100 Quotes by Henry Kissinger

Henry Kissinger, a prominent statesman and diplomat, played a pivotal role in shaping U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War era. Serving as National Security Advisor and later as Secretary of State, Kissinger was a key architect of the policy of détente with the Soviet Union, working to ease tensions between the two superpowers. His strategic approach to international relations, often referred to as realpolitik, emphasized a balance of power and pragmatic negotiation. While his achievements included significant diplomatic breakthroughs, such as opening relations with China, Kissinger's tenure was also marred by controversy, particularly related to his involvement in the Vietnam War and alleged human rights violations. Nevertheless, his legacy as a shrewd and influential statesman remains, sparking debates about the ethical complexities of foreign policy decision-making and the delicate balance between realpolitik and moral considerations.

Henry Kissinger Quotes

If you do not know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere

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Accept everything about yourself - I mean everything, You are you and that is the beginning and the end - no apologies, no regrets.

Who controls the food supply controls the people; who controls the energy can control whole continents; who controls money can control the world.

Military men are just dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.

Depopulation should be the highest priority of foreign policy towards the third world, because the US economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less developed countries

Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.

Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people.

World population needs to be decreased by 50%

Democracy is too important to leave up to the votes of the people.

It is one of history's ironies that Communism, advertised as a classless society, tended to breed a privileged class of feudal proportions.

I can think of no faster way to unite the American people behind George W. Bush than a terrorist attack on an American target overseas. And I believe George W. Bush will quickly unite the American people through his foreign policy.

It is not a matter of what is true that counts, but a matter of what is perceived to be true.

America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.

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Oil is much too important a commodity to be left in the hands of the Arabs.

Diplomacy: the art of restraining power.

NAFTA represents the single most creative step towards a New World Order.

[The New World Order] cannot happen without U.S. participation, as we are the most significant single component. Yes, there will be a New World Order, and it will force the United States to change it's perceptions.

No one will ever win the battle of the sexes; there's too much fraternizing with the enemy.

To be an enemy of America can be dangerous, but to be a friend is fatal

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The enemies you make by taking a decided stand generally have more respect for you than the friends you make by being on the fence

The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been. The public does not fully understand the world into which it is going. Leaders must invoke an alchemy of great vision. Those leaders who do not are ultimately judged failures, even though they may be popular at the moment.

There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.

Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

It is, after all, the responsibility of the expert to operate the familiar and that of the leader to transcend it.

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The conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerrilla wins if he does not lose.

For any student of history, change is the law of life. Any attempt to contain it guarantees an explosion down the road; the more rigid the adherence to the status quo, the more violent the ultimate outcome will be.

A leader does not deserve the name unless he is willing occasionally to stand alone.

In the end, peace can be achieved only by hegemony or by balance of power.

For other nations, utopia is a blessed past never to be recovered; for Americans it is just beyond the horizon.

In 10 years, there will be no more Israel.

Art is man's expression of his joy in labor.

The elderly are useless eaters.

The one thing man fears is the unknown. When presented with this scenario, individual rights will be willingly relinquished for the guarantee of their well-being granted to them by a World Government, a New World Order.

A diamond is a chunk of coal that is made good under pressure.

The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously.

You can't make war in the Middle East without Egypt and you can't make peace without Syria.

The US must carry out some act somewhere in the world which shows its determination to continue to be a world power.

No foreign policy - no matter how ingenious - has any chance of success if it is born in the minds of a few and carried in the hearts of none.

Superstars strive for approbation; heroes walk alone. Superstars crave consensus; heroes define themselves by the judgment of a future they see it as their task to bring about. Superstars seek success in a technique for eliciting support; heroes pursue success as the outgrowth of inner values.

The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer.

University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.

The Israelis want security. The Arabs want dignity. And they consider the demands of each other as incompatible.

The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.

Each success only buys an admission ticket to a more difficult problem.

Clearly security without values is like a ship without a rudder. But values without security are like a rudder without a ship.

Leaders are responsible not for running public opinion polls but for the consequences of their actions.

Nothing is more urgent than a serious, dare I say compassionate, debate as to where we are going at home and abroad. Technicians cannot master revolutions; every great achievement was an idea before it became a reality. Cathedrals cannot be built by those who are paralyzed by doubt or consumed by cynicism. If a society loses the capacity for great conception, it can be administered but not governed.

I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.

The nice thing about being a celebrity is that, if you bore people, they think it's their fault.

Let us fashion together a new world order.

Don't be too ambitious. Do the most important thing you can think of doing every year and then your career will take care of itself.

High office teaches decision making, not substance. It consumes intellectual capital; it does not create it. Most high officials leave office with the perceptions and insights with which they entered; they learn how to make decisions but not what decisions to make.

The art of good foreign policy is to understand and to take into consideration the values of a society, to realize them at the outer limit of the possible.

