tv Secretary Kissinger on President Nixons Foreign Policy CSPAN November 13, 2016 8:00pm-8:56pm EST
[military commands] >> what is guarded here goes on. flash -- a stone or flesh or any substance. it is a flame the hearts and minds of men that can never die, aflame that will burn forever. -- a flame that will burn forever. ♪ up next on the presidency, former secretary of state henry kissinger talks about richard nixon's presidency including policy
relations with china and the soviet union. richard nixon presidential library and museum, which recently completed a major renovation, hosted this event. >> ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honor to invite julia to the stage, one of the president's strongest supporters and certainly part of the nixon family. julia? [applause] hard: i am having so gosh much fun. i'm sitting next to a rock star, i have white confetti on my dress, and now that we have wine it's going to get really fun. ,so let's see where we can go with introducing our rock star. i can't believe it. i have been here, this building
through all the dust, you can't imagine the life it was in. in fact, i was just in the oval office, and is socialistic in there. -- it is so realistic in there. i kind of started looking around for cameras and security people. but it is just so real. i love that. the nice thing about that library -- i mean about that that oval room, children and adults can sit in the chair, touch the fabric, the chairs. there's a no hands off, just wonderful experience for young people to be able to do that. so, aside from saying good afternoon and welcome to the brand-new library, today is a very important day for my husband, george, and our family. how incredible is it for all of us to see this important place come alive again and to be
renewed? we have actually been involved from the very beginning. back in 1983, george and so many of you in this room worked to help establish the nixon foundation. then in 1990, this beautiful building emerged. it just makes us even more proud to be here today, to celebrate our next chapter. i'm also very honored to welcome -- to be able to welcome so many of our friends here, including one very, very, very special friend that i have the pleasure of introducing. dr. henry kissinger is like a rock star. [applause]
julia argyros: george and i have known henry for i don't know how many years. he's a great man and a great american. he is known throughout the world as a scholar, an historian, a writer, and a senior spokesman. president nixon brilliantly chose secretary kissinger as the assistant for national security affairs and secretary of state. together nixon and henry kissinger changed the world. [applause] julia argyros: they opened up china, after nearly a quarter century of isolation. they stabilized relations with the soviet union and made the world a safer place from the threat of nuclear weapons. they ended the vietnam war on an
honorable basis and pioneered a -- the piece -- peace process in the middle east. dr. kissinger not only served president nixon, but has also advised every president since john f. kennedy. he has offered each of these commanders in chief invaluable private advice and has always maintained public nonpartisanship. in fact, i think all of you in this room due to our political situation now will agree with me when i say that our country needs more of this type of leadership today. [applause] julia argyros: so, henry, i've been thinking about this a lot. and since you don't have as much
to do now, i thought that maybe you and i -- i mean we, i would go with you, and we could call hillary and donald on the phone, and you could give them some great advice. what do you think? [applause] julia argyros: you know, even a little mentoring would help, don't you think? [laughter] julia argyros: secretary kissinger will be speaking today with two of his staff members from his years in the nixon white house. the first is ambassador winston lord, who was special assistant on the national security council staff. winston later went on to become state department director of policy planning. he was president of the council on foreign relations, u.s. ambassador to china, and assistant secretary of state for
east asia and pacific affairs. secretary kissinger has received numerous accolades throughout his career, but he actually missed out on a very important honor. in july of 1971, he went to china on a top secret trip to prepare for a presidential visit. he thought that he would have the distinction of becoming the first american government official in china in more than 22 years. the way the story goes is that while dr. kissinger remained in the back of the plane, his energetic, 33-year-old special assistant, winston lord, actually snuck up to the front of the plane. and as they got close to the chinese border, he wanted to be up front so that when they entered china from the air, mr. lord was able to claim that
special distinction. and dr. kissinger was robbed of being the first american to be in china. [laughter] julia argyros: i'm not sure -- where is this gentleman? where is he? raise your hand. i don't know how you two are still friends. [laughter] julia argyros: i would certainly never speak to you again. anyway, also joining secretary kissinger and ambassador lord is kt mcfarland fox news and , security analyst. k.t.? where is k.t.? there she is. kt started her career as an aide on dr. kissinger's security staff went on as a speech writer, spokeswoman, and deputy
assistant secretary of defense to caster wineburg. in 1985, kt received the defense department's highest civilian award for her work in the reagan administration. i am so excited. drink your wine, guys. for this conversation to begin. so, let's get to it. could you please, secretary kissinger? [applause] julia argyros: joined by his sometime friend, ambassador winston, and kt mcfarland. let's get on with it. julia? land: julia, i have one side -- slight correction.
