tv Early Life and Career of Henry Kissinger CSPAN3 October 29, 2016 10:25pm-12:01am EDT
hours ofv, 48 programming on american history every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter at princeton history for information on our schedule and to keep up with the latest history news -- follow us on history for-span information on our schedule and to keep up with the latest history news. professor neil ferguson discusses the first volume of his henry kissinger biography. mr. ferguson argues that kissinger's approach to foreign policy is grounded in idealism rather than the ruthless realism he is popularly known for. the wilson center and national history center cohosted this event. it is an hour and a half. >> good afternoon, everyone. thank you for coming out today. from thes eric arneson
gw department of history and i'm the cochair of the history seminar. is roger lewis. the seminar now in its eighth year is a joint venture between the woodrow wilson international center for scholars and the national history center at the american historical association. our aim is to foster conversations about the past and make history a central part of conversations in the united states and across the world. our efforts are made possible in part by the efforts of many particular,uding in the wilson center and the national history center. these are the folks behind the .cene with us is the director of the
national history center, dane kennedy. we are always grateful for the schaeffer,upport of the society of historians of the american nation which helps underwrite this program, as well as gw. it is their support that makes it possible for us week after week to bring distinguished scholars to talk about the work in the wonderful setting that is the wilson center. roger lewis will introduce today's speaker. roger: neil ferguson is the iron, cityaper and world, the war of the civilization, the great
degeneration, and the biography of kissinger 1923 to 1968, the idealist. he is a fellow at the hoover institution in stanford, a visiting professor in beijing, and his many words include the benjamin franklin -- his many awards include the benjamin frank went prize -- benjamin franklin prize and the ludwig prize for economic journalism. on top of all of this he was given -- he has given a lecture to the british study seminar at the university of texas. i can testify he is very quick on his feet because in the middle of the lecture his cell phone went off. -- a cell phone went off. slightly embarrassing because it belonged to my wife. she went to another room to put in the freezer hoping it would
go away. neil did not miss a beat. he said, that gives me the opportunity to talk about the telephone and origins of the first world war. [laughter] neil ferguson. [applause] >> thank you very much indeed. here.pleasure to be and i thought i would say a couple of things by way of pressers. some of you, perhaps all of you, let's face it, are more what is going to be said tonight beginning at 9 p.m. [laughter] couldn in anything i possibly say now. and it's true that the stakes are lower. on the other hand, let's remember that henry kissinger's name came up in the primary debate when bernie sanders launched the, as he thought, devastating barb at hillary clinton that she was a friend and admirer of henry kissinger. so i shall be hoping tonight that dr. kissinger makes an
appearance in the trump-clinton debate. will happen? that debates, presidential elections, in yourare uppermost mind. but there is an argument for reading this book, despite the back intoit delves what, for some of you, is ancient history. remind yourself that there is really nothing new sun, read kissinger's republicane 1964 convention at which barry goldwater was nominated and nelson rockefeller was howled down, if you want to reassure yourself that american politics crazy, that it didn't just suddenly get crazy. i recommend that particular section of this book. want to do three things. in the 40 or so minutes that i'm of you. ask the first is to explain how i this biography, which i think it's always right for an author to do. is to try to explain
halfu what about the first of henry kissinger's life is historically significant. you know, focus on, in effect, the second half, theo be more precise, relatively small number of years in government. the third thing i want to do is to suggest four things that i from writing this volume. asow refer to this volume henry the first. and i am in the process of still the second.henry and that's my way of subtly hinting that if you came here burning question to ask ofut, let's say, the bombing cambodia, any answer that i give you will be so tentative as to effect, useless, because i'm not there yet. i am in fact still gathering for henry ii. ais will be about henry i,
much less well-known, as the monarchs. tell from my accent, i am british rather than american. [laughter] >> this might be seen as a disadvantage or it might be seen as an advantage, when it comes writing a book about a great figure of the cold war. fact met henry kissinger first in london. it was 2003. at what americans call a cocktail party. and it was a rather surprising thing to find myself standing next to this legendary figure. and i wasn't quite sure what to say. ice, by sayinge books."ad one of your la[laughter] >> now, if you ever want to an obscure academic, the words "i've read one of your magicalave a kind of quality, because that is what the obscure academic wants most talk about.
so we began talking about the firstwhich was about the world war. he suddenly disappeared, then reappeared on the other side of the room, about where the people standing next to supermodel, elle mcpherson, who had just walked in. i remember thinking, i really can learn something from this man. but in all honesty, that is a true story, i should say. but in frankness, perhaps, i had doubts when he subsequently wrote to me and suggested that i might consider writing his biography based on that were intters his possession or were in archives. this was, i suppose, partly theuse i could just imagine review. tremendouslyd like
reckless act to write a book be sure tons would loathe. on the other hand, even if there were no hitchens, and of course there wasn't by the time the had was published, as hitch died. i still reckoned it would be an givenus amount of work, that few periods in history have theerfectly documented, as 1970's. xerox.s the age t of the also the age of the audio recorder. one has a tremendous amount of than will be, more true, i think, of this age of private servers and e-mails. it just seemed daunting and fool hardy. so i said no. and i then received my introduction to kissinger in diplomacy, in the form of a which i'm going to quote to you. this.t like i won't do the voice. what a pity. just as i your letter was hunting for your telephone
number to tell you of the discovery files i thought had been lost. boxes, which had been placed in a repository in connecticut, who has sinceper, died. these contain all my files, letters, sporadic diaries, together with some 20 some private correspondence, from my government service. have given meons the notion that you would have done a definitive, if not evaluation.positive i think it was about three weeks in connecticut, boxes. through those and rather like a fish that's seen the fly settle on the of the river, i had bitten. longt didn't take me very that day, when i began to leaf
through the documents, to had in fact to take this on, and that i would be a fool to pass up the on thisity to work material and on this subject. ing let me try and convey to you feltof the excitement i that day, as i began to read through kissinger's private papers. remember, 10 years down the road, more. i've gathered i worked this out when i was writing the book.uction to the over 8,000 documents totaling 37,645 pages from 111 archives. but i want to take you back before that long haul, to day one. one of the things that most grabbed my attention was a had written to
his parents in the 1940's. it was an isolated letter. to be othersseem in the box. but it was obvious that it must frome of quite a number his time in the u.s. army. now, for those of you -- and whollyay be some unfamiliar with the story -- it's worth remembering that became richard nixon's national security advisor and thensecretary of state and worked for gerald ford, multiple lives. he was born in south germany in 1923. a kid when hitler came to power. from therefugee, summer of 1938, when he and his the --ent moved to family moved to the united states. and he was then a soldier. and became an found himself,
extraordinarily, back in germany, just over six years after he left. uniform, a g.i. thatetter came from period, and it grabbed my otherion like few documents i've ever read. because it said -- i'm going to from memory, and this was addressed to his parents -- to you, the world is made up of black and white. but for me, there are multiple in between.ay maddening thing was that it wasn't clear what had prompted such a thing to his parents. in theas no real context letter. so who could fail to be ancinated by such extraordinary line or two in the letter? before ier, just manuscript -- in
fact, i thought i had finished -- i was in kissinger's in new york when he handed me a folder containing rest of those letters. finally. thosebeen asking for letters again and again and again. he'd always run up against the barrier of "it's just too intimate." there had always been this agreement between us that i what irite exactly found. editoriald be no power on his side. to only constraint related quotations from family correspondence. only at the very end that he decided to allow me to see, what in effect was most of that family correspondence. from a letter.e he wrote home, from germany, 15th, 1944.
