Opinion | Henry Kissinger and the 20th-Century World

Opinion | Henry Kissinger and the 20th-Century World

To the Editor:

Re “Henry A. Kissinger, 1923-2023: Refugee From Nazis, He Shaped World History” (obituary, front page, Dec. 1):

Henry Kissinger was one of the most powerful political figures in the world from 1969 to 1977. He served as the national security adviser and secretary of state under President Richard M. Nixon and later President Gerald R. Ford.

President Nixon and Mr. Kissinger extended the war in Vietnam, concocted a “secret plan” to end the war and carpet-bombed Cambodia and Laos — a strategy that failed miserably and led to a devastating death toll among innocent noncombatants.

Mr. Kissinger is also fairly blamed for encouraging those responsible for the death of a democratically elected socialist president in Chile, Salvador Allende, in a military coup in 1973. For Mr. Kissinger, the ends, however morally horrific, justified the means if they supported his philosophy and political views.

Many of us Vietnam veterans (I served in 1967-68) blamed Mr. Kissinger and President Nixon for the increase in the deaths of American soldiers from 1969 until the end of the war. Nixon and Mr. Kissinger sabotaged President Lyndon B. Johnson’s planned peace conference with North Vietnam before Johnson left office.

I don’t think it’s unfair to call Henry Kissinger an unscrupulous, Machiavellian puppet master who valued power and celebrity over human life.

Michael J. Gorman

To the Editor:

Henry Kissinger’s story is a remarkable one, reflective of the most perilous era of American foreign policy. It’s difficult to think of Mr. Kissinger and not feel anger for all the atrocities in Cambodia, modern-day Bangladesh, Chile and so many other nations.

Yet, as someone born after the end of the Cold War, I admittedly find it difficult to imagine how unprecedented and precarious global affairs were during his tenure in office.

Mr. Kissinger’s “realpolitik” strategy for foreign policy was not necessarily the best option, but a safe and effective one for the United States, at least. However, by ignoring regional issues and treating nations only as means to further U.S. interests, Mr. Kissinger’s Machiavellian approach has done much to alienate the U.S. on the global stage and sow distrust among would-be allies in the Global South.

Undoubtedly, he will continue to be a monumental figure in Cold War history despite all the atrocities, but one who should be praised and memorialized with extreme caution.

Aaryan Kumar

To the Editor:

In the film “Golda,” Henry Kissinger says to Golda Meir, “You must remember that first I am an American, second I am secretary of state, and third I am a Jew.” Golda replies, “Henry, you forget that in Israel we read from right to left.”

Mr. Kissinger did some good things, some bad, but it was thanks to his agreement with Leonid Brezhnev on the emigration of Soviet Jews (in the early stages of détente) that my family was able to get an exit visa. So, in a way, I’m here thanks to old Henry. Thanks, old man. Rest in peace.

Nina Kossman

To the Editor:

Re “Israelis Saw Plan for Hamas Attack Over a Year Ago” (front page, Dec. 1):

The very notion that Israeli officials obtained Hamas’s battle plan for the barbaric Oct. 7 terrorist attack more than a year before it happened is as nauseating as it is infuriating. That Israeli officials ignored or simply dismissed the blueprint for the attack as aspirational, or too difficult for Hamas to carry out, is a portrait of reckless arrogance and neglect.

This stunning revelation also further enhances the theory that in the months leading up to the attack, Israel’s highest-ranking officials, most especially its self-serving prime minister, were dangerously distracted by the country’s internal judicial crisis and the titanic threat it posed to Israeli democracy.

What an epic failure and a troubling and horrible reality check for the people of Israel, and for that matter the entire world.

Cody Lyon

To the Editor:

Re “The Big #MeToo Moment for Doctors Is Finally Here,” by Helen Ouyang (Opinion guest essay, nytimes.com, Nov. 20):

Dr. Ouyang writes about sexual exploitation of patients by physicians. She was horrified to learn of the pervasiveness of this misconduct. Sadly, it is not a new problem, but rather one that has been addressed for more than 40 years by those of us who treat victims of violence.

In 1982, as chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Committee on Women, I led a team that documented the national prevalence of sexual abuse by psychiatrists (7 percent of male and 3 percent of female respondents acknowledged sex with their own patients), with 88 percent of cases involving male psychiatrists and female patients. Many abusers were involved with more than one patient.

I conducted another national survey of surgeons, family practitioners, internists and obstetrician-gynecologists asking about sexual contact with their own patients. Nine percent of all respondents indicated that they had been sexually involved with one or more patients. Our data led to ethics codes prohibiting physician sexual misconduct, and licensing board censure of offenders.

Yet despite our efforts, medical school curriculums are largely deficient in educating about power abuse and sexual exploitation. How many public scandals will it take to galvanize the changes in medical school ethics curriculums that we have been advocating since the early 1980s?

Nanette Gartrell
San Francisco
The writer is a retired psychiatrist who was on the faculties of Harvard Medical School and the University of California, San Francisco.

To the Editor:

It is a relief to read that health care institutions are finally taking actions to protect their No. 1 constituents: the patients.

Small comfort there, though: They do so only after decades of pressure and, finally, costly litigation that is certainly being passed on to consumers via increased costs of care.

It didn’t have to be this way.

Kate Thurston Tardif
Naples, Fla.

To the Editor:

Re “5 Takeaways From the DeSantis-Newsom Debate” (nytimes.com, Nov. 30), about a Fox News debate between Gov. Ron DeSantis and Gov. Gavin Newsom:

I squirmed through the first 15 minutes of what was a fair replication of a schoolyard name-calling contest. What a demeaning experience for both of the participants, allowing themselves to be turned into TV caricatures of politicians, thereby foreclosing all possibility of ever imagining either of them as a serious statesman.

Lawrence Weisman
Westport, Conn.

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