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Kissinger and Matternichian Realism

  • Date Submitted: 06/11/2011 10:25 AM
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Henry Kissinger’s Philosophy of History
THOMAS

J.

NOER

PERHAPS governmental 05cial has been no
so analyzed by the American intellectual

community as Henry Kissinger. Much of this interest is due to his dramatic personal diplomacy and his cultivated image as a 4 6 secret swinger.” Kissinger, however, has the additional attraction of being an intellectual and a scholar. As an academic with immense power he provides vicarious identification for academics with little influence on policy. Equally important, Kissinger is unique among contemporary American statesmen in that his voluminous writings expose his basic ideas and invite scrutiny. It is natural that historians should have a special interest in Kissinger as Kissinger has shown a deep interest in history. He has not only functioned as an historian but has based many of his contemporary concepts and actions on a well-defined philosophy of history. While numerous books and articles have commented on Kissinger’s identification with past diplomats such as Metternich and Bismarck, there has been no attempt to evaluate Kissinger as an historian.’ Long before he began making history Kissinger was writing it. His senior honors thesis at Harvard, written in 1950 for William Elliott, was a sprawling 377-page personal essay entitled “The Meaning of His180

tory : Reflections on Spengler, Toynbee, and Kant.” Aside from producing a limit on the length of senior honors theses, “The Meaning of History” revealed a basic philosophy of history that Kissinger expanded first in his doctoral dissertation and later in historical essays, books, and articles o n American foreign policy. Kissinger’s interest in the past has been motivated almost solely by a search for insights into contemporary problems. He defended his decision to write his dissertation on the Congress of Vienna “because the problems seem to me analogous to those of our day.”2 Despite his belief that history offers relevant examples for current leaders,...

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