it is very late. i haven't much time. i must write a letter, just so that i can affix to it the somewhere in germany... so i have made it. darkness that envelopes this town, rows and buildingsattered rhinlinethe roads. people wonder through the ruins. war has come to germany. so i am back where i wanted to be. cruelty andhe barbarism those people out there in the ruins showed when they on top. and then i feel proud and happy a be able to enter here as free american soldier. this point, kissinger had no extent of his crimes. indeed, it was only later, after the war was over, that he realized that every member of in family that had remained germany had been killed,
including his grandmother. before he found that out, he was present at the liberation of a just outside camp, hanover. thoseis produced one of documents that i did see on the very first day. essay which hey entitled "the eternal jew," a kind of two-page record for his possibly for future publication. i'm going to briefly quote a from it. it's addressed to one of the inmates of the concentration survived, who was still living, at the moment of liberation. kissinger wrote, humanity stands accused in you. joe smith, human dignity, everybody has failed you. you should be preserved in cement, up here on the hillside,
for future generations to look and take stock. human dignity, objective values, at this barbed wire. as long as conscious existings conception -- exists as a perception in the world, you personify it. you are eternal in this respect. now, some of you may have asked didself the question, why ferguson subtitle volume one, idealist"? was this a mere provocation ensense the new york times and bernie sanders? well, no. well, it was intended to do that, but that wasn't the main reason. me, within a very short space of time, as i read this material, that the kissinger in the boxes, in the
paper, was not the kissinger i led to expect at all. i had read it. read a number of books, highly critical of him. and these books had a common thread. was thery kissinger personification of an realism, immoral. so influenced had i been that i'd considered giving the subtitle to the biography "american machiavellian" but machiavellian here. none at all. scarcely surfaces anywhere in kissinger's paper. man whose was was a experiences as a refugee and as a soldier and then as a student at harvard had molded him in quite the opposite direction. you that inggest to
three respects, it is legitimate describe the kissinger of volume one -- notice -- as an idealist. the first is the practical one that he drew the lesson of his in the 1930's and that realism had failed, that realism had produced 1957 letter, he wrote, we like to smile now at the baldwin and chamberlain in 1938 but they thought of tough realists. very true. very insightful. secondly, and i think more importantly, the study of an undergraduate, under the direction of william kissingerad turned into an idealist. some of you may know the story thesis.enior meaningy entitled "the
of history" -- [laughter] >> which led to the still existing harvard rule about the thesis.f senior it's fascinating to read that and realize this was a foundation on which kissinger, historian, subsequently filled. he really evolved from philosopher of history into historian. the argument that he makes in whereasis is that perpetual peace might be the ultimate goal of history, quote, abouter one's conception the necessity of events, at the moment of their performance, inevitability could offer no guide to action. the kant phase, is a strong anti-determinist, whose reconcile necessity and con ti contingency is really and interesting contribution for such a young
man. the third respect in which he's idealist in this period has to do with his rejection of the materialism that was so mainstream in the early cold war. thatave to remember harvard, in the early 1950's, was not a place where you would gravitate towards the study of the congress of vienna if you weren't an ambitious man. it was deeply uncool to immerse yourself, as he did in his doctoral thesis, in 19th century history.c this was this age of social science, economics, systems analysis. the reasons i began to doubt the story that kissinger ambitious, always trying to figure his way up to the top of the greasy pole was this choice of dissertation topic. then i began to realize this was intellectual revolt against the materialism of the war. cold kissinger often has said in more
recent times that he doesn't know much about economics. that's because he rejected the proposition that the cold struggle fundamental between two economic systems. kissinger says at one point, in an early piece of work, that it wouldn't matter in the cold war the soviet system turned out to be economically superior. wasn't, but it was much less clear to contemporaries in the 1950's so. that was kissinger wrote the inward freedom -- inward intuition of freedom would totalarism, even if it were more economic. be very fundamental to the young kissinger. is howwas fascinated by
consistently he stuck to these whenssinger like positions it came to issues of policy. i'll give you three examples. 90% of anyience, audience is still skeptical at hitchens', because influence has been very enduring and there's a mental influenza as -- influence of kissinger as the realist. it's july 1958. you're glued to your television still somewhat obscure, named henry kissinger, best-selling book, weapons and foreign policy" and he's on abc, being interviewed. answer to a question about the third world, as it was called. i think we should go on the spiritual offensive in the world. should identify ourselves the revolution.
