THE ADMINISTRATION: The Difficulty of Being Henry Kissinger

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These are prickly and painful times for the U.S. Secretary of State, and as a believer in the tragic destiny of man, Henry Kissinger may not be too surprised at his current plight. After a series of almost unbroken diplomatic successes, he has taken two jolting defeats. His very triumphs—in Viet Nam, in the Middle East—have returned to haunt him. In his dealings with the Soviet Union, with Turkey and the oil-producing countries, an increasingly truculent and suspicious U.S. Congress questions and curtails his efforts. Long deemed an indispensable national resource, Kissinger is being buffeted by intimations of mortality. Critics foreign and domestic are suggesting he might best serve the U.S. by stepping aside.

Last week the Long Island daily Newsday called for his resignation because of the "secret understandings" between Nixon and President Thieu. "It is not America's credibility that will be questioned now as a result of the debacle in Southeast Asia; it is Kissinger's. It is not the character of the American people that will provoke doubts among America's allies and adversaries; it is Kissinger's." In Britain's Guardian, former Washington Correspondent Peter Jenkins wrote: "South Viet Nam is the latest victim of the most cynical superpower diplomacy of which Henry Kissinger is the outstanding Western exponent ... The meaning of that 'Peace with Honor,' now revealed, strips Henry Kissinger of his own honor." In Latin America, there is scant enthusiasm for Kissinger's scheduled trip to Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela this week. A former Argentine ambassador to the U.S. remarked: "No one down here is thinking that Ford and Kissinger are going to come up with anything new. As far as we're concerned, Kissinger and Ford are already lame ducks."

The essential criticism of Kissinger is that he has made American diplomacy too much of a one-man show. Says a Democratic adviser to several Presidents: "When you personalize foreign policy to the extent he has, you must be prepared to rise with success and descend with failure. You live by the sword and you die by the sword." Jun Tsunoda, who advises the Japanese government on U.S. affairs, makes the same point. "Diplomacy in today's complex world is too big a job for one man to handle in person."

Yet Kissinger continues to have the ear—and the respect—of the President, who recently called him "a person of unbelievable wisdom." Kissinger, in fact, is more comfortable with Ford than he was with Nixon, who delighted in occasionally deflating his foreign policy adviser. Ford is straight-arrow all the way. When he finds Kissinger expendable, the Secretary will be the first to know. For the moment, the President does not blame him for the debacle in Viet Nam or the setback in the Middle East. A top aide says that Ford still believes Kissinger has "an inner sense of strategy that can put all this back together in the next year or 18 months."

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