If peace is equated simply with the absence of war, it can become abject pacifism that turns the world over to the most ruthless.

Would food be considered an instrument of national power? ... Is the U.S. prepared to accept food rationing to help people who can't/won't control their population growth?

In crises the most daring course is often safest.

Leaders must invoke an alchemy of great vision.

The test of policy is how it ends, not how it begins. Foreign policy is the art of establishing priorities. Demonization is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one. The test is not absolute satisfaction but balanced dissatisfaction.

Does anyone have any questions for my answers?

You become a superpower by being strong but also by being wise and by being farsighted. But no state is strong or wise enough to create a world order alone.

A return to the 1967 lines and the abandonment of the settlements near Jerusalem would be such a psychological trauma for Israel as to endanger its survival.

You should not go to war for the privilege of withdrawal. You need to define your objective and the outcome, and it cannot be the removal of one man.

People think responsibility is hard to bear. It's not. I think that sometimes it is the absence of responsibility that is harder to bear. You have a great feeling of impotence.

I've often said that the desire to lecture China on how it should behave in the world is wrong. China was around for thousands of years even before America existed. It could even be that China's growing power will allow itself to be slowed down. But as long as this immense empire doesn't fall apart, it will become an important factor in global politics.

The Chinese military budget today is officially listed as, I think, about $15 billion. But even if you double it, that's only a tenth of ours. So the possibility of China challenging the United States for the next ten years over the Pacific is next to zero. There could be a conflict between us and China over Taiwan, but I think that, too, will not occur with the proper policies on both sides.

Donald Trump is a phenomenon that foreign countries haven't seen.

What we in America call terrorists are really groups of people that reject the international system

Every civilization that has ever existed has ultimately collapsed.

Access to natural resources can become a question of survival for many states.

In a diplomatic negotiation, you always meet the same the other side all the time. Even if you should succeed in outsmarting him or in pressuring him, it only sets up a cycle in which he will try to get even.

If we do what is necessary, all the odds are in our favor.

It is an act of insanity and national humiliation to have a law prohibiting the President from ordering assassination.

The longer I am out of office, the more infallible I appear to myself.

The security of Israel is a moral imperative for all free peoples.

A leader who confines his role to his people's experience dooms himself to stagnation; a leader who outstrips his people's experience runs the risk of not being understood.

If you control the food, you control a nation. If you control the energy, you control a region. If you control the money, you control the world.

An expert is someone who articulates the needs of those in power.

There are some people who think that at some time in the future, China may challenge us for supremacy in the Pacific, and therefore, what do we do today to prevent that? And you, of course, will say that we will try to thwart any economic progress in China. If we engaged in such a policy, we would turn a billion-plus people into nationalist opponents of the United States.

Statesman create; ordinary leaders consume. The ordinary leader is satisfied with ameliorating the environment, not transforming it; a statesman must be a visionary and an educator.

If it's going to come out eventually, better have it come out immediately.

Even a paranoid can have enemies.

To have striven so hard, to have molded a public personality out of so amorphous an identity, to have sustained that superhuman effort only to end with every weakness disclosed and every error compounding the downfall--that was a fate of biblical proportions. Evidently the Deity would not tolerate the presumption that all can be manipulated; an object lesson of the limits of human presumption was necessary.

No country can act wisely simultaneously in every part of the globe at every moment of time.

The true conservative is not at home in social struggle. He will attempt to avoid unbridgeable schism, because he knows that a stable social structure thrives not on triumphs but on reconciliations.

The superpowers often behave like two heavily armed blind men feeling their way around a room, each believing himself in mortal peril from the other, whom he assumes to have perfect vision.

The emergence of a unified Europe is one of the most revolutionary events of our time.

We fought a military war; our opponents fought a political one. We sought physical attrition; our opponents aimed for our psychological exhaustion. In the process we lost sight of one of the cardinal maxims of guerrilla war: the guerrilla wins if he does not lose. The conventional army loses if it does not win. The North Vietnamese used their armed forces the way a bull-fighter uses his cape to keep us lunging in areas of marginal political importance.

A bluff taken seriously is more useful than a serious threat interpreted as a bluff.

In my life, I have almost always been on the side of active foreign policy. But you need to know with whom you are cooperating. You need reliable partners.

For the West, the demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one. Putin is a serious strategist – on the premises of Russian history. Understanding US values and psychology are not his strong suits. Nor has understanding Russian history and psychology been a strong point among US policymakers.’

I don't stand on protocol. Just call me your Excellency.

In his essay, ‘Perpetual Peace,’ the philosopher, Immanuel Kant, argued that perpetual peace would eventually come to the world in one of two ways, by human insight or by conflicts and catastrophes of a magnitude that left humanity no other choice. We are at such a juncture.