let me just allow those words to sink in. 1958.enry kissinger in we should identify ourselves with the revolution. we should say that freedom, if liberated, can achieve many of these things. inn when we have engaged constructive steps, we've always justified them on the basis of a communist threat, very rarely on the basis of things we wanted to our intrinsic dynamism. we should have said these are the things we want to do because of the values we stand for, not because we want to beat the communists. the veryed to me to be anti-this. the further i went into the material, the more i saw kissinger establish himself as a oftic of realism, a critic real politic in american foreign policy. anwas briefly and unhappily advisor, a consultant, to the kennedy administration. this is a less well-known part of the story.
those of you who are connoisseurs of washington enjoy this,l because bundy stitches kissinger eloquently. clearly bundy did not want kissinger encroaches on his new he persuaded kissinger that he could be a part-time consultant. wouldll do you think that work, just on the first principles of washington life? consultant? kissinger was driven mad by the fact. he just could not get any time at all with the president. ways, aas, in many pity, because the issue in 1961 berlin.med largest was and there's no question that knew more about berlin and more generally about the germany question than bundy did. on the other hand, it may be just as well that bundy kept him at arm's length, because we now can see that kissinger was a
good deal more hawkish on the kennedy'ssis than closest advisors and kennedy himself. wrote, kissinger, that is, that realism -- he rejected, i rejected the view that, i quote, realism should areel us to confirm what we incapable of changing and that therefore the united states the visionte, accept of germany as final. kissinger argued, on the contrary, that the west must stand for the unity of germany, despite the experiences of two world wars. was livid when kennedy decided that a wall was better than a war. and although it must be said that dr. kissinger disagrees with my interpretation on this point, i argue that had he been that time, of american policy would certainly have been riskier, because it involved a showdown over berlin as opposed to what in effect was a fudge.
compelling piece of evidence. november 1963, as you know, if recall, there was a coup in vietnam. badlye government was overthrown. this was a coup that, perhaps unwittingly, kennedy had okayed. okayedcertainly been through levels of the government in washington. kissinger thought it was a instly mistake to intervene that way, in the politics of saigon. he drafted a statement for nelson rockefeller, whom he was advising, which was never used. worth quoting from. quote, no american can take our government should have been associated with events leading to the assassination of we wereers with whom formally allayed. take a breath.
this is henry kissinger. i do not like our country to be thought of in terms of the use of power. our historical role has been to identify ourselves with the and deepest hopes of mankind. asset, temporary successes will be meaningless. well, i would say i rest my case, except my case is lying pages of it, 1,000 with a good deal more supporting evidence. least i've made you take seriously that, at least in this early period, in the first half of his life roughly, kissinger was no realist. had time and wasn't losing the attention of at least one row --an on the front you got up too early. ins is the biggest problem washington, d.c. everybody is up so early, they 4:30.re done by
[laughter] >> the fourth -- welcome back, sir. fourth example, if i wanted to give it, would be the great kissinger had over the subsequent unfolding of the vietnam war. and in particular, the the war of biepped biden and johnson. actually dated back to 1965. visiting started vietnam, really to inform himself, but he was trying to then-ambassador, one of the most extraordinary documents in the entire book is wrote back from his first trip to vietnam, a did not involve
merely sitting in saigon, as most visitors from the u.s. involves someut pretty hair-rising flying around into war zones. devastating as a critique of the way the war was being waged. kissinger concluded that there was absolutely no way the achieve ates would victory. it would need a diplomatic settlement, 1965. promised you a third helping. and the helping i'm going to conclude with is the four of henry i, because i usnk it's important for historians to explain to people really feel excited by history that it has lessons that are applicable across time. lessonsink these four are. i've moved recently from harvard to stanford.
i can't tell you how dismissive giants of silicon valley are, by and large, of what we do. are with henry ford. this is bunk. future.t to study the i spent part of the plane ride, long e-mail to one of the silicon valley kings, trying him why this was quite dangerous and why ignorance of history has turned this country into the united states of amnesia. i sent him the article that some may have seen, that allison and i wrote in the atlantic, earlier this year, arguing that the next president, should appoint a council of historical advisors. economiststhe haven't really achieved a great deal with their council over the years. but the absence of what i call the wayhistory from
decisions are taken in this town is a recurrent theme of american history. it's something that kissinger 1960's,d on, in the when he complained about the complete lack of historical perspective when he encountered washington. this brings me to lesson number one. earlyger argued in an publication that history is to state what character is to people. it's the key to understanding action.tivation, their quote, all states consider themselves as expressions of historical forces. to take a specific example, negotiate withto president putin with almost no oferstanding or knowledge russian history. if all you have is game theory, expect to read a russian president right. simple insight from the book is that history was kissinger's advantage. the reason that over time he
became a more influential ultimately a powerful figure, lay in the fact that, unlike most people commenting on american policy issues, he brought history to the table. second lesson of henry i, in policy, most choices, choices, arell between evils. b, apple't an option pie, that you get to pick. weapons and foreign policy, published in 1957, cold war,wrote of the we are certain to be confronted with situations of extraordinary ambiguity, such as civil wars and domestic coups. be no -- once they have occurred, we must find the a situation in which permits only a choice among evils. went on.
