. i interviewed him and i have a lot of that material that is still being used. son so in that sense they are still in my locker.
i think everybody who sees their young life blended with what i hope is considered maximum accuracy on the page can be a little taken aback. so it's not an easy process. and i think he's probably quite normal. if i had to read a book about myself, i think i would be lying on the floor cringing. >> so is the title for the next book the realist? you might infer that from the way that i conclude, but i haven't made up my mind and that's the question. that's what i asked myself every
morning. part of what i think about history as you don't start with strong theory, you start with question. that's part of the pleasure of writing that you are constantly surprised. so in that sense i have no clue what it will be. >> thank you, i enjoyed it. >> that was "after words". watch past "after words" programs on c-span.org.
earlier this week journalist spoke about his book islamic state at the world affairs council in san francisco. he discussed the terrorist attacks in paris and the rise of isis in syria and iraq. he was not able to travel to the u.s. for the event. he joined the discussion via skype. >> thank you it's my honor to introduce tonight's guest. he was editor in chief of the newspaper and in 2012, middle east magazine named him one of the 50 most influential arab public intellectuals.
he has written two books on islamic movements, the secret history of al qaeda and that has been translated into 32 language, and after bin laden as well as the memoir, a country of words. his new book, islamic state, the digital caliphate has just been released in the united states. it was originally published in london. he joins us at a moment when the organization called the islamic state is on the mind of everyone. we are fortunate that he is joining us this evening. it's a pleasure to welcome you to the world affairs council this evening.
please excuse me, is your microphone on sir? >> know, we can see you but we cannot hear you. we still do not have sound. good, good, very good, the camera is off now there is camera but no sound. is it on our and by any chance. >> yes sir, thank you, very good. please excuse me if there was anything for my air.
i write about the digital caliphate but i'm not a digital expert. >> as i read your book you tell us that the islamic state is engaged in a a project that is very different from the project of al qaeda or very different from the al qaeda affiliate in syria. how would you describe the key differences between islamic state and al qaeda? >> in al qaeda, they are fully dependent on one man. that was osama bin laden. so this is the problem, it's a a
man sitting in front of a camera recording a tape and then sharing it with mean stream organizations. when it comes to the islamic state, no it is not a one-man show. it is a very well established organization and it is very efficient. they have three or four distinguish elements. the first one is that it is self sufficient and has half a million dollars from the muslim banks.
they also have a wealthy oil business. it is self sufficient which is unlike al qaeda. second thing, they are also self-sufficient military wise. they don't need people to send them arms. when i say self-sufficient that means they've managed to put their hands on a warehouse and also they've put their hands on very sophisticated american