i wasn't really an aide to henry kissinger. i was the night secretary. all i did was type. julia argyros: don't tell him that. kt mcfarland: but i was a really good typist. i think in the significance of this -- you've all been through the exhibit, and you realize the achievements of president nixon. it has been called the golden age of american diplomacy with very good reason. any one of the significant achievements that president nixon had during his presidency would have been something that every other president would be proud to say was his crowning glory and achievement, but nixon had success after success after success. and one of the important reasons for that is the man sitting right here, henry kissinger, who, believe it or not -- [applause] kt mcfarland: -- when richard nixon was elected president, he
decided he was going to choose a national security adviser. he wanted to have national security, foreign policy defense issues be paramount in his administration, but he called on someone he had never met before. dr. henry kissinger. would you like to describe what that was like when you got a call from the president-elect of the united states asking you if he wanted -- you wanted to be his partner in changing the world? henry kissinger: first of all, i want to thank julia for her very friendly introduction, which left me in the position where i was once at a reception where a lady walked up to me and said, i understand you're a fascinating man, she said. fascinate me. [laughter] henry kissinger: now about, to
give you an explanation of how my appointment happened, tricia notes that her father was always nervous. about asking for something that might be refused. so i had an appointment with president nixon for about two hours. and i didn't know quite what he wanted. and i knew he wanted something. and so i left. , nothing happened. and a week later, tom mitchell called up and said, are you going to take the job or not? and i said, what job are you talking about? and he said, oh my god, he screwed it up. [laughter]
henry kissinger: so then i was asked to come back. and at that moment, to my disgrace, i said, you may not know that i had been closely associated with nelson rockefeller, who was the principle opponent of president nixon. so i said to president nixon, shamefully -- i'm not bragging about that. i said, i've been working for nelson rockefeller for 15 years. and i would like to think about this. and he should have told me to get lost. [laughter] henry kissinger: and he said, take a week. so the next day, i went to see nelson rockefeller. and it shows you something about the mindset of that time.
and nelson rockefeller said, has it ever occurred to you that richard nixon is taking a much bigger risk on you than you are taking on him? [laughter] henry kissinger: and that was true. that a newly-elected president would appoint in one of the principle jobs of the government somebody whom he had never met and who had publicly opposed -- supported, supported his opponent is an enormous tribute to the way richard nixon thought about foreign policy. that he focused on what the right thing to do was. and then, we worked closely together.
and the credit for that really goes to richard nixon, not to me. and i just wanted to make that point. [applause] julia argyros: i just want to do a mike check for myself. is everyone ok? can we all here? raise your hand if you're having any trouble hearing. a little bit. henry kissinger: how can you raise your hand to that question if you can't hear? [laughter] [applause] [laughter] kt mcfarland: well if you would , like, we can have additional microphones. but since you're all doing such
a good job of not hearing as it is, i think we'll just carry on. dr. kissinger, you have met some of the greatest statesmen in the 20th century, going back to charles degaulle, eisenhower, many other people -- mao. but talk to us about the particular qualities of president nixon and his statesmanship. why was he able to do what no american president has been able to do before or since? what qualities -- personal qualities of leadership did he have and statesmanship that allowed him to be so successful? henry kissinger: the task of a statesman in my view, is to take society from where it is to where it hasn't been. and in order to do that, he
first has to analyze the situation in which he finds himself. he then has to analyze the situation of friends and adversaries so that he can determine what assets are available and what risks. he is running. then he has to chart a course. and then he has to get that through the bureaucracy that has been implemented. so these are all qualities that a statesman needs. nixon was extremely studious. he did not like inconsequential discussion.
