From a Facebook post…
Last week, infantile protesters invaded the Senate to shout at Henry Kissinger that he is a war criminal, which spurred me to think about Kissinger and his influence.
He seems to me to have been a uniquely malignant force on US foreign policy in the 20th century. Kissinger popularized a strain of thought that had usually been subterranean among American statesmen: the etymologically self-congratulating ‘realist’ ideology, which sanctifies the idol Stability in an attempt to freeze any aspect of the status quo that is not immediately threatening to the nation’s material interests — a goal neither possible nor desirable, and which takes a base approach to what constitutes the national interest.
In practice, realism does not and cannot distinguish between the legitimacy of the leader of a republic and the tyrant of a slave nation, so long as their order is ‘stable’ and so long as they have obtained a monopoly on force — which is only a parlor trick: monopolies on force can be broken.
Realism’s attractiveness is found in its recognition of the stubbornly persistent primacy of power politics on the international stage; it is under none of the foolish liberal-internationalist illusions about the possibility of substituting process for power. But it is morally blind: It tells us to look at men like Saddam Hussein or Bashar al-Assad and pine for their continued rule, rather than for their replacement with something better. Worst of all, it subtly conditions people to plan for the short-term by seducing them with the notion that an order that is stable today will still necessarily be stable ten years from now, if only we don’t do anything to break it. Why else would people earnestly believe that Saddam Hussein, whose regime most of all in the Middle East mirrored Bashar al-Assad’s, would have somehow been a bulwark against the rise of ISIS?