Jeffery Goldberg’s The Obama Doctrine
received a lot of attention when it was published in the spring. One of its highest profile critics was Henry Kissinger, the former Secretary of State and one of the most consequential statesmen of his time. The Atlantic released a follow up interview with Mr. Kissinger last week and it covered a variety of foreign policy topics from China to the Middle East.
One of Kissinger’s biggest issues with Obama is the credibility argument. Kissinger thought it was necessary to show force in order to force a diplomatic agreement (I’m really simplifying this argument here – it’s much more complex than this) while Obama famously said in the Goldberg article that it’s silly to bomb people for the sake of bombing people.
The most interesting part of the piece for me was Kissinger describing the philosophical differences we have with China. “Some Chinese strategists are in effect saying, “If we were in the American position, would we not at least consider preventing another country from reaching equality?” So that is a latent source of tension…The primary subject they want to discuss—philosophical in nature—is never raised, which is “If we were you, we might try to suppress our rise. Do you seek to suppress us? If you do not, what will the world look like when we are both strong, as we expect to be?” It makes sense for China to think like this. They are on the rise and rightfully paranoid that the U.S. might try to suppress them. Kissinger suggests that our diplomats are not having this discussion to reduce uncertainty, which is concerning and could potentially lead to conflict down the line.