Last Sunday, at Ras Hotel on Gambia Street, I was waiting for a friend that showed no hint of appearing. Incensed and fuming, I started to fiddle with my mobile phone. A man with horn-rimmed glasses I was familiar with as a kid on black-and-white TV screens popped up.
Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State, and the most popular modern diplomat, is now 99 years old. He is on the news again, weighing his every sentence down to the last ounce, with no unintentional words escaping; whatever he says forms part of some useful mechanism, as was noted by “the greatest political interviewer of modern times,” Oriana Fallaci, Italian journalist. Speaking his mind that is not in sync with the increasingly “war-warring instead of jaw-jawing” world of our days.
The foreign policy éminence grise, who once declared diplomacy as his favourite game, was best summed up by Fallaci. This is a man who had what it takes to realise the fruition of impossible agreements. He used to make the world hold its breath as though the world were his students at Harvard, incredibly and inexplicably meeting Mao Tse-tung as with the people in the Kremlin. Politics deserves to keep Kissinger.
In a famous 1972 interview, Fallaci managed to get Henry Kissinger to call Vietnam a "useless war" and to portray himself as "a cowboy."
"I've always acted alone. Americans like that immensely,” he said in the interview. “Americans like the cowboy who leads the wagon train by riding ahead alone on his horse, the cowboy who rides all alone into the town, the village, with his horse and nothing else.”
It is true, of course, that many people used to mull over her as too provocative, among other things. However, “she was a great Italian woman … The essence of my answers in that interview was accurate,” Kissinger admitted after her death.
It was then my friend arrived. I understood why he was late. For ages, a Manchester United fan to whom winning is not everything but the only thing. Now, the team is in crisis. I was wondering how he has been reconciling the loss of their first two matches in a century and over the worst start to an English Premier League season in decades, as well as bearing the burden and heat of the day.
I was not about to talk to him about football, though. Instead, I told him about the transcript of Kissinger’s chat with the leaders of the Soviet Union. It was an exchange about ongoing attempts to limit the proliferation of nuclear missiles and the arms race. Amidst the tug of war to avoid “mutually assured destruction,” nonetheless, sometimes discussions about football would arise.
Kissinger is in the news these days due to the geopolitical crisis in Europe after Russia invaded Ukraine. More so, the diplomatic tussle between the West and China seems to be bringing the unipolar world to an end. Who better to advise on this than Kissinger? Uncharacteristically, though, his comments on the war have been highly mild and far less hawkish than other American leaders.
It is too soon to tell if Kissinger would be on the right side of history on the Russia-Ukraine war. But his book “Diplomacy,” has done more than most articulating that the post-Cold War era where superpower rivalries are tamped out was an exception, not a new reality.
Our life entails a continuous value analysis. Even recent football greats Manchester United are a work in progress. I see not a very good reason, even a good reason, not to heed what Kissinger is insisting on today, wondering why it is a moot point, unless we are not willing to learn from history.
PUBLISHED ON Aug 20,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1164]
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