The former US Secretary of State has passed away at his home in Connecticut Henry Kissinger who blew out 100 candles last May. Author of the famous phrase “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac”, the legacy of the Machiavellian statesman will continue to be discussed between those who consider him a diplomatic genius and those who consider him an evil genius.
Astute manipulator and influential until his last days, for the former fifteen-year-old Jew fleeing Europe on the eve of the Second World War the world was a gigantic puzzle in which each piece played an important and distinct role towards a single goal: the USA as international superpower even at the price of realpolitik interventions on the world stage judged by many to be brutal and illegitimate, such as the bombing and invasion of Cambodia and support for Augusto Pinochet’s coup d’état in Chile in 1973 which ousted Salvador Allende.
In recent weeks, since the outbreak of the war in Gaza, Kissinger has never intervened even though he was one of the protagonists of the Yom Kippur conflict which saw Israel victorious in 1973. Among his latest public commitments, a meeting in the ambassador’s residence in Washington Italian Mariangela Zappia with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni last July. That same month, Kissinger met with President Xi Jinping and senior officials of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing.
For political scientist Robert Kaplan, Kissinger was the greatest Bismarckian statesman of the twentieth century. With a careful eye also on Italy, whose role Kissinger, a close friend of Gianni Agnelli, appreciated in the Atlantic Pact despite having the most powerful Communist Party in the West.
On the occasion of his hundredth birthday in the Washington Post, his son David, wondering about the exceptional physical and mental vitality of a man who buried admirers and detractors despite a diet based on bratwurst and Wiener schnitzel, identified the recipe in inexhaustible curiosity paternal for the existential challenges of the moment: from the threat of atomic bombs in the 1950s to artificial intelligence on which two years ago he wrote the penultimate book, “The age of Ai: and our human future”, which was followed by “Leadership: Six studies in world strategy”.
As a child, it was said, he was too shy to speak in public. A stranger in his new homeland after fleeing Germany in 1938, Heinz became Henry and learned to express himself in perfect English while always retaining his German accent. He made his way first to Harvard, then to Washington, until he reached, thanks to Nelson Rockefeller, the roof of the world in the service of two presidents: Richard Nixon and, after Watergate, Gerald Ford. Kissinger concentrated all negotiations in his hands, making the work of the diplomatic network superfluous: from the first détente towards the USSR to the thaw with China, culminating in Nixon’s trip to Beijing.
The Paris agreements for the ceasefire in Vietnam after almost 60 thousand US deaths earned him a controversial Nobel Peace Prize: two jurors resigned in protest. Kissinger was in fact a shadow president, even if the desk in the Oval Office always remained an impossible mirage for him due to the fact that he was not born in the USA.
Ford’s defeat and the election of Democrat Jimmy Carter marked the end of his public career, not his foreign policy involvement through groups like the Trilateral. After leaving government in 1977, Kissinger founded the celebrated consultancy firm Kissinger Associates, through whose revolving door ministers and undersecretaries passed and whose clients included world governments large and small. And it was his studio that broke the news of his death.