and to see people just to chat was formidable, usually unsuccessful. he had a lot of time occupied by running the offices to read think pieces and to read books. i hesitate about these two people. i'm talking so much because i'm afraid when they talk, they might talk about human rights violations that were committed against them while they were working on my staff. [laughter] henry kissinger: but look, but
when we were preparing, you could not persuade nixon by just making a recommendation to him. he wanted a think piece. and we could be sure that if we prepared a thoughtful piece, he would read it. months we could work out -- and so over months, we could work out policies. for example, when we went to -- on the trip to china, nixon knew when he went into -- came into office that that's what he wanted to do. as it happened on the academic team i also thought it was a , good idea to do this. but i had not, of course, been in a public position to do anything about it. so we systematically studied
what the options were. and then early in the administration, there was a series of incidents at the russian-chinese border. those, and wed came to the conclusion that probably, the soviet union was the aggressor. so then that created a strategic challenge. here was a country with which we had no diplomatic relations and no means of contact which maybe was going to be attacked by the soviet union, and we had the vietnam war to deal with. and so, nixon agreed that we had
to make clear that, from the point of view of the global balance of power, we were not indifferent. in fact, that we would be concerned. so here is a country on the verge of being attacked. us every day,ing but the chinese noticed this. and i won't go through every step, but it took us three years of very patient and some of the communications the chinese sent to us were inscrutable by western standards. in fact, they were the first .eal communications
it was a chinese communication that was the first message we had from us from a head through a head to a head. that was true, but how to go from there to a visit in beijing? all i'm saying is nixon was infinitely patient about this. and the essence was that -- one of the maxims of nixon was you , pay the same price for doing something halfway and for doing it completely, so you might as well do it completely. so he -- the strategic structure
of the united states was based on these maxims. another example, in 1969, we decided that we were going to try to push the soviet military out of the middle east. and it sounded crazy at the time. i stupidly said this in a press conference, that this was out of [indiscernible] , but everybody thought it was so ridiculous. but we did it systematically by thwarting every soviet move based on military thought until that that decided that he could make war with soviet armies but , in order to make peace, he had
to use american diplomacy. so these are the examples, right? and, of course, the same was true of vietnam. in the literature of the journalists everybody said oh, , nixon likes war, so he's continuing the war. we had a strategy that was designed to get an honorable end and be defined honorable that -- as meaning that the vietnamese people should have the right to make their own choice, that we would not turn over a government that our predecessors -- not we, our democratic predecessors had helped install to a country or to a movement that was the only issue in the vietnam negotiations. every other had been filled.
and i can tell you, winston was my closest associate. and when he started, we were discussing -- he was young -- would he be better off being outside, protesting? he decided, no, he was going to stay, and he was going to help finish it. there was a dramatic moment with the top vietnamese negotiated leader who handed him a piece of paper which accepted a proposal six nixon had made publicly months earlier, and when the meeting, ended i turned to winston, and i said, we have done it. it was the high point of my governmental period.
it turned out we didn't do it because the country cut off support for the vietnamese because we were torn in a lot of domestic -- but this is the way nixon approached things. winston lord: henry first of , all, i agree with you about the high point. certainly for me personally, and the great honor it was to be there. but there is another dimension of statesmanship particularly with nixon, and that is courage to make tough decisions. you say the statesman has to take society where it is and move it to where he sees it with his own vision. that's another way of saying making unpopular decisions because others can't necessarily see where we're going. i think one example is the china visit. i remember now with conventional wisdom to say, it was inevitable . we were going to open up with china some day.