this, choosing between evils, presupposes, above all, a moral act, a willingness to run risks partial knowledge and for a less-than-perfect application of principles. the insistence on absolute is a inaction.on for lesson number three. the most exciting of the three, of the four. problem in decision making is the problem of conjecture. kissinger who formulated the problem of conjecture first, in a 1963 essay, decision making in the nuclear world. you no matter how exhausted are, even if the alarm went off at 5:00, listen carefully to this. no matter what you do in this your it's relevant to decision making process. each political leader has the
choice between making the assessment, which requires the least effort, or making an requires morech effort. if he makes the assessment that then, asleast effort, time goes on, it may turn out that he was wrong. a heavywill have to pay price. if he acts on the basis of a guess, he will never be able to that his effort was necessary. dealy save himself a great of grief later on. early, he cannot know whether it was necessary. be lucky or he may he may be unlucky. identify the key inmmetry, particularly democratic states. the line of least resistance is, of course, to kick the can down road. european politicians specialize in this, but i think it's pretty much what the president did syria. is doublyemptively
risky. costs ofto take on the action, but if you're right and disaster, nobody's grateful. because we are not grateful for averted disasters. very few people think counter-factually thoroughly enough to visualize in their universe inrallel which things turn out differently. kissinger had one example in mind. that meant a great deal to him and his family. againstracies had moved the nazis in 1936, he argued, we wouldn't know today whether was a misunderstood nationalist, whether he had only limited objectives or whether he fact the maniac. the democracies learned that he a maniac.ct, they had certainty. thathey had to pay for with a few million lives. of conjecture is all
around us. one might say it's precisely the problem that will confront american voters on november 8. misunderstood nationalist? or a maniac? we don't know. [laughter] >> we can only conjecture. today in this town, there's one particular who likes to make its decisions data-dependent. you who are students of monetary policy will know that the answer for the federal reserve. kissinger is telling us that the data can't give you the answer. of decision is now. you can't just wait for the data and give you the answer. you must conjecture. based onsion must be scenarios about the future that are not data-dependent, cannot data-dependent, by their very
nature. and if you act, you could expect whowrath of those people deplore the action you've taken. gratitudeot receive from those people you save from a worst fate that might otherwise have befallen them. ie fourth and final lesson cameed writing this book from an unpublished manuscript, biography of bismark that kissinger had written, not quite finished, never published. one essay extracted from it, but the rest of the simply vanished into the boxes that i was privileged to open. this is another of those exciting moments that historians don't generally get enough of. unpublished kissinger book about the central figure, the figure he's most commonly identified. have you read, in
journalistic essays that he was the bismark of the united states? well, i have the evidence. the second volume of a trilogy. published, "a world restored." brilliant work, maybe the best he ever wrote. volume two was to be the book on bismark. it didn't get finished. don't think it was just because worldly things intruded. was because he reached an intellectual impasse as he was writing it. the impasse was that the book is critique bismark, a lack of idealism. is that onetheme cannot base policy purely on power. let me quote from a passage that was much rewritten and outacterristically crossed and amended. there are very few pages that agonized this much
over. societies are incapable of the courage of cynicism. insistence on societies as a tourhas always led to de force eroding self-restraint. bycourse societies operate approximation, and because they're incapable of fine doctoral of, a power means may end up by making end. an the bismark book is an anti-bismark book. but he couldn't finish it, because as he was writing it, he realize that to couldy bismarkian methods the united states extricate itself from the quagmire that was vietnam. of course, volume two will be heavily concerned with the bismarkian strategy that he and richard nixon devised, with the opening to china in particular
but with a great many other they thoughtthat could improve the powerless that the white house was in when they entered in 1969. but let me leave you with what is, in effect, the who done it, 1.the end of volume there's a mystery that volume 1 resolves. the mystery is why, of all people, richard nixon chose be hisissinger to national security advisor. there is a myth, and it is a myth, that this was because of a devious, conniving plot to betray the peace negotiations with north vietnam. there was an entire book written to this effect. out not to be true. kissinger wasthat far more closely identified with nelson rockefeller than with
nixon. he had repeatedly criticized 1950's andghout the 60's. inn nixon reached out to him 1960, kissinger went to great lengths to avoid even meeting him, claiming that he had a pressing engagement in japan. to avoidou want something, really want to avoid them, that's what you say. in don't say, i've got to be new york. they only met -- they only met time in december 1967, at a cocktail party. fifth actually in the avenue apartment in new york. and i think it's this occasion helped supply at least a part of the answer to my who done it. answer to the question, why did nixon pick kissinger that i'm fond of, but think it's not true.
it came from goldman, who was longest serving ph.d. students. i quote,o me, and henry was the only thing of nelson's that nixon could afford. [laughter] must admit is a good line. but no. it wasn't that. they met. nixon, as you know, was not a graceful man. the young kissinger was not adeptularly socially either. early.y both had arrived fatal mistake in new york. there they were. doubtless, rather large room where the cocktail party was being held. and it was nixon who broke the ice. said to what he kissinger? books."ad one of your
thanks very much. [applause] >> so now we move to the part where we have some exchange and audience.from the if we could just lay it out, a few ground rules. calledwait until you're upon. please wait for the microphone. please identify yourself. microphone.he and so we can get as many questions in as we can, if you your question on the brief side. we have a hand up in the far back. yes? and here comes the mic. >> i'm a fellow at wilson. you convinced me. now, ifike to ask you you have a challenge, how you move from henry i, henry i, ii, in terms of
explanation and narrative. move from henry, the idealist, to henry, the realist? why? it?he conscious of does he agree with you, or does he see it differently? and when was this shift? for thosehanks questions. i, as i said, will give a tentative answer about volume ii. hoping too it, i'm illuminate my methods, which may a group ofest to historians. in my mind, as i'm a structure,write, a narrative shape. but i'm not wedded to it. i'm very careful not
to allow it to skew my reading. tool.here as a ediface.t, an me.elps me to guide at the moment, i'm still amassing material. containond volume will many more documents or at least reflect the reading of many more documents than volume suchsimply because there's a vast mountain of stuff. and i'm still adding to it. is to see this period from as many vantage points as possible. on the subject of u.s. foreign relations rely excessively on the u.s. documents. too few look at multiple multiplets and use
languages. i'm trying my best to achieve a number of collections in youbook, because i think can't really understand the 1970's,certainly of the until you've seen it through russian eyes, chinese eyes, vietnamese eyes, but also germany, french, british eyes. i continue to accumulate material and interview. you here are already in the aspiring line for interview requests. down about all sit year from now and begin to work my way through tens of thousands documents. i think that volume ii will be called "the realm of power." suggestion,wife's after she heard me use the phrase, in the very first talk i book.bout the she said that's what you should because there he
