Unlike many Americans, who thought the role of Dr. Strangelove in the 1964 movie was based on Henry Kissinger, I always thought the role of Dr. Strangelove was based on Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb. It turns out we were both wrong, but the truth is even scarier.
Dr. Strangelove premiered just over 50 years ago.
The following two sections are exerpted from the Wikipedia article on the movie.
So much for fiction. For the real Henry Kissinger talking about nuclear deterrence watch this video of an interview he did with Mike Wallace in 1958. And finally, just to show that there is a connection between this part of our story and Diplomacy, let me end with this note. I asked a number of people in the hobby who they thought the character of Dr. Strangelove in the movie was based on. One of the first responses came from Edi Birsan. He said it was Henry Kissinger. Shortly thereafter Martin Burgdorf came up with the correct answer, Wernher von Braun. That prompted the following response from Edi, “I sit corrected.”
Henry Kissinger Today
Henry Kissinger may be 91 but he isn’t letting any grass grow under his feet.
Last October 22 he was at The Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, CA (4600 miles RT) promoting his new book before a crowd of hundreds that paid $600 for an individual seat and $10,000 for a table of eight. The ninety-four students got in free.
Last October 29… In Moscow to receive an honorary Ph.D. (9800 miles RT) from the Russian Foreign Minister. President Vladimir Putin dropped by to say hello.
Last Nov 1… in Toronto for the International Economic Forum of the Americas, (700 miles RT) where he collected one of his bigger speaking fees of the year, I’m sure.
His agency only advises his fees run $50K and up, depending on the event and audience size.
11/7 Kissinger at Harvard (400 miles RT)
Unlike his previous, off campus visit to Harvard last year, this year Kissinger visited the Harvard Law School where he was in a more controllable environment, interviewed by a former student and now Harvard Professor Graham Allison, and seen by a mostly friendly student. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of the scores of Chinese students at Harvard were there to hear him talk about his meeting with Mao in the 1970s? One interesting diplomatic note I spotted was that during his appearance at Harvard he was addressed as either “Doctor” or “Secretary,” not as “Professor.”
11/13 Interview with Der Spiegel
Note that Dr. Kissinger conducted the interview with Spiegel in English, not German, even though he does understand it and reads Spiegel each week in German. Why? It gives him extra time to think about his responses. Of course, he had ample opportunity to edit and expand his remarks I’m sure.
Last November 22… In Kent, CT to sign copies of his book
There are several You Tube and online reports on Kissinger’s appearance in November at the local library near his country home where he signed several hundred copies of his book for his fans and/or neighbors.
All that in just a month! It’s amazingly efficient, productive and profitable; just like any international conglomerate only this one happens to be a 91 year old man.
How do you describe HAK?
Brilliant, controversial, intellectual, egotistical, verbose, focused, a man aware of his own self-importance, (Sounds like a good Dipper, right?), vilified, unique (?), Yes, he probably is because of the way these various elements are combined in their different amounts. Add “used”: HAK knows how to use people and he can be ruthless in doing so. He also knows how to be used and can play a “lap dog” with the best of them. Nixon was differential to those he felt inferior to (e.g. Kissinger at times, other times not so much.). HAK was differential to those he felt less powerful than (e.g. Nixon at times, other times no so much — the two understood each other so well and realized how much they needed each other). The first question you need to ask is: Which HAK are we talking about: The Student, the Academic, the Advisor, the Diplomat, the global consultant, the Elder Statesman, the public figure or the private person? As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Shakespeare would have had a field day with Kissinger and Nixon, just as he did with Otello. So would Peter Sellers who played three roles in Dr. Strangelove, but avoided the fourth role he was supposed to play because he was either sick or felt he couldn’t master the accent it required. Hmmmm.
dip&Dip, HAK & ABC…
The world met Dr. Henry Kissinger, although it didn’t know it then, in 1964 when Stanley Kubrick made a movie called “Dr. Strangelove:
Peter Sellers (died in 1980) played Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Note how I keep coming back to Dr. Strangelove when writing about Kissinger. It’s hard not to.
I met HAK for the first time in 1970 in Washington DC when he was still relatively unknown and Nixon’s National Security Advisor, and then again in 2001 in Washington DC when I was there for a meeting with Madeleine Albright and Jamie Young.
I met Allan B. Calhamer for the first time in 1972 in Chicago at DipCon V, again at WDC I in England in 1988, and in Baltimore at DipXXXIII in 2000. It was in Chicago that I met the man who invented Diplomacy. It was in London that got to know him as a person. And it was in Baltimore that I got to know him as a friend. HAK has always fascinated me. People love him, hate him, or are obsessed by him but rarely are neutral in their feelings about him and his policies. ABC’s passing last year reminded me that we are all, indeed, mortal. As I wrote an obituary for him and spoke about him in Paris I realized that a major chapter in my life was coming to a close.
Now I later wondered, was it time while there still was time for another meeting with HAK?
How do you get up close and personal with an icon that happens to be a legend?
After you get past the building door man, concierge or the mail room clerk, you have to get past the receptionist, the secretary, the personal assistant, the first security check, the personal secretary/aide, the personal security personnel, the first dog, the “maid”, then Nancy’s poodle, then Nancy, and then HAK’s various personal security systems and his senses (Hearing, Eyes, Touch, Taste, Speech , and then you might get preliminary access. That could be in the form of a written letter, email, phone, video, etc. and all manner of high-tech stuff, although HAK clearly prefers traditional forms of communication. For a face-to-face meeting it might be in: the reception room and/or office at Kissinger Associates on Park Ave.; second, a restaurant (Le Perigord, just around the corner from River House is a favorite. Expect lunch for two to cost at least $200.); third, if he feels comfortable with you, at the River House co-op in one of the reception rooms or his home office (complete with a bolt hole I’m told); and fourth,; rarely, to the 50 acre farm in South Kent, KT, an hour’s drive north of Manhattan. On the other hand, if you got past the lobby desk and on the elevator above the 10th floor and Nancy’s poodle recognized you, you were in like Flynn. (reference to Errol Flynn’s sexual exploits.)
Other spots often used for interviews are the Waldorf Astoria (as a former secretary of state he has use of the official suite reserved for the President, Secretary of State or Ambassador to the UN on a space available basis) and the Council on Foreign Relations offices just down the avenue.
Staging the interview
Would he agree to it? Could it be arranged and how would the details be worked out? And what would it be about and what purpose would it serve. (What kind of interview? Live video, oral (recorded FTF or by phone), written (with talking points, prior questions, right to edit….) How much time? How many questions?
As I researched the stories you can read in this issue of TDP and in the new issue of DW, I began to make my idea a reality. I realized that if I really wanted to show Kissinger up close and personal I had to rely on more than his words. I had to reach other to those who knew him and even those who didn’t.
What you read here is what resulted. It’s a combination of fact and fiction: the truth, near truth, BS, white lies, and deep, dark secrets. I tried phone call, letter, email, intermediaries, etc. but I found, surprisingly, that the direct approach worked best. When I learned that he would be in Yorba Linda to speak at the Nixon Library….I knew that that was where it would happen if it were to happen at all. The next best choice would have been at the Kent Library book signing, but I wasn’t up to that. My last choice was a phone interview, but I really wanted a chance to see his responses, especially in his eyes.
I’ve tried to divide my questions into neat little groups, but obviously some could be placed in a variety of categories.
Retrospective, reminiscences, Legacy ; that’s what he’s worried about. He wants to be remembered as a senior statesman, not a diplomat, comparable to Chou En-lai of China and Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore — ALWAYS remembering that he was his master’s servant (with Nixon, not so much with Ford more so) not his own agent.
FYI: The mechanics:
Words of HAK are either from answers provided to our questions, his writings, or answers he gave to similar questions I found online, etc. Words that HAK might have said are taken from secondary sources.Questions of MB or LP are either their own or occasionally a combination. In some cases the answers came first and we tried to create the question that might have generated the response.
It’s hard to imagine two things:
The Best Kept Kissinger Secret
Walter Kissinger, Henry’s younger brother, raises Arabians on a 230 acre ranch near Colorado Springs, CA. I found this ironic since his brother is often referred to as “a man on horseback.”
"Henry's more of a spectator, he loves watching sports, while Walter can't sit still, he has to participate," Genie Kissinger said.
"You know, he's never been here," Walter Kissinger said. "He thinks I'm crazy.”
I went through nearly a hundred HAK quotations and found that an amusing but not particularly informative effort. Unfortunately the amount of data yielded would have tripled the size of this article so I decided to forego publishing it. If you’re seriously interested , contact me.
My favorite Kissinger Interview
I looked at dozens of interviews with Henry Kissinger dating back to the 1950s, mostly by news reporters looking for a story, but my favorite interview was an oral history interview done by telephone after Henry and Nancy visited the Harry Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Mo. You can read it here:
Note his question about being record and use of precise language….This item is particularly recommended for anyone doing an Oral History project (e.g. interviews by phone, etc.)
If you look closely at HAK you’ll see a little bit of every Dipper in him. Examples.
My personal favorite HAK quote:
“Sometimes the best answer to a question is …[silence].”
What I learned in all this was really quite simple: If you look closely at HAK you’ll see a little bit of every Dipper in him. I leave it to you to find your own specific examples.
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