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June 11, 2007

The Kissinger-Cheney Coupling
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Like Jerry, I was also quite alarmed when I first heard awhile back that Kissinger was advising the Bushies on foreign policy. But I was also quite surprised. "Henry the K" (Jerry - I've never heard him called that before, but I like it). In any case, Kissinger is an arch-realist, someone known for his refined indulgence of dictators, and for a keen disregard for what foreign countries do to their own citizens (i.e. kill them) as long as they toe the line on U.S. strategic interests, narrowly-defined.

On the other hand, Cheney, one has been led to believe, is a neo-con, or perhaps a neo-neo-con. But he quite evidently is not - and was never - a "true believer" like Wolfowitz; he has not been known to wax particularly eloquent about the struggle for Arab democracy, a la Bush circa January 2005, and he seems to share with Kissinger a carefully-cultivated disdain for the weak coupled with a sweet tooth for authoritarianism (not only abroad, but also at home). Still, Kissinger always seemed to me a rather unnatural match for an administration that, at least rhetorically, appears to heap scorn upon realism and realists (i.e. Baker/Scrowcroft). I suppose the key qualifier here is "at least rhetorically."


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I think your analysis is dead-on. Cheney has never been a neo-con, he likes to think of himself as a national-interest hardliner. Remember, Cheney was one of the only guys in the House to vote in favor of a resolution calling Nelson Mandela a terrorist. Cheney is much closer to being a paleo-con than a neo-con although so many prominent paleos have abandoned Iraq. But Cheney and Kissinger have known each other for decades. Cheney was one of the most successful White House chiefs of staff in memory for Ford when Henry the K was Sec of State. What's odd is that Cheney was so successful, then, for a very moderate, detente-preaching administration. He then went on to be part of the hard right of Gingrich's backbenchers in the House. Those people hated Kissinger, because they saw him as embodying detente. And then, come full circle, and Cheney and Kissinger are buddy buddy. Failure makes strange bedfellows.

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