is much less the subject and much more the object. the working hypothesis i have is enters his moment he new role in the white house, he figure. powerful nixon is the decision maker. in one helltates is ofa mess, not least because vietnam. and between the sheer scale of the relative weakness of his position, he compromise, very early on. think isent that i overlooked, the strategy at the nixon's battle. it's only gradually that it becomes -- many people have back dated this process. in '69, it's not there. think the narrative trick is the idealist enters
full-time,f power then the process of amending, qualifying, compromising must begin. that's the best answer i can give you. gentleman here in the middle, three people in. >> i was formerly with the defense department. formerly a student of henry kissinger. anecdote regarding his reluctance to take preemptive action. during the berlin crisis, we were in the lecture hall. agitation amongst students and much concern in the and on the radio and t.v. and kissinger went on with his scheduled lecture and it was only at the end of the class that a student raised his hand said, dr. kissinger, what's gonna happen in berlin? and kissinger said we will
proceed with diplomacy and and therel go on, will be no war, and there will be no crisis. >> very interesting. love to know the exact date he said that. >> ha ha ha! hope you kept a diary. >> it's very welcome, actually. i felt, as i was writing henry i, that i didn't have quite former students to testify to his role as a professor. i had some, but i mean, it felt like a kind of small sample. conflicting in their accounts. some praised him as a lecturer. were more critical of his relative distance from the undergraduates. he did very much what that generation of harvard professors was to banish washington and new york and nick of timen the for a lecture, and then banish again. suspect that they were
measurable in minutes rather than hours. but thanks very much for that. >> gentleman on the end, right there. >> i'm retired. how unusual is this transition? mean, most people don't go through life holding one picture. usually -- there are very few once-born people. it much more common for people to go from heart to life, that what you're talking about is not very unusual? >> i think that's right. but we are, when we come to read and write history, in some measure, the prisons of literature. see, literature encourages characters with concurrently -- there's always a pressure on the historian to iron out those quirks and inconsistencies. think that history is really a branch of literature at all. historical process
is more in xon with the game -- the game -- it's more unpredictable -- than with the novel. part of what i'm trying to do in writing this biography is to did in an earlier book, a biography of a banker, is to make clear that human beings are not characters fiction, that real human significantrough evolution and are often capable acting inng and contradictory ways. the challenge, if you're writing biography, is to strike a balance between that realism that shows just how messy life is, and something that is readable. and the expectations of the reader are that it should all make sense. that goes right back to the question at the beginning. you make sense of the transition, from idealism to -- going to hesitate about
using the word realism, because i'm not sure it's the right word. but how do you describe the evolution? you're right. life.s every conservative is a liberal who got mugged by reality at some point. [laughter] >> usually after opening his or her first paycheck and seeing the deductions. but i think in this case, it's the more complex evolution, clearlykissinger was so aware of the flaws of the of power as a means of becoming the doctrine of power end. for me, there's an interesting, illuminating point that he makes early work, when he says that the statesman is ultimately a tragic figure. and this brings the element of drama,ure, perhaps of back into our work as historians. kissinger says the problem of conjecture leads to tragedy, because the statesman who has to see approaching
disaster and act preemptively is doomed to be unthanked. ad is therefore bound to have tragic fate. it's not an accident that the restored... a world he ends up killing himself, cutting his own throat with his razor. that's essentially what happened at the end of his time in office. to ask the're right question, didn't this happen to most people? i think it's also important for to recognize that it's quite hard to tell the story of someone who really away frome a long way the early philosophical principles. >> gentleman here in the second row. >> jim dixon.
it was september 30 of last year came out.ook ask two simpleto questions. would you comment on what dr. kissinger thinks of your book? and being 66 years old, how much longer till number two comes out? >> thank you, jim. to me take the opportunity thank you, because you were one of those people who stepped up and read the proofs. know, we, i think, all need eagle-eyed readers before publications. and when a reader approaches you enjoyed your book immensely, but i found the going 15, 23, 35...ges you sit up and take notice. i realized that i had to said, okay,nd i
you're reading the proofs of kissinger volume i and ii. that's an age. publishers only gave me nine. so... with mer's relationship fromound to be fraught, the outset. isaacson who had written an earlier and i'm sure you would agree more journalistic like thisout anything documentary foundation, predicted that by the end, we wouldn't be speaking. that there would be a complete rift, whatever i wrote. and i think there were moments when the relationship came close breaking down, because that commitment to tell the unvarnished truth, as it is bound to be,
problematic for the subject, for a biography. we all have our own version of the past. havel have things we buried that we don't want to see exhumed. think for dr. kissinger, it was often hard to be by things that he had written or done that he had that were nott particularly flattering to see on the page. the period after i'd finished it period of a very long silence. the decision -- i'd been through this once before, writing a history of the rothschild family, on the same basic principles. the gave me access to archives. they had no editorial control. period, sent that draft chapters as i wrote them be a ghastlydn't
shock of one finished manuscript. in the who is working role of -- i don't like the word but anybody who has access to documents should, i think, take that approach, are horrorre stories, certainly amongst the national historians, and governmentof british department, where the manuscript arrives and it's a shock. it gets -- it disappears. so i thought in both cases that would let the draft chapters be read so that there was no huge shock. but even so -- and it was a good ultimately youse discover that there's just stuff you can't find out from the archives. very important for you to find out that, if you're an archival purist like me. toiled and toiled and toiled to understand kissinger's toe in the '67 attempts
start negotiations with the vietnamese. he was in paris most of that summer. an elaborate story was, andt how this ultimately aborted but a attempt toioned start peace talks. i asked nancy kissinger, what do was really doing in paris in the summer of 1967? realized i'd missed something crucial, mainly that she was there and he was having an affair with her that ultimately, years later, marriage, an their affair he kept completely secret children. he was divorced but still wasn't ready to present his children relationship. i think seeing the draft chapters was good because it i got his memory and things i wouldn't otherwise have gotten. even so, when he saw the there was thisn, long, painful silence. it took a while, i think, for round to the view
that the revelations of a personal nature, which included things like letters to teenage girls, which i put in because i ofught they were revealing the young man, that i guess my woulds to teenage girls probably make me cringe if i saw them in print. so there was a long, kind of agonized silence. then i think he came to realize that they were a necessary part enterprise, in order to make it clear that the elder statesman was once a teenage refugee, writing love letters. how long will you have to wait? one more year research. two years writing. don't, you know, hold me to that. that's... [laughter] >> that's -- yeah. it canabout as fast as be done. you look in great shape. and he's 93. on.
