June 06, 2007
Kent – To this beautiful New England village near the New York-Connecticut border, home to the great designer Oscar de la Renta and his wife Anette, both very old friends of mine. Two even older friends, Reinaldo and Carolina Herrera, were already there, making it a perfect house party. The de la Renta house is a jewel. Beautifully manicured rolling lawns, grand old trees and topiaries amid thick woods remind one of Oxfordshire, but the plumbing works, the furnishings are priceless and the staff impeccable. Lots of dogs, yes, but without moths stuck on the windows, no mud or urine stains in the drawing room, and the showers work, a perfect Anglo-American country house combining the best of the two cultures.
The piece de resistance was a surprise to me: Nancy Kissinger’s birthday party for her hubby Henry in their nearby house, also in Kent. I had decided to abstain from alcohol in order not to embarrass myself as it was my first visit and I was a guest of a guest to boot—but, alas, I did not keep my word. The wine was too good to miss, and the Kissingers too interesting for yours truly to make polite and sober conversation. I was one away from the birthday boy and addressed him as Dr Kissinger. Greeks of my generation were taught not to be familiar with people we didn’t go to school with, and I followed my grandfather’s advice to the letter. Up until the second bottle of red, that is.
That’s when I began to call him Dr Henry. He was very funny about it. “We are regressing,” he told no one in particular, “Soon I will be Hank….” Kissinger told me something very interesting when the subject of Greece came up. In the summer of 1974 the White House was in disarray, to say the least, “and the last thing an embattled President Nixon and I needed was two NATO allies going to war with each other.” Kissinger haters might say that he would say that, but they’d be wrong. Kissinger got along with the tricky Makarios; in fact the Cypriot president had given more to the Turkish minority than Kissinger had asked him to. What would have been the point of overthrowing him in order to replace him with a Greek-Cypriot hothead like Nick Sampson, a clown at best, or Greek Colonel Ioannides, the true architect of the coup, a nationalist-paranoid? My first book, The Greek Upheaval, dealt with Cyprus at length, and I had come to that conclusion way back then. But try and convince most Greeks that Nixon and Kissinger were totally innocent of the charges. We Greeks used to blame the gods for our self-induced disasters. For the last forty years we’ve been blaming Uncle Sam. The Cyprus debacle was hatched in Greece and the Americans had as much to do with it as Paris Hilton has to with propriety and dignity.
During post-prandial drinks Iraq was discussed. Again, Kissinger has had a lousy rap about the greatest foreign policy disaster of American history. For starters, he had nothing to do with it. Wolfowitz and Feith convinced Cheney who convinced W. When Kissinger was brought in for advice, it was already much too late. All the good Dr Hank says now is that America cannot suddenly pull out because there will be a regional crisis. In this he’s in agreement with Gates and Rice and the generals in the Pentagon who have long been skeptical that the Iraqi government would use the opportunity created by the troop increase to reach genuine political accommodations. Kissinger thinks that the goal should not be a military solution which cannot be imposed, but a way to provide security so the Iraqis can move toward political reconciliation.
All I know is that there’s bound to be great instability in the short term. A realist, like Kissinger has always been, believes that the Iraqi Security Forces would not survive as a nonsectarian national institution without American troops. Which means neighbouring countries would interfere and a regional war would break out. I’ve met Kissinger many times before but this was the first time I had an opportunity to speak to him up close. Hacks being predictable, he was always described as “Metternichian-Bismarckian-Machiavellian.” There are worse names I can think of. He was also known for practicing “metaphysical politics,” which attempts to impose a reality on a situation which is subjectively perceived. Again, nothing wrong with that if one’s a statesman.
What makes me laugh are so called serious historians. This Robert Dallek chappies has just written how Nixon called Kissinger “my little Jew boy,” and Henry called Nixon “that inebriated paranoiac.” Many friends of mine in the know throughout the years deny ever having heard Kissinger call Nixon anything else than “the president,” and if Nixon called “Hank” a Jew boy, I’m the world’s most gullible fool. Dallek knew that by writing such drivel he’d make sure his book would sell, so presto. Dallek makes Taki look like Gibbon. Kissinger was hated by the left because he understood the Left …the frantic search for social solutions and economic panaceas and so on. He wrote early on about “the experience of freedom, which enables us to rise beyond the suffering of the past and the frustrations of history.” This will get you nowhere with Trotskyite-neocon-leftists. They like to regulate our lives.
Metternich is, to those who know history, something of a hero. Had it been Trotsky upon which Kissinger modelled himself, he’d have a lot less dirt thrown at him by people not good enough to wipe his boots.