Tuesday, July 18, 2017

HENRY KISSINGER AT THE LOTOS CLUB

"Doctrinaire...yet devious, because the very certainty of his [F├╝rst von Metternich] convictions made him extremely flexible in his choice of means; matter-of-fact and aloof; coldly pursuing the art of statecraft. His characteristic quality was tact, the sensibility to nuance....A mediocre strategist but a great tactician, he was a master of the set battle in periods when the framework was given or the objectives imposed from the outside."
Henry A. Kissinger. A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the problems of peace, 1812-1822. (1957).
Last month former Secretary of State Dr. Henry A. Kissinger was honored with a 'state dinner' at the Lotos Club here in Manhattan. I was one of the attendees. The following are some of the remarks made by Secretary Kissinger, at this event:
"The importance of the relationship between the Peoples Republic of China and the United States in the contemporary world. The need for these two countries understand each other. The PRC has had three phases in its history so far: a) Mao; b) Deng; c) Li, the current President. It is most important that Peking learns to live with other countries as equals. We live in post-1648, Westphalian International system. The need for a new international order to incorporate each of us to mutual recognition. The next decade will show if the Peoples Republic will be adversaries or partners of the United States. Failure to form a partnership will result in a possible Great War scenario. There is a need to develop a dialogue and rules in which the International system is re-founded. The 'one-belt, one-road' concept is not a military one, but a peaceful one. The Chinese and the American concepts of diplomacy are very different. The peace of the world depends upon dialogue between these two countries. They are not permanent adversaries. Even with all the specific issues at hand, we are still in a hopeful period. I am hopeful about the future. A new international order is on the cusp of the future" (sic).
What is one to make of these comments? I for one believe that they are of a piece with the general line that Secretary Kissinger has been enunciating for the past twenty to twenty-five years. That the Peoples Republic is not a revisionist power and that it wishes to be integrated into the existing (formerly, now it is in some future) international system. Secretary Kissinger's analysis is flawed by virtue of his forgetting one of the points that he himself enunciated in A World Restored. That the continental power's (then Austria, now China) foreign policy was and is a function of its domestic political structure. A/K/A primat der Innenpolitik 1. The primacy of domestic policy in determining foreign policy. The regime in Peking's legitimacy and raison d'etre is founded upon its extreme version of Chinese Nationalism. This discourse mandates among other things that the Senkaku Islands, Formosa, various points in the South China Seas all belong to China. China's pursuit of a aggressive policy towards its neighbors in the past eight to ten years is a function of this domestic political imperative. Unless and until the current regime in power in Peking is overthrown, then there is nothing to suggest that the Peoples Republic will move away from its current aggressive and revisionist stance towards almost all of its neighbors. It is highly unfortunate that a master tactician (albeit not strategist) such as Secretary Kissinger should for reasons of ignorance (he was never a China 'expert') and hubris continue to peddle this outworn view of what is now, along with Russia, the leading disrupter of the international system.
1. See: "Metternich, the statesman of a power situated in the centre of the Continent, sought above all to forestall upheavals....Oppressed by the vulnerability of its domestic structure in an age of nationalism, the polyglot Austro-Hungarian (sic) empire insisted on a generalized right of interference to defeat social unrest wherever it occurred." Kissinger, op cit., p. 5.

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