they forget how controversial that was and could have been. i remember flying back on air force one, and others in this room like dwight chase and others remember this, that the president and dr. kissinger were concerned about the public reaction in the united states to this initiative. we were not aware of the colorful, dramatic television images across america that had made this dramatic and popular. and so, this is just an example that even coming back after the shanghai communicae, nixon could not be sure whether it was going to be that popular. as it turned out to be. you may want to give other instances but whether it's vietnam or other issues, it wasn't that he knew where he was going, but he was willing to take a lot of unpopularity to get there. actually, iner: the soviet showing, i was sort
of amused to see pat buchanan was reacting favorably about the trip to china because he was on the presidential plane coming back, and all the way back, pat was beating up on nixon and me, how we had sold out the conservatives and how it was -- but he has now seen the light and i'm happy to see him. , and he's now recorded in the museum here. [laughter] talk to us for a minute about the division of labor between nixon and kissinger. there are plays written about nixon and kissinger. there -- it's almost like the two of you had to be together at the same time, that nixon without kissinger wouldn't have achieved the things kissinger without nixon might have. henry kissinger: nixon was president. he was the one who made the decisions.
if he sent me to china without telling the secretary of state, and if the trip had failed, nobody would have blamed me. he would have had the responsibility. and then in 1972, two weeks before he was supposed to go to a summit in moscow and less than six months before an election, and the north vietnamese had launched an offensive, he decided to blockade north vietnam and resume bombardment. that goes against every principle of domestic politics to do that. and he looked only at the national interests. and at the height of watergate, when the russians threatened to
send the -- we thought they threatened to send troops into the middle east, he launched the air lift, and we went on alert. sec. kissinger: and at the height of watergate, when the russians threatened to send the -- we thought they threatened to send troops into the middle east, he launched the air lift and we went on alert. none of these things could have been done if i had had to go to him and convince him of doing something he didn't want to do. now, as i said, he did not see as many people as a normal president does. so he and i spent a lot of time , together so that i knew his and we were talking about the incident in china.
on my second trip to china, i was supposed to prepare the nixon trip. and we had drafted a communicae to be issued on the nixon trip. in china, i had no communications with washington because there was no adequate communication system. so we submitted what we had drafted and they looked at it for an evening. at first, we thought we can work within that framework. and then came back from mao and said "this is nonsense. you're pretending to have an agreement when there isn't a full agreement. so i propose or we propose that we list our disagreements and then we put in a few agreements. that will make the agreement
believable and it will" -- now here i was, sitting in beijing with no means of communication. and i was prepared to junk the approved comunimunicae because i -- approved communique because i was convinced that nixon could see the good sense in the chinese proposal. that's exactly what happened when i came back. of course, there are things you need to fix. but as a concept. so nixon and i -- and i know no exception where we did not agree on the strategy. when i went off on a negotiation, i never received any cables. can you remember? in all the negotiations, there was -- and i sent him a daily report except when i was in china. i sent him a daily report.
