HIS title is a jawbreaker, his functions well masked from the general public. Yet when Harvard Political Scientist Henry Alfred Kissinger assumes the role of Assistant to the Presi dent for National Security Affairs, operating out of the Situation Room in the White House basement, he will automatically become one of the most important men in the U.S.
Kissinger's appointment, the first one Nixon has made to a major policymaking position, won wide praise from academe. Harvard Law Professor Adam Yarmolinsky, who spent six years at the Pentagon under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, declared: "We'll all sleep a little better each night knowing that
Henry is down there." One who viewed Nixon's choice with outright misgiving, however, was Nuclear Physicist Ralph Lapp, who has often been at odds with the nation's scientific Establishment for its overinvolvement with the military. He argued that Kissinger is an unreconstructed hardliner.
Hard or Soft? Lapp is not the only American with that view of Kissinger. Herman Kahn, head of the Hudson Institute "think tank" and long an influential consultant to the Pentagon, once noted that the creator of the film character Dr. Strangelove used "part Henry Kissinger, part myself, with a touch of Wernher von Braun" for a model. In fact, claims Yarmolinsky, "the resemblance is entirely superficial. He is no war lover, period." Rather, Kissinger is acknowledged by most of his colleagues as a thoroughgoing "realist" among the often dogmatic band of thinkers known as "defense intellectuals."
When a reporter asked Kissinger last week if he would characterize himself as a hard-or soft-liner, he replied: "I have tried to avoid labels like 'hard' or 'soft.' " Moreover, he has vigorously criticized those who wear such labels. "Soft-liners [and] left-wing critics of American foreign policy seem incapable of attacking U.S. actions without elevating our opponent to a pedestal," he wrote in the Brookings Institution's recently published Agenda for the Nation. "If they discern some stupidity or self-interest on our side, they assume that the other side must be virtuous." As for hardliners, he continued, they "follow the same logic in reverse."
Riposte Removed. In his first published book, the widely hailed Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (1957), Kissinger emphasized the dangers of overreliance on the concept of massive retaliation and called for the adoption of a more flexible responsethree years before General Maxwell Taylor made headlines with the same argument. There are those, however, who insist that the flexible-response approach has, in fact, made the U.S. more vulnerable to limited, "brushfire" actions since the threat of a nuclear riposte has been all but removed. Kissinger has also deplored the notion that the U.S. should seek to establish overwhelming military superiority over the Soviet Union on the grounds that this would destroy the balance of power that is needed in a nuclear world. In A World Restored (also 1957), on Metternich and post-Napoleonic Europe, Kissinger wrote, "The desire of one power for absolute security means absolute insecurity for all the others."