>> i speak as a former kissinger student. ran what wase called a defense policy seminar. it wasn't really a seminar at many people so came. -- we had to move it out of the center into the law school. we, as graduate students, had the impression of henry kissinger as extremely ambitious. every week there would be two ge generals and admirals, at the seminar. at that time, there was a sort struggle going on over who was going to control the center or international affairs harvard. the opponent was someone we regarded as having a great deal honesty and integrity, robert buie. and so our sympathy was on that side. i wonder whether you could just correct my memory or tell me on. was really going
>> well, you're right that there was a battle going on between and buie. and there are all sorts of stories to illustrate this. about their refusal to speak to one another. suppose the surprising thing to me was that that battle began almost immediately. and i don't think it was to differencesd over policy. i mean, they did have differences over policy. the multi-lateral force argument. but it seems to have started from the outset. think they were temperamentally incompatible. of these cases of which there are a great many, in story, when kissinger, the immigrant, pushy, opinioned, more established
figure the wrong way. i think it was, in some measure, bundy too. with they had -- and i think -- you if i'm wrong, but i think it's fair to say they at done an impressive job harvard of allowing a very large proportion of students and fak fromty to come predominantly jewish immigrant community. in the 20's, there had still been debates about quotas. aside byall been set the late 40's and 50's. but i think it would be amazing there hadn't been some tension between the old harvard and the new, because it was such a rapid change. certainly kissinger's account of an he was treated as undergraduate suggests that he affection foruch
representatives of the old guard. i wondered why elliott had mentor.is why wasn't he a historian? government?o to why did he go to elliott? elliott seems, at least from , some what absurd. so i tried my best in the book explain these puzzles about academic career but i do come back to the famous that the reason academic life is so poisonous is that the stakes are so low. still seems to have a lot of truth in it. it's certainly been my experience. someone shouldng always be wary of -- and this is cambridge and and harvard, and no doubt yale, the success an academic
has, the more he appears in newspapers or television, the consults with people who are not professors, the more becomes. this is a guaranteed law of academic life. you can be as nice as you like to those pure academic, and i think henry was a classic in that respect. he had the exactly same experiencing. taylor was not close to government, he just did it on tv. >> i would like to follow up with a different kind of question and it takes, the point of departure, the subtitle about the idealist. i'm going to venture a guess that many readers and many young readers in particular will, if they read the book not necessarily come to the same conclusion that henry kissinger was an idealist in any form or fashion. you offer a series of quotes today that you amplify in the
book itself with kissinger talking about the need of the united states to go on a spiritual offensive. we need to identify ourselves with the revolution. we must put forth our values to make the case, not just because we're opposed to communism. this seems to be in at least my reading of the book, a talk of the seminar table quality to those claims that kissinger seems to be very unconcerned or even unaware of what's going on in what was called the third world, the nationalist revolutions. these are very -- europe is his main center of attention except when he goes to vietnam. he doesn't seem to grapple with, at least in my reading of the book, nationalism, certainly has little sympathy, the revolt of the world of color against european empire imperialism, this doesn't quite register.
and so the world spiritual offensive almost rang hollow. what values will you put forward other than the abstraction notions of democracy to which the entire continent of africa doesn't quite sound right given the u.s. role vis-a-vis european empire. so if you could talk about that, the issue there, because i come away with the book just not quite convinced of the idealism that you're putting forth here. he seems a very kind of conventional or at least kind of bounded figure for his time. >> one of the gravest dangers facing any historians is the ack into aknockistic thinking. we are asked to apply the criteria of 2016 in judging people's whose active lives
were the 1950's, 60's and 70's, to say why want he move involved in black power. it would have been extraordinary if a man with kissinger's background had been involved with the civil rights movement relatively tiny number of academics of that generation became involved. i found photographs of martin luther king paying a visit to harvard yards in the time when it was maybe when you were studying in the 1960's. this doesn't surface in, it doesn't surface in kissinger's papers that this is happening at all. then i think we need to be as scholars mindful of what was paramount concern of somebody a specific field,
u.s. foreign policy with a background in european diplomatic history. that was kissinger's role and in my experience and i think it was true also then, academic to their specialty and not expected to comment on anything under the sun. in fact, kissinger was unusual because he was prepared to talk about the third world on tv rather than confine himself to his academic brief. i'm struck more than you are because i'm using the criteria f the time by his rank, by the 1950's, he is talking about the third world that invited with mike wallace at considerable length and references a number of countries that are in play. it's not just in vietnam that attracts his attention. more over, i think we must be careful and i think this would be a big part to remind ourselves of the ruthless way
in which the vofette were seeking to expound their influence in what was then called the third world. r too many write books about e 1960's or 1970's without the soviets featuring. you wouldn't be aware of the extraordinary things this is covered by jeremy freedman, the soviet, the k.g.b.s and other agencies were up to in the third world. i don't think we should blame our statesman of the cold war for prioritizing the soviet threat. i think it was unusual for kissinger to say our approach is too negative. he was actually talking about latin america in the point that i read to you. he felt that the united states approach to latin america was entirely framed negatively as an anti-communist strategy. the point he is making to
wallace is that's not enough. if all we do is negatively resist soviet influence, never make credible appeal to the people of these countries. a professor of that era to think and do, yes, kissinger was certainly to the right of the harvard faculty from an early stage. he was seen as unusual even by his close friend arthur schlesinger jr. because he was a republican. being up to the right at harvard is an uncomfortable place today, i suspect even more than it was then and it's the sy to make arguments privilege power but if someone puts kissinger in the 1964 setting this is the key moment, i think, that reveals the
idealist. kivel goes to the 1964 republican convention and he is utterly appalled by what he has seen, utterly appalled by the goldwater supporters, completely clear about the racial signaling that is coming from the goldwater acceptance speech and he thinks it's like fascism. he writes in his diary, this is terrifying. it's what i saw as a boy in germany. so i think one has to remember what you care about, if you grew up in nazi germany left at the age of 15 and come back in your early 20's and find your entire family, at least a dozen people dead, your priority is the german quest, your priority is the totalitytarian threat. that's what you care about. you definitely attach lower priorities to the kind of things that we care so much
about today. >> a hand in the front on the aisle. >> my name is dmitri, i don't have an affiliation. dr. phoenix mercuryson, thank you very much, very interesting, your other books, too. two quick questions, the first one piggybacks off the other one. how does dr. kissinger see himself as a young person, he has never used the word naive to refer to himself, does he think of himself as naive and idealistic and the united nations, when you look at his writings, how does he see the united nations as a young person, does he have high hopes for it and how does it change, et cetera, thank you. >> i think it's for me to say that his view now of the book is that it is an accurate account of his young life. there are no major issues, interpretation that he refutes.
