World Order by Henry Kissinger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A birthday gift - I'd read and been quite impressed with Kissinger On China. Since it's somewhere in my blood that Kissinger is a war criminal, I didn't want to be. I'm even more so with this one, impressed I mean. Reading Kissinger on how the world works helps to understand how a man like that could make the decisions he did, and in some sense he causes me to recalibrate what I know so certainly in my bones: that he's a war criminal.
He's at least as smart as Oppenheimer was when he gave the command to detonate the first nuclear bomb. I'd thought that, as I was making my way through the book, and therefore wasn't so surprised when Kissinger deploys the quote, "I am become Death." He isn't referring to himself, but rather he's discussing the state of deployment of nuclear weaponry descending from the horror at its inception.
Imminent destruction seems built in to his narrative, since even he wouldn't be smart enough to know what to do given any particular disposition of leaders of other parts of the globe than the one we root in and for over here. Since I knew that he would ultimately enter the territory of high tech, it seemed certain that he might suggest that the surveillance state is essential and that we must stand ready to step in with deadly tricks when the world becomes that unbalanced, which seems to mean when radical Islam gets its fingers on the trigger. Spooks in the wings would, should and could ooze out and cuff the bastards.
But he doesn't. Having spoken at length with the likes of Eric Schmidt, chief adult Googler in charge still apparently, Kissinger actually gets a clue about technology in ways subtle and obscure. He knows what it's done to our political processes, and he knows what it does to our sense of self and belonging, and he knows what the broad implications are for units of political power, which may no longer be the nation-state (think tight groups of crazies informed by cartoonish amplified realities).
All power is asymmetrical now, and the forces of advertising efficiency assure that no two of us experience or even have available to us the information others might. It's all tailored. Kissinger gets this and contextualizes this better than anyone I've ever read on the topic. He finds the essential truths which we must all understand or perish. He is that confident – one might say smug – in the choices he has made to avoid more deaths than he has caused. Just as, I’m certain, his techno-mentor Eric Schmidt is smug and sure of his non-complicity in the erasure of the American mind. Once that securely embedded in the class which controls the narratives, guilt is a matter for nuance.
Given that I could read and comprehend everything he's written here, and given that I find the narrative compelling, it must be the historical equivalent of a cartoon. Smoothed, simplified, essentialized, and maybe even constructed as an apology for his own genius, Kissinger’s. I certainly don’t want to be caught in an impromptu debate with him.
Oppenheimer's genius was cartoonish too. He had to have convinced himself that in such close association with some new truth he had no choice but to approach it, even though it would be, for many others, too horrible to contemplate. He did it because he could. Because he had to know for certain. Because he was face to face with all the levers of power, and they were granted him as bona fides.
Kissinger does a step more noble. He lets us in on his thinking - gives the schematic - before he sets out to put it into action another time. Well, he's an old man, less certain of his actions. Retired and not about to be placed in any more button-pushing positions. What, collectively, should we would we have done had we known what could result from those equations behind the bomb? Certainly not just shut our eyes and minds and pray!
Kissinger the elder statesman. Consulted by wanna-be decision-makers from any and every side. His neutral stance is that of a Yale guest-speaker, push out the truth as far and wide as you can push it and the world will be a better place, now please let’s retire to cigars and whiskey of the sort which excludes the less exalted. Does he exercise such taste if Trump comes his way? He declares a certain fondness for Dubya . . .
The cautionary tale here is for you, dear reader, not to be taken in by the genius of those who control our narratives. Oppenheimer’s sin was temporal. He believed enough in the community of which he was part to do his part for the greater good. Later mostly vilified and disappeared as a voice of any further importance, once he did beg to differ.
Now certainties are amplified and hermetically sealed by overwhelm of information beyond which no subtlety exists. We are each and every one like some white supremacist outing his (it’s always his) views in public. Except the opposite, since white supremacists get noticed. Quiet goodness is celebrated only when it’s exceptional enough to create an Internet meme.
“I gave my waiter $500 for being such a nice guy” which is never enough to eject one from the labors to wait on others. And we are terrorized most by the true-believers who form an angry cellular mob out from which a child may sprout, strapped with bomb, and what happens when that becomes nuclear? The difference being that Henry would never blow himself up with his cause. Remember that cute little mute baldy in the comics? Telling his way out of all fixes.
Which brand of certainty do you prefer? By book’s close, Kissinger suggests that the security of objective truth is banished. The truing of history is a thing of the past. And thus Kissinger, like the Beatle’s nowhere man, sucks himself up his own tuba and becomes a Nobodaddy. As he was and ever shill be.
Which of us would trigger the bomb if asked to? We must raise our children to know that their mother would never have them do that. That God is not an angry white man. That indeed objective truth is banished from reality, and there is cause for celebration, for tomorrow we may yet die. Henry’s cause has never been objective truth. Henry’s cause is Henry. Picture him bald and naked and mute. Cute!
World Order is not a man’s to make. Drink up please, it’s time . . . Waiter!!
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