The real distinction is between those who adapt their purposes to reality and those who seek to mold reality in the light of their purposes.

Americans believe that you can alter people by conversion, and that everybody in the world is a potential American. The Chinese also believe that their values are universal, but they do not believe that you can convert to becoming a Chinese unless you are born into it.

The statesman's duty is to bridge the gap between his nation's experience and his vision.

While we should never give up our principles, we must also realize that we cannot maintain our principles unless we survive.

Whatever must happen ultimately should happen immediately.

If eighty percent of your sales come from twenty percent of all of your items, just carry those twenty percent.

What China would do, I cannot predict. China has all but given up the claim to the use of force, except in the circumstance of Taiwan declaring its independence. That is a huge step forward over what the situation was many years ago.

The reason prophets are so rarely honored in their own country is that their role is to transcend the limits of their contemporaries' experience and imagination. They achieve recognition only when their vision has been turned into experience - in short, when it is too late to benefit from their foresight.

We cannot give Russia veto over deployment of forces on NATO territory. But we have to understand their particular sensitivities, and, therefore, there should be a dialogue on these issues.

Intelligence is not all that important in the exercise of power, and is often, in point of fact, useless.

If you control the oil you control the country; if you control food, you control the population.

Peace depends ultimately not on political arrangements but on the conscience of mankind.

China is a country with a record of continuous self-government going back 4,000 years, the only society that has achieved this. One must start with the assumption that they must have learnt something about the requirements for survival, and it is not always to be assumed that we know it better than they do.

The superpowers often behave like two heavily armed blind men feeling their way around a room, each believing himself in mortal peril from the other, whom he assumes to have perfect vision. Each side should know that frequently uncertainty, compromise, and incoherence are the essence of policymaking. Yet each tends to ascribe to the other a consistency, foresight, and coherence that its own experience belies. Of course, over time, even two armed blind men can do enormous damage to each other, not to speak of the room.

Covert action should not be confused with missionary work.

Now when I bore people at a party they think it's their fault.

Revolutionaries are rarely motivated primarily by material considerations-though the illusion that they are persists in the West.

Intellectuals are cynical and cynics have never built a cathedral.

The key decision for a statesman is whether to commit his nation or not. There is no middle course. Once a great nation commits itself, it must prevail. It will acquire no kudos for translating its inner doubts into hesitation.

Every civilization that has ever existed has ultimately collapsed. History is a tale of efforts that failed, or aspirations that weren’t realized. So, as a historian, one has to live with a sense of the inevitability of tragedy.

The issues are too important to be left for the voters.

Over time even two armed blind men in a room can do enormous damage to each other, not to speak of the room.

There is no realism without an element of idealism.

Far too often the Ukrainian issue is posed as a showdown: whether Ukraine joins the East or the West. But if Ukraine is to survive and thrive, it must not be either side's outpost against the other - it should function as a bridge between them.

An Iranian moderate is one who has run out of ammunition.

I believe in freedom of expression, and I believe that societies thrive when they permit freedom of expression.

Every success is usually an admission ticket to a new set of decisions.

Countries do not assume burdens because it is fair, only because it is necessary.

One theory is that we will make war look so attractive that we undermine the deterrent. That's Never Never Land. What we have now would have been enough to deter Hitler. But we are talking in a different order of reality.

It is barely conceivable that there are people who like war.

Behind the slogans lay an intellectual vacuum.

History is not, of course, a cookbook offering pretested recipes. It teaches by analogy, not by maxims. It can illuminate the consequences of actions in comparable situations, yet each generation must discover for itself what situations are in fact comparable.

90% of politicians give the other 10% a bad name.

A little uncertainty is good for everyone.

The Western concept of democracy is based on the idea that the loser of an election has the possibility next time round of being the winner. But in the case of an ethnically or religiously divided country, in which minorities don't live peacefully together, this necessary balance can't be properly guaranteed by democracy. When each ethnic group arms itself, it is not surprising that the army of a new state is viewed by part of the population as an ideological militia.

Committees are consumers and sometimes sterilizers of ideas, rarely creators of them.

It is not often that nations learn from the past, even rarer that they draw the correct conclusions from it.

University politics make me long for the simplicity of the Middle East.

I believe that there is a whole set of issues in the world - environment, proliferation, energy, cyberspace - that can only be dealt with on a global basis. The traditional patterns of national rivalry and national competition are not suitable for those cases.

I believe it is a mistake to isolate arms control from other areas of policy.

The history of things that didn't happen has never been written.

Realism in foreign policy means careful consideration of all aspects pertinent to the issue, before taking a decision. This is the only way you can move from where you are to someplace else.

The British capitalize on their accent when they don't want you to know what they're saying. But if you wake them up at 4 A.M., they speak perfect English, the same as we do.

― Henry Kissinger Quotes

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Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.

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