i never got a reply that said "you shouldn't have done this" or a reply that you should do something else. but it wasn't that i convinced him to do this. it grew out of a dialogue that was really permanent. and that's really how we worked together. he would be reading books and memos, and i was called in for these discussions and they would go on for quite a while. and i was trying to get back to my -- [laughter] sec. kissinger: to my day-to-day
stuff, but it was a very close cooperation. >> you mentioned, you referred earlier to nixon knew where he wanted to go and took the -- patiently took the steps to get there. you also talked and written about the way that nixon and you saw foreign policy not just as american/chinese relations or american/soviet relations or american/egyptian relations. you saw the interconnectedness of it. can you elaborate on that for a minute? sec. kissinger: you have to look at the situation that nixon found when he came into office. the soviet union had just occupied czechloslavakia a few months earlier. they were concentrating 42 divisions in which both the chinese and we thought they might attack but we had no communication with the chinese. we had war in vietnam and within two weeks of nixon coming into
office, the vietnamese started an offensive in which we had 500 casualties a week. we had, in one month, more casualties than we had in the whole afghanistan experience. the middle east states, most of the middle east states had broken diplomatic relations with us because of the -- during the 1967 war in the previous administration, and each were conducting an undeclared air war along the suez canal, and all of this happened in the third week of the war. so, one basic principle we had
is that you have to be able to lift these various efforts together. you can't commit, say, the soviet union to have very good relations over china but conduct a war in the middle east. and so one of the first things that was done was we sent a letter from nixon to all the departments saying that we meant to link these things. state department loves to negotiate. so if you interrupt a , negotiation for strategic reason they think that's the , beginning of a negotiation, not a presidential order. but if you watch the basic policy of nixon, he was trying
to link under international affairs, and if you take for example iranian negotiations, i ideas hew what precise would have had, but i know he would not have wanted to make a military agreement without a political component. and so, this was the basic approach. mr. lord: henry, i would add that in terms of the landscape that the president inherited, the domestic turmoil, the riots, assassinations, protests against the war in which seemed to me -- one of the great achievements was to lift the morality american people and the credibility of the united states and the world that we would not be mired in vietnam, that he
could make bold moves and .herefore, change the landscape so we thought it was exciting to work in that favor. that was the essence of this. i think those are the it essential reasons -- those are the essential reasons for its success. >> talk for a minute about the foreign-policy legacy whole , legacy. not just china, vietnam. what is the overarching legacy of president nixon's foreign policy advances? sec. kissinger: well, first of all, he inherited a domestic situation, as has been pointed out, in which there has been assassinations, constant demonstrations and obsession with the vietnam war.
he had put before the american --ple and alternative vision an alternative vision and said "we are about world order. and that's why we want to have relations with china and that's why we have prepared to talk to the soviet union. and europe also should look at it." i mean, these were his basic themes, and he had always been accused of being a war monger. and once his policy got going, some of his critics were saying "if nixon is for peace, maybe we ought to look at peace. maybe there's something wrong with peace." [laughter] sec. kissinger: and nixon suddenly found himself accused of being soft on the soviet union after having gone through
two alerts, ordering two alerts, one in 1970 and the other in 1973. and in the world, whether the people agreed with every large thing that we did or not, there was a sense that the united states had a sense of direction, that we knew what we were doing and we knew -- or we were trying to balance the incentives and penalties in such a way as to get the best possible result.
sec. kissinger: therefore i believe and i have written it. and i'm going to say it again in a speech in england i think nixon was the most consequential foreign policy president that we've had. [applause] you, thankger: thank you. now, the american psychology in history, if there is tension somewhere, it can be removed. we don't look at underlying causes. we think there's a problem, we fix it, and then it can go away. our chinese friends think the solution of a problem is an admission ticket to another problem and that, therefore, you have to look at the sequence of
events, and so, you could not do with nixon foreign policy, you couldn't step out there with one say, likech like, -- edy saying nixon's foreign policy was complicated, but if you looked at its pattern, it had a purpose and that is the lesson that sooner or later, we'll have to learn as a country. because we are now so connected with other people that you think of final solutions that gets you into a frame of mind that led to world war i, which we can't afford. nobody can afford. so this is the real legacy of
nixon. it isn't any one of these steps that we're taking that we described here, but the pattern and the way of picking. that's the way of thinking. -- the way of thinking. [applause] ms. mcfarland: ron walker. okay. if you can, do it without a mic, so there you go. ron: 1970, 2007, how come i never have crowds when i arrive?
i said dr. kissinger, i don't know. you always arrive with the president and, therefore, that's where the crowds are. you came in on a separate airport on 970. this --not remove winston, you may not remember this. i rounded up maybe 50 to 100, maybe 100 workers on the ground and as you were exiting the airport, you came out and you had a big smile and you stood on the ramp and you gave it one of these. [laughter] what was that? >> do you remember that, sir? ms. mcfarland: ron walker has just reiterated one of the great moments when you were in -- in rome? ron rome. :ms. mcfarland: and you were pretending you were richard nixon and you were doing the "v" signs. is that right?
