Kissinger Doesn’t Have One, Either

45th Munich Security Conference

President Barack Obama drew criticism from our ruling class for acknowledging that “we don’t have a strategy yet” for putting an end to the Islamic State that calls for American blood by internetting the beheading of American captives, as well as for his complaisance with China’s harassment of an American aircraft over international waters and with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Sooner or later, Obama is sure to order some actions with regard to each of these situations. But even more surely, these will worsen problems rather than fix them because Obama, like the ruling class he represents, does not connect means with ends, wishes with actions.

Our self-proclaimed best and brightest are well-nigh unanimously committed to bringing about some kind of world order. But, although they are not averse to military actions, they are averse to war in the dictionary sense of the word. Hence, for generations, they have intervened in the world’s troubles while ruling out imposing their preferred solutions by force majeure. This titubation has multiplied America’s enemies. By behaving opposite to Machiavelli’s counsel to caress enemies or to extinguish them, and heedless of his warning against doing enemies a little harm, America’s statesmen do enough to stir up beehives but not enough to keep the maddened bees from stinging the rest of us.

This past labor day weekend, as the American people were coming to grips with the fact that major powers and minor thugs seem to have declared open season on us, The Wall Street Journal published a major article introducing a major book by Henry Kissinger, the past half century’s major intellectual guide to international relations titled World Order. Here, some expected to find a well-considered road map to safety. Instead Henry Kissinger delivered yet another of his patented distillations of the ruling class’s conventional wisdom of the day, phrased pretentiously – the art form by which he has prospered since the 1950s.

Like Obama, Kissinger and those who praise him give us ponderous words to clothe the unserious measures by which they try to fend off serious adversaries.

Kissinger, who made a career of selling “world order,” tells us what we already know: that there is no order today (artfully, he says that it is “at a turning point”), because “vast regions of the world have never shared and only acquiesced in the Western concept of order.” Moreover, this order was ever only “incipient” during “a brief moment in human history.”  Now, if the great powers do not establish, jointly, “a contemporary structure of international rules and norms… as a matter of common conviction (what Woodrow Wilson called “a community of power,” what the American architects of the UN dreamed of –which was never about to happen) the world will evolve

into spheres of influence identified with particular domestic structures and forms of governance. At its edges, each sphere would be tempted to test its strength against other entities deemed illegitimate. A struggle between regions could be even more debilitating than the struggle between nations has been.

Hmm… isn’t that what has been happening all along? Do we need Kissinger to tell us? When did he realize this?

Can Kissinger tell us what to do that will stop countless young Muslims from enlisting to kill Americans or stop Russians from trying to reconstruct something like the Soviet Union or to stop the Chinese from pushing us back to Hawaii? Here is Dr. Kissinger’s prescription: “a coherent strategy to establish a concept of order within the various regions and to relate these regional orders to one another.” This is the sort of wisdom by which the wisest of mice advised his fellows that the best way of dealing with the cat is to put a bell around its neck.

What then are Kissinger’s detailed instructions for belling the cat?

The U.S. must be prepared to answer a number of questions for itself: What do we seek to prevent, no matter how it happens, and if necessary alone? What do we seek to achieve, even if not supported by any multilateral effort? What do we seek to achieve, or prevent, only if supported by an alliance? What should we not engage in, even if urged on by a multilateral group or an alliance? What is the nature of the values that we seek to advance? And how much does the application of these values depend on circumstance?

Reads a lot like the words that Obama is sure to use to announce his next set of actions or, for that matter, like one of the Bush dynasty’s declarations, or Richard Nixon’s.

In sum, Barack Obama is a small part of our problem, with an expiration date of January 21 2017. Henry Kissinger born in 1923, also has an expiration date. But the approach to foreign policy that they embody will expire only when Americans re-learn to think about foreign affairs in terms of our primary interest – namely, to live in peace – and to recall that the search for peace begins with neutrality in others’ affairs; that when others trouble our peace we impose it upon them by war—war as definitively as we can make it; that we should embrace only ends that we are prepared to effectuate with means, and undertake only actions that will actually achieve the ends desired.  This is common sense to all but to our ruling class, which imagines itself entitled to disregard reality.

