Vietnam War, Washington’s rapprochement with Beijing, coup d’état in Chile, conflict in the Middle East… Henry Kissinger, major player in American diplomacy from 1969 to 1977 and remained until his death, Wednesday November 29 at the At the age of 100, a voice listened to, if not sought after, left its mark on the history of the aging 20th century. For the best, in the eyes of some. For the worse, according to others.
Born in Bavaria in 1923 into a middle-class Jewish family, he discovered America at the age of 15. Fleeing Nazi Germany, the Kissingers found refuge in New York. He studied international affairs at Harvard at the start of a period in which he would be one of the key players: the Cold War.
A teacher from 1962, he is a prominent intellectual to whom American presidents are beginning to listen. Republican Richard Nixon, elected to the White House in 1968, named him national security advisor, then secretary of state in 1973. Henry Kissinger retained this position after the Watergate scandal until 1977, under the presidency of Gerald Ford.
America’s chief diplomat during some of the most tense hours of the East-West rivalry, he became one of the most influential actors of his time. He negotiated an end to the conflict in Vietnam, which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, and initiated détente with Moscow and rapprochement with Beijing.
In the Middle East, inaugurating the “step by step” approach, he was “the initiator of a peace process which culminated in September 1978 with the Camp David agreements between Israel and Egypt leading in March 1979 to the first peace treaty between the Hebrew State and an Arab country,” recalls Antoine Coppolani, professor at Paul-Valéry Montpellier-3 University (1).
“Dear Henry,” one of his many nicknames, summed up his cold vision of what American diplomacy should be in a famous phrase: “America has no friends, America has interests. » Interests often shared by military torturers…
In the Andes, Henry Kissinger remains the man who, at best, gave the green light to the coup d’état in Chile in 1973. In France, the courts sought, in vain, to question him as a witness in the aftermath. complaints filed against Augusto Pinochet by the families of French people who disappeared under the regime of the Chilean junta (as part of “Operation Condor”, a campaign of assassinations of opponents led by several South American regimes in the 1970s) .
In 2001, the American journalist of British origin Christopher Hitchens published a vitriolic book, The Crimes of Monsieur Kissinger (Ed. Saint-Simon), accusing him of having undermined President Johnson’s peace efforts in Vietnam – in order to facilitate Richard Nixon’s victory in 1968 – and for not having hesitated to “extend the war into two neutral countries, violating international laws”, an allusion to the American bombings in Cambodia and Laos. Despite the criticisms and the wear and tear of time, Henry Kissinger’s opinions, formulated orally or through his speeches, his articles and his books, published until his death, were still listened to with attention, almost half a century after his departure from government. In July, shortly after celebrating his 100th birthday, he traveled to China to meet President Xi Jinping. A “legendary diplomat” then greeted the strong man of Beijing.
After the announcement of his death, numerous tributes were paid by heads of state around the world, from Paris to Moscow via London and Berlin. One of the few dissonant voices came from Chile, where President Gabriel Boric retweeted a message from his ambassador in Washington, Juan Gabriel Valdes: “A man died whose historical brilliance never managed to hide the profound moral misery. »