Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger uses the telephone in Deputy National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft's office to get the latest information on the situation in South Vietnam (Wikicommons)

Institutional Amnesia

in News
Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger uses the telephone in Deputy National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft's office to get the latest information on the situation in South Vietnam (Wikicommons)
Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger uses the telephone in Deputy National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft’s office to get the latest information on the situation in South Vietnam (Wikicommons)

by ANDY GOTTLIEB

WASHINGTON — The name Kissinger besmirches all too many buildings, awards, and endowed chairs. It was announced Thursday that the Henry A. Kissinger Institute of Global Affairs, to be housed at SAIS, has been added to that disreputable list.

It is hard to think of any action that could more damage SAIS’s credibility than so lavishly honoring Kissinger. The crimes of the former Secretary of State — notorious for his intimate involvement in the 1973 coup in Chile and subsequent dictatorship, Pakistan’s bloody repression of Bengali independence, and the Indonesian invasion of East Timor — have been known for decades. Somehow, time has softened his image in the Washington establishment, and he is sought out by aspiring politicians for large photo-ops and small talk.

SAIS used not to be so apathetic when it came to moral values. When Kissinger spoke here in 1970, anti-war students protested and accused him of being a war criminal. As related by John-Paul Ferguson in a 2002 SAIS Review article, “For more than twenty years after that day, [Kissinger] refused to set foot inside the school.” If only that continued to be the case. In 2007, the Hopkins-Nanjing Center (itself a dubious enterprise) gave Kissinger an award for enhancing Sino-American relations. Of SAIS’s latest venture, JHU President Ronald Daniels says, “There is a need for an approach in international relations education that transcends the narrow confines of short-run policymaking. The Kissinger Institute is created to address that need.” Needless to say, short-run policymaking is the hallmark of Kissinger’s foreign policy approach. I have yet to see how the death and torture meted out by his United States-backed regimes contributed one iota to the collapse of the Soviet Union or the preservation of American security. The fact is, for all his aura of strategy and wisdom, Kissinger has no accomplishments to his name, only a constellation of fellowships.

My only comfort is that the presence of this institute will be fleeting. South African students recently forced the removal of a 1934 statue of Cecil Rhodes at the University of Cape Town; I imagine that future SAIS students will in much the same way hasten a renaming. But surely we can do better than 81 years. Let’s show the administration that we’ve actually learned something about foreign policy and start protesting immediately.