OSLO, Norway — Speaking to the Nobel Peace Prize Forum in Oslo, Norway, Henry Kissinger shared his hopes for the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump.
“Before postulating an inevitable crisis, an opportunity should be given to the new administration to put forward its vision of international order,” Kissinger said in the speech on Sunday.
Kissinger, whose career includes service as a diplomat, U.S. secretary of state, and national security advisor under multiple presidential administrations, acknowledged Trump’s unusual and divisive campaign:
“No doubt, the president-elect is a personality for whom there is no precedent in modern American history. And his campaign included rhetorical elements, challenging patterns heretofore considered traditional.”
Trump’s campaign was certainly nontraditional, leaving political pundits and pollsters continuously surprised at his success, right up to the moment Hillary Clinton conceded the election. He also frequently engaged in Islamophobic, sexist, and racist rhetoric that led Time magazine to declare him “president of the divided states of America” even while naming him Person of the Year last week.
Kissinger is himself a polarizing figure widely considered an unprosecuted war criminal by antiwar activists and even some foreign governments. As secretary of state under President Richard Nixon, Kissinger oversaw a brutal and illegal bombing campaign in Cambodia and was linked to Operation Condor, a plan to undermine the left in South America through political assassinations. In 1973, he was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with North Vietnamese leader Le Duc Tho for negotiating a short-lived ceasefire. Tho refused the prize, and two members of the Nobel Committee resigned in protest.
Omer Aziz examined some of Kissinger’s worst war crimes, from Bangladesh to East Timor, in an April 2015 analysis for Salon. Aziz, a writer and student at Yale Law School, concluded:
“The nameless victims of Henry Kissinger’s policies will never see justice. They will not be lavished with praise or given large contracts for consulting services or given ample space in major newspapers to correct the record. They will never see a courtroom.”
At the heart of Kissinger’s speech in Oslo was the idea that U.S. foreign policy has consistently supported peace and stability throughout the world and that Trump’s administration would be no different. He continued:
“Many of the contemporary structures of peace have had either American support or American origin. I hope and believe that in the decades ahead, the United States will continue to fulfill its history and tradition of building world peace.“
Kissinger has remained a key advisor to presidents from both parties, including Barack Obama, another controversial Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Under Obama, the United States has spread unrest throughout the Middle East through the use of armed drones. U.S. special forces can be found in almost every country on every continent. Trump stands to inherit a massive and expansive military apparatus that touches every part of the planet.
Although he made campaign promises to bring a halt to U.S. empire-building, Trump seems poised to continue America’s support for countless foreign military adventures and even expand the military’s control over the government. The president-elect is filling his Cabinet with retired generals and military figures. He’s picked retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as secretary of defense, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security advisor, and retired Marine Gen. John Kelly as secretary of homeland security.
Some political analysts are growing concerned that Trump is seeking to end civilian control over the military, or even setting the stage for a coup. Steve Saideman, a political scientist at Carleton University in Ottawa, suggested that Trump’s authoritarian rhetoric makes it vital to keep the power of his government in check.
Writing on Thursday in the blog Political Violence at a Glance, Saideman warned:
“In a time where authoritarian politics (threats towards journalists and protesters, etc.) are (increasingly) popular, we should put the U.S. military, active and retired, further away from the controls of the U.S. government, not closer.”
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