How Henry Kissinger Conquered Washington

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Henry Kissinger, who died this week, at the age of a hundred, served in the Nixon and Ford Administrations as national-security adviser and Secretary of State; for a period, he was both at the same time. Kissinger fled Nazi Germany as a teen-ager, and went on to advise a dozen U.S. Presidents, from John F. Kennedy to Joe Biden. He opened up relations between the U.S. and China with Richard Nixon, pursued détente with the Soviet Union, and made decisions that led to death and destruction across Southeast Asia and beyond. Earlier this year, he travelled to Beijing to meet President Xi Jinping in an attempt to massage U.S.-China relations. “There are not that many hundred-year-olds who insist upon their own relevance and actually are relevant,” the New Yorker staff writer Susan B. Glasser says. Glasser calls Kissinger “the paradigmatic Washington figure,” and says that despite Kissinger’s history of destructive foreign-policy decisions, the American national-security establishment had a “collective addiction” to his thinking. How did Kissinger shape U.S. foreign policy, and what enabled him to remain a central political player in Washington long after he left office? The New Yorker staff writers Jane Mayer and Evan Osnos join Glasser to weigh in.

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