Kissinger and the Neo-Conservatives
Jude Wanniski
May 25, 1999


Memo To: Jim Hoge, Editor, Foreign Affairs
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Henry Kissinger's essay in FA

How interesting that you ran photographs of four neo-conservatives in Henry Kissinger's piece, "Between the Old Left and the New Right," in the May/June issue, even though he never mentioned them by name in the essay. The essay, I note, is adapted from the recently published third volume of his memoirs, Years of Renewal. Under the four photos you have the following cryptic line, which is explained nowhere in the periodical. "Ex-friends: Neoconservatives Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Richard Perle...Norman Podhoretz, Irving Kristol." They certainly are not ex-friends of Henry the K, although they will be friendly enough at the Beltway cocktail parties they attend regularly. The four horsemen were his adversaries during the Nixon years, coming at Henry not from the left, but from the new right. I was of course one of their gang back in those fun Vietnam days. Kissinger now writes as if we were undermining NIXON's foreign policy, when in fact we were leaning against Henry's contribution to the Nixonian equation. As far as I know, the four gents still are on speaking terms, although Moynihan always has been able to simultaneously speak out of several sides of his mouth. In Pat's defense, I do respectfully admit one has to juggle words carefully if one wishes to remain on good terms with the NYT editorial page, to be re-elected to the United States Senate as a New York liberal.

Henry, though, conveniently forgets his debate with Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, in which he argued that America's disadvantage with the USSR was our democracy, for goodness sakes! If only he, the world's smartest man, did not have to deal with Congress, he could outmaneuver the Russians with one hand tied behind his back. Alas, all those noodleheads on Capitol Hill stood in his way, and the neo-cons showed up at exactly the wrong time to keep us from winning the Vietnam War.

How odd that Henry would fuss so much in his essay about what the neo-cons did to him in the past, when he now seems to have joined their ranks, not as a commanding figure with stars on his epaulets, but as a foot soldier. For a while, I thought Henry was on my side in the "war" in the Balkans, which the neo-cons have cooked up to serve their Wilsonian ends. When the Cold War was over, I credited Henry for the "dove" role he played to the hawkish neo-cons, led then by the late Albert Wohlstetter, from whom I took orders too, while at the WSJ editorial page. Richard Perle, one of the four horsemen in your photo spread, was actually another footsoldier in Albert's army back then. In other words, I always understood the clash to be a healthy one, dove and hawk angrily debating the issues, but somehow merging in a happy and effective union. So I gave both equal credit.

After the Cold War, I decided to switch sides and become a dove. My old neo-con pals decided to stick to the hard line and find any excuse to be belligerent with minor powers all over the world, wanting to be the Big Boss. I split with my old allies when they decided to inflict "shock therapy" on the old USSR and old Yugoslavia in order to bust up the old communist empires. I disagree on the Balkan enterprise with all four of the gentlemen whose photographs you ran. Somehow, Kissinger has been sucked into support of their "Wilsonian, humanitarian war." There is no strategy in their cause, except to bomb and maybe send several divisions of soldiers to battle it out with the Serbs. This is why I call Henry a "foot soldier." He is there at the back of the line, without anything smart or strategic to say about how to proceed or how to retreat.

I found FA's review of the book itself, by Philip Zelikow, smart enough to order a copy. The excerpt from Henry's book lets us know that Kissinger has a belly-ache about who gets blame for the loss of Vietnam and credit for the end of the Cold War. It does not contribute anything to the ongoing discussion about where the world is going and how our country will participate. Most of my old neo-con friends have become mindless bombers, hoping to win the "humanitarian" war against an evil they themselves created with their shock therapy. (I'm not sure Irving Kristol is in the bomber camp with both feet, but his son Bill certainly is, as is John Podhoretz, editorial page editor of the NYPost.) Their justification for the compounding of their errors is that they have a larger objective that makes all the nastiness we are now witnessing worthwhile. It is the downgrading of the United Nations and the elevation of NATO's role as our own American legion. In this regard, Kissinger does not have to worry about our democracy getting in the way. The neo-cons are quite willing to do whatever they want without regard to the people or the Constitution, the War Powers Act or the limitations of the NATO treaty. When you are the Boss of the World, you can do anything you damn please. Right?