The Obamas and Kissingers have big megaphones. But reality commands attention as well.

Reader Discussion

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on September 07, 2014 at 11:30:49 am

I don't get the comparison. Allowing for flaws in Kissenger you are still left with an utterly lost boob in the WH surrounded by a coterie of Katzenjammer Kids,[God, Valerie Jarrett?] currently in a growing mess in Iraq/Syria, totally predictable and getting worse , of which said kids had full warning by 2009/10. A complete laughing stock to Putin in the bargain.
Net, I'll take Kissinger over Jarrett/Obama anytime.

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john trainor
on September 07, 2014 at 21:23:04 pm

I believe he means that Kissinger has been part of the intellectual elite who have helped to keep us in an almost constant state of aggression and intervention in the affairs of others over the past 80 years or so and each of these interventions, which are short of real war, only serve to create more conflict in the future and also serve to reduce our individual liberties at home. Some say Bush was better than Obama, and he probably was, but was he right to put our soldiers lives on the line for the fantasy of building a democracy in Iraq, a place that is not even a real nation state, but rather an invention that was created following WW1? The nation building was destined to fail, and Bush did not give the generals the freedom or objectives that could result in a true victory. Bush and Obama have both handcuffed our soldiers with rules of engagement that make their lives less valuable than the lives of enemy combatants.

We are 13 years removed from 9-11 and we still allow the Federal Government to put ridiculous and useless restrictions on our freedom to travel via the TSA. We permit the NSA to steal our freedoms in the foolish hope that if the NSA knows everything everyone is doing it can stop all attacks on us. This is infantile thinking and both Obama and Bush have advanced it.

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on September 08, 2014 at 10:07:27 am

An interesting argument for accepting the dynamic nature of world politics rather than pushing pie-in-the-sky world orders that are at the bottom of most American foreign policy thought. What to do if the world is fundamentally dynamic and therefore highly resistant to “order”? Stay out of the squabbles of others unless a truly fundamental threat, then act with decisive force. This is similar to the grand strategy of the Roman Empire, except that they were a bit more sophisticated than this. They used allies to fight their battles and only used their legions as a strategic reserve that would always be decisive when deployed. This insured two things: (1) Romans win, enemies lose; (2) Romans get the credit for the win, not the blame for sticking their nose in where it’s not wanted.

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Ron Johnson
on September 08, 2014 at 12:02:58 pm

Well said:
I would only change "decisive force" to "cataclysmic" force and be done with the buggers!

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on September 08, 2014 at 21:43:02 pm


1) the ruling class's penchant for (aimless and ineffective) military action depends, of course, on a sufficient U.S armed forces; and
2) the strength of those armed forces, as troops, depends on voluntary recruits inspired (for the most part) by patriotism and the idea of serving their country; and
3) sooner or later such recruits (or potential recruits) are going to recognize that what they are actually serving is the delusions and vanity of the makers of military and foreign policy; and
4) they probably won't feel so inspired to enlist or re-up anymore

...might there be an contraction of military personnel (if not a popular referendum on military policy) that effectively, and at last, limits the international folly and ambition of the ruling class?

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Image of JQA
on September 08, 2014 at 21:52:21 pm

Then the Ruling Class implements a draft.

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Image of kent
on September 09, 2014 at 17:25:50 pm

...an utterly lost boob in the WH surrounded by a coterie of Katzenjammer Kids,[God, Valerie Jarrett?]....

Obama now has God in his cabinet?

In these these highly partisan times, I was impressed that Obama could recruit Kissinger from Nixon's Administration. But to recruit such a high-profile member of W's team is truly remarkable.

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on September 09, 2014 at 18:35:06 pm

One would have thought that Obama would not want another God, beside himself, in his administration.
Now that is saying something for the Big O and his Doric columns.

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Image of gabe
on September 10, 2014 at 10:42:29 am

And then there is this:


The Old Boy has certainly lost it and / or is craving attention.

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Image of gabe
on June 23, 2015 at 23:43:53 pm

The writer of the insults to Angelo Codevilla, who displays no ability to use facts or refute anything, shows himself to be an infantile jerk. Nothing more.

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Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.