on the united nations, it's interesting from very early on, -- partly ptic about it's n the failure as commonly thought of and it's because because kissinger in writing comes to the view that collective security can never produce real alliances and that alliances are the essential building block of balance of power. it's fascinating to read, it contains a very elaborate and i think profound account of balance of power, a phrase that gets bandied about far too casually in our time, kissinger makes a couple of really important points in the book. one is that it's not spontaneously occurring and that you have to have an active balance there to achieve
equilibrium in any order, european or global. the second point is the balance he'd legitimacy. these are the key ideas of the early work that are still there in the recent book "world order." i think that predisposes that collective security can't really deliver because you live in a world of combinations of powers, of alliances, not in a world of which the entire body of nations will come together and use law to achieve peace. kissinger is always very hostile to that notion that there is a sort of legal solution to the problem of international conflict and in that respect, he is definitely not a wilsonan, given the wilson sense. they're saying that kissinger's later writings were usually
critical of wilson, but there is not that much of that explicit critique in the first part of his life. it's interesting how little he writes about the 1920's and 1930's. the project of kissinger's academic life unfinished was a trilogy that would go from the 1800's to 1914. the problem to be solved kissinger's mind was not world war ii, it was world war i. so in that sense, very little of the early work is engaged with the project that wilson had so believed in, nor was it second incarnation in the form of the u.n. so i think that's the respect in which the idealist doesn't advise. yes. >> wonderful presentation. you mentioned the poe layerities of idealism and realism.
the other polarities of theory and practice, they're not? i think kissinger would not necessarily ng man seen theory in practice as though distinct from one another. s complaint was that practitioners, people making decisions in washington, didn't bother with theory and didn't bother with history. the insight that he has early on is that the place is full of lawyers and lawyers by training take each crisis as a separate case and deal with foreign policies in six years of cases. kissinger's point was you can't do that because the international system isn't just a series of litigations. it's actually a system and you have to understand it, it's
property. so i think that the role that he saw himself as playing was the man with the theory and the man with the history who had come to this tome full of lawyers and set them straight, i think he was certainly capable of being effective in the situation room because the theory and the history gave him an edge when it came to sizing up the situation. i heard it said by a diplomat who worked with him in 1973, but no one reacted more quickly to the news of the civil war than kissinger. everybody else was flailing their arms because it came as a surprise. kissinger within seconds understood what the implications were and how to play it. i think that was the advantage, that the theory and the history
allowed him quite quickly to size up a crisis, a situation because it wasn't just an isolated case of him. it was part of an evolving international order. >> your description of kissinger's 1965 memo on vietnam reminds me of the vietnam chapter in roger hillsman's book. he came out of the c.i.a. if you are familiar with it, could you compare and contrast them because the hillsman was profoundly, gives a profoundly negative portrayal of the
regime. >> i haven't read the book, i should confess, but thanks very much for the reference. all i can give you is more flesh on the bone of what i said. e key point to bear in mind, it was pointed out when the book was read is that kissinger never was seeing the world as a counterintelligence agent which was the role he played in the later phase of world war ii. when he reported on the u.s. presence in south korea, he wrote a very professional critique of how the army was performing relative to its world war ii performance. when he got to vietnam, he approached the problem in much the same way. so the critique that he writes in 1965 at the end of his very adventure-filled tour, is that essentially that different government agencies in south vietnam are totally at odds
with one another, lack of coherent strategy and are essentially working against one another in key respects. so it's a critique of the teragency in part but also a critique of the the disconnect between the senior officers and the people of the front line. one of the things that he did which seems impressive to a total coward like me was to go to front line positions and talk to really quite junior people and also to spend a lot of time with c.i.a. people in saigon and elsewhere around the country. it was their testimony that persuaded him it was all going horribly wrong. he starts always with huge skepticism about what the senior military commanders are saying in their briefing. he is really interested, the
question he keeps coming back to is, yes, but who is in control at night and, ok, tell me what's it like here at night? he has a sense of granularity of the war because he served. i think that's what makes the eport so striking. it's very well researched. he really did do his due diligence on how the operation was going. and he also spoke to a great many south vietnamese leaders across the spectrum from government to opposition, buddhists, catholic, and he ends up painting this picture of a war that's already irretrieveable. then he has the problem that nobody wants to read a report saying that back in washington. he is certainly -- the ambassador didn't want anything to do with it. he has to write a toned-down
version that will be acceptable to the bureaucracy. he original was devastating. >> there is no microphone, so some people can't hear you. if you could keep this very brief. we have a few more questions to get to them. >> hillsman describes various americans coming back to washington from visits to vietnam reporting to kennedy and kennedy's comment is did you people go to the same country? >> yes, i think it's also striking that kissinger realizes very quickly that most people who are near the front line have only just arrived. the american habit of rotating people at a high frequency insures that no local knowledge is built up. this speaks to my interest of the feed or fail. if you don't build up local
knowledge or partnership, six months, bound to fail. it's hard to read this stuff and realize this all happened again, that nothing was really learned, but certainly not in ways that influence what happened in iraq. an eminent figure in the bush administration, i can say this without draining a confidence did write me an email having read the book saying it was utterly shattering to me to see how much iraq had resembled vietnam when he read kissinger's critique of the vietnam operation. >> i'm a retired foreign service officer. what did you find about kissinger's relationship with kramer? >> this is in some ways the most important relationship of all aside from the relationship to nancy. kramer was the, as i describe -- in he book, the
kissinger's life, this was quite conscious on kramer's part. kramer was the one who spotted kissinger's talent when they were both privates in the u.s. army. kissinger had heard kramer speak and had approached him afterwards and they hit it off. the relationship was very intense in those subsequent months of war. they were together in the battle of the bulge when they're very close indeed to the front line and come under heavy army altill ri bombardment, he wrote that and it was part of their experiences. they were so close, he would write something from their joint vantage point. i think it's a motif in the
book that the relationship with kramer is in some ways the barometer of the idealism because kramer is the ideal. kramer is the man who has kind of invented himself as the embodiment of prussian conservative values having come from a quite different background, jewish background which he has done his utmost to conceal. it's kramer who sets kissinger on the trail. it's kramer who says to kissinger, you can't go back to city college. you have to go to harvard. kramer is the inspiration for a huge amount of what kissinger subsequently does and retains his influence over him. e letters between the two, crucial to the excelment of the story. overtime they become more critical.
