Kissinger’s Unconfessed Regrets

Some of you may recall Jim Sleeper’s eloquent rebuke at Ten Miles Square back in March of those like Leon Wieseltier who seem to have learned nothing from the folly of their past positions on U.S. foreign policy. Now at the Los Angeles Review of Books Sleeper has taken on the much bigger challenge of assessing Henry Kissinger’s current advice to America in a new (and perhaps heavily ghosted) book, World Order.

While ever-mindful of Kissinger’s own record of violations (or some would say, “crimes”) against his supposedly pacific and diplomacy-centered “realist” foreign policy based on a balance of power among presumably legitimate sovereign states, Sleeper suggests the aging “realist” titan has regrets at his own compromises and failures that he communicates less by admissions of error than by advice to his current successors, especially among conservatives still itching for imperial adventures or ideological war.

Sleeper welcomes Kissinger’s cautionary advice but suggests his whole concept of “World Order” remains mired in seventeenth and nineteenth century schemes of how the world operates that are poorly equipped to deal with the digital society and the multinational capitalist economy. And that, more than ever, requires “statesmen” with superior skills and ethics–a test that Kissinger himself so often conspicuously failed.

Especially if, like Sleeper and myself, you have strong memories of Kissinger in power, you should definitely read the whole review.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.