ron you had been very : disappointed that you had never had any crowds for your arrival. so we made arrangements for you to have a very responsive crowd that said "viva nixon, viva kissinger." [laughter] ms. mcfarland: thank you. sec. kissinger: what did i do? [applause] ms. mcfarland: i've got one final question. here we go. sec. kissinger: you know, lose their sense of proportion. i don't remember that i would have been so suicidal as to imitating president nixon. [laughter] ms. mcfarland: i have one question about nixon, the man. now you saw nixon the great , diplomat, nixon the world leader, nixon the president. but what was nixon the man like? you were with him at his highest moments of achievement and you were also with him at some of the most difficult moments. tell us about, if you would share with us sort of the , personal courage of the man,
as governor wilson says, "i'm not a quitter." the man who kept going even when times were tough. the man who had the courage and found deep within himself some real moral character. nixon had anr: impulsive side so that he might react quickly to a challenge, but you knew that if he thought about it again, he would put it into -- so i separate what he might -- you can get a lot of quotes from these office conversations where he would say "we ought to do this" and "we ought to do that." but if you read on, you would see it never happened when it was put that way.
in personal conversation, certainly, i never saw him raise his voice to any staffer. he was extremely polite. >> he was just like you, henry. ms. mcfarland: just like you, exactly. polite, never raised his voice. always very respectful and appreciative. i think before -- sec. kissinger: i think -- [laughter] sec. kissinger: i found him -- i remember my working with him with great pleasure. there were never -- i can't think actually of a single confrontational moment. there were points where he
thought he had a different view or i had a different view but i really cannot think in any of the big policy decisions -- i i mean i read all this stuff , where he would send me a cable and order me to do something different. that never happened. when i went to office, we had always -- whatever needed to be done. he was a substance- oriented. he didn't like to talk about a lot of gossip. so most of my conversations with him -- i would say 95%. ms. mcfarland: i know that you have to leave but is there , anything you want to leave with us, the people -- many of the people in this room were with president nixon in the white house, in the administration, were there in the golden age of american diplomacy. a number of other people are very young. they're studying about president nixon. what do you want to leave us with as the final thoughts of president nixon?
sec. kissinger: i think the fundamental problem of american foreign politics remains. the willingness to ask the questions our administration, , our government very rarely does this because our machinery of government is geared to actually cables that come in with problems. there is no mechanism -- there is a theoretical mechanism, but i've now heard in one way or another with 10 presidents. he is the president who has been most concerned with long-range purposes and with wanting to know where we're going and really what people ought to take away is there are no flashy
solutions to the middle east problem. the solution will be to understand correctly what are the forces -- which are the forces we need to balance, which are the forces with which we can cooperate, and which are the ones we need to defeat? and then, we have to find, with whom we can do it or whether we have to do it alone. those are the deeper questions. so, anytime someone who says he has a solution to the syrian the syrian problem is based on the fact that when you put so many nationalities and religions into one political unit and then try to decapitate the head, they'll start fighting with each other. so unless you reassert some authority, there is no clever
intellectual solution. and i feel very strongly we have to start teaching this attitude in our schools of foreign service and foreign policy because that's at the heart of it. i, unfortunately, have to get to los angeles, where my son has assembled 50 hollywood guys. ms. mcfarland: as usual. sec. kissinger: it will not be as friendly as you are. ms. mcfarland: as usual, dr. kissinger has to leave. [applause]
ms. mcfarland: if i can just point out dr. kissinger is on , his way to hollywood. you know that dr. kissinger's reputation was that he always had a beautiful actress who is waiting for him, a beautiful hollywood actress, so he has announced he is going back to hollywood. some things never change. thank you all, very much. [applause] >> interested in american history tv? visit our website, www.c-span.org/history. to then artifacts, wrote white house rewind, glitches of history and more at www.c-span.org/history. monday night on "the communicators," the president of
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