there is no question in my mind that in volume two, an absolutely pivotal moment will be the breach when kramer breaks with him. so it's a hugely important part of the story. it's also important because most of the time they continue to correspond in german. most of the time kissinger he would wear speak in english. having been learned as a teenager, but with kramer it's all german very late on. it's all handwritten and therefore some of the most painful parts of the research were plowing through those.
they're terribly, terribly important and revealing. >> another gentleman who has asked to speak, second row. >> thank you, thomas julian and i teach a course in history of nuclear policy for the air force, primarily from documents and primary sources. i think i may have gotten a bit ahead because i'm fascinated by your comments. would you agree that dr. kissinger decried the lack of historical perspective. to what degree did anything you read reflect his attitude toward the senior officers with whom he dealt in that respective. you have to start with knowledge and what was taught history except that about two ecades ago, american history was out of the core curriculum at the academy. what was his perspective on
those senior officers for which he associated. >> he hadn't had much to do with senior officers in his war service or even as a reserve officer. he was a lowly figure. but when he accepted the invitation from the council of foreign relations to act as the, i spoke first minute keeper and then author of the book that became nuclear weapons, when he went to c.f.r., then he came into contact with senior military gures for the first time and uickly had his favorite that he would take considerable knowledge from. so nuclear weapons and foreign policy is kind of an amazing book for a man who specialty was the congress of vienna. what it is a book that selects
from the different committee witnesses, ted by was octrine of limited war contested at the time, but it was a very big deal in the u.s. military because if the weapons could only be used once in the case of armageddon, that was kind of frustrating. if you had all kinds of different nuclear weapons from tiny to medium size to huge, there was a whole lot more money to ask for. i think he gets sucked into this, this world, perhaps a little unwittingly. nuclear weapons and foreign policy is an extraordinary book because he subsequently breaks with it. not many academic so soon after the publication of the book say you know it's kind of wrong. that's what he did. it's not that he did it because i have come to see that the vision there that you needed a
range of different nuclear capabilities, you couldn't have all or nothing, that insight was correct and became the basis of strategy right down to the end of the cold war. by the 1980's is nuclear weapons and foreign policy. kissinger should never have got cold feet. did because the book came under such a fiers onslaught, interesting case of the dangers of moving out of your field of expertise into one you don't have, which i have done by writing this book. many in this room have spent their lives studying foreign policy. i have not. there is a terrible need to humility when you do that. you are ultimately going to learn from people who always will know more than you. that's how kissinger approached writing the book. he relied heavily on a couple of people whose names of course because i'm tired, i'm forgetting, it's documented in the book, you know much more
about it than i do. >> unfortunately, i have to draw this session to a close. i have a feeling that we could probably go on for many more hours with questions, conversations and discussion. i will tell you that can find a copy of the book outside for purchase, kissinger, 1923-1968, the idealist. you can check it out on your way out. we will be on holiday for the next two mondays, but we'll resume the seminar on october 17 when katherine turk speaks or equality on trial, gender and rights in the modern american workplace. thank you to our participants and thank you to our speaker. [applause] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016
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of reproductive rights, i went and researched and with recent events i have heard about in our news, i knew i could find information on that and that would also help me figure out what points i wanted to say about it and how to form my outline for my piece. >> i don't think i took a very methodical approach to this process which i mean, you could if you wanted, but i think that really was a piece as dense of this i would say. it's just a process of reworking and reworking. as i was trying to come up with hat my actual theme was, i was coming up with ideas at the same time. that would be a great shot. i think about that and that would give me a new idea, something else to focus on. i would do research about that. the whole process is about building on other things as i'm scratching what doesn't work and you keep going until you finally get what's the finished product. >> this year's theme, your message to washington, d.c. tell us what is the most urgent issue for the new president and
congress to address in 2017? our competition is open to all middle school and high school students grades 6-12. students can work alone or in a group of up to three to produce a five to seven-minute documentary on the issues selected. include some c-span programming and also explore opposing opinions. the $100,000 in cash prices will be awarded and shared between 150 students and 53 teachers. the grand myself will go to the student and team with the best overall entry. this year's deadline is january 20, 2017. spread the word to student filmmakers. for more information go to our website. lectures in history heidi hohmann teaches a las on