You Can Never Go Wrong Doing The Exact Opposite Of What Henry Kissinger Would Do
There are many, many schools of thought regarding morality and ethics, as we all learned on "The Good Place." Epicurus proposed that whatever produced the most pleasure was the most moral thing. Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill believed that the most moral option was the one that produced the most good for the most people. Hegel just kinda wanted everyone to be happy. Kant believed that one should never do anything that they would not want to be a universal law.
But let me propose another, fairly simple ethical framework: Act only according to that maxim whereby you can be sure that former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger would say "Well, that's not what I would do." Because the things Henry Kissinger does are the kinds of things that would get practically anyone else sent to the Hague. You know, because of all of the deaths and bloodshed that tend to result.
And yet, oddly enough, The Economist purposely went out and sought Henry Kissinger's opinion on the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Unsurprisingly, he is not a fan.
America cannot escape being a key component of international order because of its capacities and historic values. It cannot avoid it by withdrawing. How to combat, limit and overcome terrorism enhanced and supported by countries with a self-magnifying and ever more sophisticated technology will remain a global challenge. It must be resisted by national strategic interests together with whatever international structure we are able to create by a commensurate diplomacy.
We must recognise that no dramatic strategic move is available in the immediate future to offset this self-inflicted setback, such as by making new formal commitments in other regions. American rashness would compound disappointment among allies, encourage adversaries, and sow confusion among observers.
Henry Kissinger, you may recall, secretly negotiated a peace deal with North Vietnam without even bothering to consult South Vietnam. He secretly bombed Cambodia and secretly started a war in Laos. He helped plot to overthrow Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president of Chile so that he could be replaced by Augusto Pinochet, a deranged dictator who at least really loved capitalism. He supported rightwing dictatorships in Latin America throughout his career — Chile and Argentina in particular — and had a prominent role in Operation Condor, a plan devised by several rightwing Latin American countries to murder and disappear their political opponents. He also used his very friendly relationship with Pinochet to undermine President Jimmy Carter. Oh, and then there was mass murder in Bangladesh.
That's not even close to all of it. That's like, what I can remember off of the top of my head. How many horrible things does one person get to do before people go "Hey! Maybe we shouldn't listen to this guy, ever, for any reason"?
Now, there are lots of people who have been saying that the withdrawal from Afghanistan wasn't the right way to go. He's not alone there. Particularly in the aftermath of today's Kabul airport bombing, reportedly killing four Marines and upwards of a dozen civilians, many who think we should stay forever are doing a bit of a ... victory? dance. I would disagree and I think the fact that we've already evacuated almost 90,000 people in under two weeks speaks to that. It was never going to end well — and a really big reason for that is that the United States did what Kissinger would have done in the late '80s and early '90s and decided that overthrowing communism in the region was worth any other cost, which is what led to the Taliban being in power in the first place. If Joe Biden bears any responsibility for the way this turned out, it's due to having voted for the war as a senator, not for withdrawing as president.
Frankly, anyone saying that there was a chance that, with the situation as it is now, there was going to be a better plan for exiting, is far more of a wide-eyed idealist than those of us who said not to invade the country in the first place. And, again, I'd like to point out that as "totally embarrassing and not at all serious" as some thought we were, we were right.
It should be just as shocking that any publication would solicit an op-ed from Henry Kissinger as it would be for them to solicit one from the many dictators he helped boost to power, or one from Snidely Whiplash or Megatron or any other cartoon villain for that matter. He'll probably never get tried for war crimes, as he very well should be, but the least we can do as a nation is deny him any redemption arc.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse