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SATURDAY, June 10, 2023
American powerhouse diplomat and Nobel laureate Henry Kissinger turns 100

American powerhouse diplomat and Nobel laureate Henry Kissinger turns 100

FRIDAY, May 26, 2023

This week, American diplomatic powerhouse and polarizing political force Henry Kissinger celebrates his centennial birthday.

Regarded by many as a brilliant geopolitical strategist and considered by others a war criminal, Kissinger has remained a leading voice on US foreign policy since serving Republican Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford in the 1970s. He will turn 100 on May 27.

Heinz Alfred Kissinger was born in Furth, Germany in 1923, and moved to the United States with his family in 1938 before the Nazi campaign to exterminate European Jews.

Anglicizing his name to Henry, Kissinger became a naturalized US citizen in 1943, served in the Army in Europe in World War Two, and went to Harvard University on scholarship, earning a master's degree in 1952 and a doctorate in 1954. He was on Harvard's faculty for the next 17 years.

In the 1970s, he had a hand in many of the epoch-changing global events of the decade while serving as secretary of state under Nixon and Ford. The German-born Jewish refugee's efforts led to the diplomatic opening of China, landmark US-Soviet arms control talks, expanded ties between Israel and its Arab neighbours, and the Paris Peace Accord with North Vietnam.

But Kissinger's reign as the prime architect of US foreign policy waned with Nixon's resignation in 1974. Still, he continued to be a diplomatic force under Ford and offered strong opinions throughout the rest of his life.

Secrecy was a Kissinger hallmark, as when he negotiated on behalf of Nixon to open China to the West in 1971 without telling George H.W. Bush, who was then Washington's ambassador to the United Nations.

While many hailed Kissinger for his brilliance and broad experience, some opponents branded him a war criminal for his support for anti-communist dictatorships, especially in Latin America. In his later years, his travels were circumscribed by efforts by other nations to arrest or question him about past US foreign policy.

His 1973 Peace Prize - awarded jointly to North Vietnam's Le Duc Tho, who would decline it - was one of the most controversial ever. Two members of the Nobel committee resigned over the selection and questions arose about the US secret bombing of Cambodia.

Kissinger has been active in his 90s, attending meetings in the White House, publishing a book on leadership styles, and testifying before a Senate committee about the nuclear threat posed by North Korea. He also founded a consulting firm and held academic positions.