Henry Kissinger gets it… US ‘exceptionalism’ is over


November 28/29, 2019 “Information Clearing House” –  Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made prudent remarks recently when he said the United States is no longer a uni-power and that it must recognize the reality of China as an equal rival. The furor over a new law passed by the US this week regarding Hong Kong and undermining Beijing’s authority underlines Kissinger’s warning. If the US cannot find some modus vivendi with China, then the outcome could be a catastrophic conflict worst than any previous world war, he admonished. Speaking publicly in New York on November 14, the veteran diplomat urged the US and China to resolve their ongoing economic tensions cooperatively and mutually, adding: “It is no longer possible to think that one side can dominate the other.”

A key
remark made by Kissinger was the following: “So those countries that used to be
exceptional and used to be unique, have to get used to the fact that they have
a rival.” In other words, he is negating the erroneous consensus held in
Washington which asserts that the US is somehow “exceptional”, a “uni-power”
and the “indispensable nation”. This consensus has grown since the early 1990s
after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the US viewed itself as the sole

morphed into a more virulent ideology of “full-spectrum dominance”. Thence, the
past three decades of unrelenting US criminal wars and regime-change operations
across the planet, throwing the whole world into chaos. Kissinger’s frank
assessment is a breath of fresh air amid the stale and impossibly arrogant
self-regard held by too many American politicians who view their nation as an unparalleled
power which brooks no other.

seasoned statesman, who is 96-years-old and retains an admirable acumen for
international politics, ended his remarks on an optimistic note by saying: “I
am confident the leaders on both sides [US and China] will realize the future
of the world depends on the two sides working out solutions and managing the
inevitable difficulties.” Aptly, Kissinger’s caution about danger of conflict
was reiterated separately by veteran journalist John Pilger, who warned in an exclusive
interview for Strategic Culture Foundation this week that, presumed “American
exceptionalism is driving the world to war.”

Kissinger is indeed a controversial figure. Many US scholars regard him as one
of the most outstanding Secretaries of State during the post-Second World War
period. He served in the Nixon and Ford administrations during the 1970s and
went on to write tomes about geopolitics and international relations. Against
that, his reputation was badly tarnished by the US war in Vietnam and the
horrendous civilian death toll from relentless aerial bombing across Indochina,
believed to have been countenanced by Kissinger.

has also been accused of supporting the military coup in Chile in 1973 against
elected President Allende, and for backing the dirty war by Argentina’s fascist
generals during the 1970s against workers and leftists. To his credit, however,
Kissinger was and is a practitioner of “realpolitik” which views international
relations through a pragmatic lens. Another realpolitik US state planner was
the late Zbigniew Brzezinski, who died in 2017 at the age of 89. Both advocated
a policy of detente with the Soviet Union and China.

Richard Nixon’s groundbreaking visit to China in 1972 is credited to the advice
given by Kissinger who was then National Security Advisor to the White House.
That same year, the US and the Soviet Union signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile
(ABM) treaty, also under the guidance of Kissinger on the American side. The US
would later withdrew from the treaty in 2002, a move which has presaged a long
deterioration in bilateral relations between the US and Russia to the present

For all
their faults, at least people like Kissinger and Brzezinski were motivated by
practical goal-orientated policy. They were willing to engage with adversaries
to find some modus vivendi. Such an attitude is too often missing in recent
Washington administrations which seem to be guided by an ideology of unipolar
dominance by the US over the rest of the world. The current Washington
consensus is one of hyper-ideological unrealism and hubris, which leads to a
zero-sum mentality of antagonism towards China and Russia.

At times,
President Donald Trump appears to subscribe to realpolitik pragmatism. At other
times, he swings to the hyper-ideological mentality as expressed by his Vice
President Mike Pence, as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary
of Defense Mike Esper. The latter has labeled China as the US’s “greatest
long-term threat”. This week President Trump signed into law “The Human Rights
and Democracy Bill”, which will impose sanctions on China over alleged
repression in its Hong Kong territory. Beijing has reacted furiously to the
legislation, condemning it as a violation of its sovereignty. This is exactly
the kind of baleful move that Kissinger warned against in order to avoid a
further poisoning in bilateral relations already tense from the past 16 months
of US-China trade war.

discerns the difference between Kissinger and more recent US politicians: the
former has copious historical knowledge and appreciation of other cultures. His
shrewd, wily, maybe even Machiavellian streak, informs Kissinger to acknowledge
and respect other powers in a complex world. That is contrasted with the
puritanical banality and ignorance manifest in Trump’s administration and in
the Congress. Greeting Kissinger last Friday, November 22, during a visit to
Beijing, President Xi Jinping thanked him for his historic contribution in
normalizing US-China relations during 1970s. “At present, Sino-US relations are
at a critical juncture facing some difficulties and challenges,” said Xi,
calling on the two countries to deepen communication on strategic issues. It
was an echo of the realpolitik views Kissinger had enunciated the week before.

sharing a public stage with Kissinger, the Chinese leader added: “The two sides
should proceed from the fundamental interests of the two peoples and the people
of the world, respect each other, seek common ground while reserving differences,
pursue win-win results in cooperation, and promote bilateral ties to develop in
the right direction.” Likewise, China and Russia have continually urged for a
multipolar world order for cooperation and partnership in development. But the
present and recent US governments refuse to contemplate any other order other
than a presumed unipolar dominance. Hence the ongoing US trade strife with
China and Washington’s relentless demonization of Russia. This “exceptional”
ideological mantra of the US is leading to more tensions, and ultimately is a
path to the abyss.

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