Henry A. Kissinger and the Realpolitik Tradition in US Foreign Policy Cover Image

Henry A. Kissinger és a realista külpolitikai hagyományok
Henry A. Kissinger and the Realpolitik Tradition in US Foreign Policy

Author(s): Tamás Magyarics
Subject(s): History
Published by: AETAS Könyv- és Lapkiadó Egyesület

Summary/Abstract: Liberalism and, in international relations, liberal internationalism have been generally identified as ‘mainstream’ by the great majority of the students of U. S. history. However, the essay argues that a strong Realpolitik element has been present since the birth of the U. S. In fact, it contends that this Realpolitik element defined in essence U. S. foreign affairs, while the liberal factor has mostly been used on a rhetorical level. The culmination of this tendency came with the presidency of Richard N. Nixon, and the activities of his chief foreign policy advisor, Henry A. Kissinger. Kissinger’s thoughts were primarily shaped by such 19th century diplomats as Metternich, Castlereagh and Bismarck, while his more immediate spiritual ancestors were Morgenthau, Kennan and Niebuhr. The following questions in Kissinger’s philosophy are explored in some details: power and its use in international relations; the use of nuclear and conventional weapons in the nuclear age and the viability of contemporary American nuclear postures; détente and its rationale; the correlation between doctrines and capabilities; the balance among international actors and its implementation in the form of the ‘triangular policy’; and the role of the statesman. Mention is made of the liberal and conservative criticism of the Kissingerian concepts and Kissinger’s own criticism of Wilsonianism. The essay concludes that the ideas professed by Henry A. Kissinger can best be charaterized as ‘Wilsonianism plus’, in which the ‘plus’ means the Realpolitik element and true essence of his philosophy.

  • Issue Year: 2004
  • Issue No: 3-4
  • Page Range: 62-73
  • Page Count: 12
  • Language: Hungarian