Secretary of Defense Ash Carter honored Henry A. Kissinger at the Pentagon by presenting the former Secretary of State with the Distinguished Public Service Award, apparently the highest award the Department of Defense has for private citizens. Carter himself deserves an award for understatement, calling the man who is responsible, directly or indirectly, for the deaths of millions of people in Southeast Asia, East Timor, Bangladesh, and southern Africa, among other places—”unique in the annals of American diplomacy.” Kissinger, Carter said, “demonstrated how serious thinking and perspective can deliver solutions to seemingly intractable problems.” As to allegations of war crimes, “the fact is,” said Kissinger, he and Richard Nixon “were engaged in good causes.”
It’s exhausting trying to keep track of what is now a quarterly celebration of the 92-year-old Kissinger. It was just six or so months ago when The New York Times Book Review assigned Kissinger’s preferred authorized biographer to review a Kissinger biography written by Kissinger’s second-choice biographer. A “masterpiece”! the first said of the second. And then, three months ago, Hillary Clinton, in a debate with Bernie Sanders, cited Kissinger’s recommendation as a referral for the White House.
At the time, Clinton’s remarks seemed a misstep, allowing Sanders an opening to criticize her catastrophic interventionism in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. Now, though, it is clear that Clinton’s invocation of Kissinger wasn’t a fluke but rather a preview of a general election strategy to run to Trump’s right on foreign policy and win over the hawkish wing of the Republican Party.