So yesterday, with social mainstream media lit up with discussions of Watergate, Saturday Night Massacres, and impeachment, who but Henry Kissinger should show up at the Oval Office and sit down for a photo shot with Donald Trump, where Trump took questions on Syria, Russia, and Comey.
About two years ago, I published a book called Kissinger’s Shadow (now out in paperback), which argued that Kissinger is good to think with. By this, I meant that his long career (as an early Cold War defense intellectual, a top foreign-policy maker, a consigliere to the world’s elite, and a hawkish pundit), combined with his very self-aware philosophy of history, helps illuminate the contours of postwar militarism, tracing a bright line from the disastrous war in Southeast Asia to the catastrophic one in the Persian Gulf.
The book came out long before Trump appeared a serious option, when I thought an autumnal Kissinger’s last act would be to bask in the warmth of neoliberal love offered by Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and Samantha Power. Its conclusion focused on the ways in which Barack Obama’s pragmatic, managerial militarism echoed Kissinger’s earlier justifications for interventionism and war, and the way Kissinger used Obama’s disregard of national sovereignty, in his reliance on drones and bombing campaigns, as an ex post facto absolution of his own past actions. Asked about his involvement in the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile and his illegal bombing of Cambodia, Kissinger answered: Obama does it, pointing to the drone program and the ouster of Gadhafi in Libya. I took this as a perfect expression of American militarism’s merry-go-round: Kissinger invokes today’s endless, open-ended war to justify what he did in Cambodia and Chile (and elsewhere) nearly half a century ago, even as what he did half a century ago, as the book tries to show, helped create the conditions for today’s endless wars.
It turns out Kissinger’s Shadow needs an epilogue, for Trump vindicates its argument in a different way. There are materialist explanations for Kissinger’s affinity with Trump. Kissinger has long called on Washington to work closely with Moscow, to create a new axis of global stability. And the portfolio of Kissinger Associates Inc., among the world’s premier neoliberal consulting firms, will benefit from access to the Trump administration and, were relations to improve, to Russia. But what is more interesting is the way the two men converge—or, perhaps better, combust—ideologically.