“The logic of war is power, and power has no inherent limit. The logic of peace is proportion, and proportion implies limitation,” wrote Henry Kissinger in a paragraph that defined the instincts that guided him in his most consequential decisions during and after his tenure as the most influential statesman and diplomat of the most powerful country in human history. Kissinger defied rhetorical hyperbole because his life itself could be one.

Heinz Alfred Kissinger was born in Bavaria amid the smoldering wreckage of the foolish, fratricidal old world in 1923, after the collapse of four globe-spanning empires and the near-bankruptcy of a fifth. Filmographic media first incorporated sound in the same year. The first electric shaver was invented that year, and the first traffic light warning signals were patented. The Irish Free State joined the League of Nations, and Turkey formally became a republic. Lee Kuan Yew was born that year. The British Empire was at its territorial peak, and the Mandate for Palestine came into effect, officially as a protectorate of Palestine and the Emirate of Transjordan. Vladimir Lenin suffered his third stroke that year, rendering him bedridden and mute. Calvin Coolidge was the president of a young country, still recognizably functioning as a republic as designed.

Intellectual mediocrities and simpletons have since debated Kissinger’s legacy, and often have dubbed him a war criminal in their ideology-addled brains. It is often easy to judge from an armchair with the benefit of hindsight, without considering the trade-offs and the burden of decisions affecting the lives of potentially millions—to question whether it was prudent to bomb Cambodia to demonstrate “resolve,” whether it was prudent to ignore Pakistani barbarism in Bangladesh and not balance a Soviet client state in India, whether it was prudent to support the toppling of socialism in Chile.

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