Kissinger & Nixon: International Disruptors

“It is an act of insanity and national humiliation to have a law prohibiting the President from ordering assassination.”
- Henry Kissinger

Diplomats, like everyone else, have to make choices. Some are more difficult than others. 

Henry Kissinger is a man who's made a career on making tough choices look easy, even somehow romantic.  

Todd Harrison writes in a recent piece in Foreign Affairs about how the Pentagon's colored history of making tough choices and outlining priorities during times of budget cuts. In the piece (sadly, behind a firewall), evokes the image of Kissinger and Richard Nixon as disruptors. 

From Foreign Affairs:

Nixon and Kissinger didn't change the nation's basic strategic concept: the Soviet Union remained the key adversary, and the strategy of containment was not abandoned. But facing financial constraints, they tried hard to find innovative ways of getting the Soviets to exercise self-restraint. 

Nixon and Kissinger recognized that the world was changing. They dwelled on the evolution of multipoliarity, the revitalization of US allies in Western Europe and Northeast Asia, the intensification of the Sino-Soviet split, and the assertiveness of nationalist leaders in developing countries seeking to reconfigure the international economic order...

Their challenge was to design a strategy to balance Soviet power in a taxing political, fiscal, and legislative environment. They did not seek to reexamine goals; instead, they maneuvered to pursue existing goals more cheaply and efficiently. 

Here's my takeaway on the piece: 

  • Change the rules of the game to suit your strengths 
  • Or, force your enemies to adjust to you
  • Have a solid goal
  • And a direct timeline to meet that goal