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Familiar Bedfellows

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Hillary and Henry sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G-E-R!

It says a lot about former secretary of state and presumed presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton that she’s a member of the Henry Kissinger Fan Club. Progressives who despised George W. Bush might want to examine any warm, fuzzy feelings they harbor for Clinton.

She has made no effort to hide her admiration for Kissinger and his geopolitical views. Now she lays it all out clearly in a Washington Post review of his latest book, World Order.

Clinton acknowledges differences with Kissinger, but apparently these do not keep her from saying that “his analysis … largely fits with the broad strategy behind the Obama administration’s effort over the past six years to build a global architecture of security and cooperation for the 21st century.”

Beware of politicians and courtiers who issue solemn declarations about building global architectures. To them the rest of us are mere “pieces upon a chess-board.” Security and cooperation are always the announced ends, yet the ostensible beneficiaries usually come to grief. Look where such poseurs have been most active: the Middle East, North Africa, Ukraine. As they say about lawyers, if we didn’t have so-called statesmen, we wouldn’t need them.

If I didn’t know better, I’d suspect some pseudonymous writer of having fun with irony in this review. Behold:

President Obama explained the overarching challenge we faced in his Nobel lecture in December 2009. After World War II, he said, “America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace.…”

Keep the peace — if you don’t count the mass atrocity that was the Vietnam War, the U.S.-sponsored Israeli oppression of Palestinians, and various massacres carried out by U.S.-backed “leaders” in such places as Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan), East TimorChile, and elsewhere.

One Henry Kissinger had a hand in all these crimes, by the way. Strangely, Clinton doesn’t mention them. (See Christopher Hitchens’s devastating two-part indictment here and here, later turned into The Trial of Henry Kissinger.)

America, at its best, is a problem-​solving nation.

Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Libya are only the latest examples of problems America solved during Madam Secretary’s tenure, building on the glorious successes of George W. Bush’s team. Henry the K is no doubt flattered by the homage.

Kissinger is a friend, and I relied on his counsel when I served as secretary of state. He checked in with me regularly, sharing astute observations about foreign leaders and sending me written reports on his travels.

Now things make sense. That Hillary Clinton thought Kissinger — Henry Kissinger — a worthy advisor is something we should all know as 2016 looms.

What comes through clearly in this new book is a conviction that we, and President Obama, share: a belief in the indispensability of continued American leadership in service of a just and liberal order.

There really is no viable alternative. No other nation can bring together the necessary coalitions and provide the necessary capabilities to meet today’s complex global threats. But this leadership is not a birthright; it is a responsibility that must be assumed with determination and humility by each generation.

It takes chutzpah to write humility even remotely in connection with Kissinger. And if the U.S. empire is indispensable to justice and liberalism — and where are these, exactly? — we are in trouble. The record is not encouraging. Kissingerian “realism” creates global threats.

The things that make us who we are as a nation — our diverse and open society, our devotion to human rights and democratic values — give us a singular advantage in building a future in which the forces of freedom and cooperation prevail over those of division, dictatorship and destruction.

Devotion to human rights and democratic values — as shown in Egypt, where Clinton stuck by another friend, Hosni Mubarak, against a popular uprising. The woman has some friends!

“Any system of world order, to be sustainable, must be accepted as just — not only by leaders, but also by citizens,” he writes.

The suggestion that Kissinger cares what ordinary citizens anywhere think is ridiculous. What he cares about is states, which he puts in one of two categories: those that buckle under to the Indispensable Empire and those that do not.

Henry, er, Hillary in 2016? You might want to rethink that.

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    Sheldon Richman is former vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF's monthly journal, Future of Freedom. For 15 years he was editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York. He is the author of FFF's award-winning book Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families; Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax; and Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State. Calling for the abolition, not the reform, of public schooling. Separating School & State has become a landmark book in both libertarian and educational circles. In his column in the Financial Times, Michael Prowse wrote: "I recommend a subversive tract, Separating School & State by Sheldon Richman of the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank... . I also think that Mr. Richman is right to fear that state education undermines personal responsibility..." Sheldon's articles on economic policy, education, civil liberties, American history, foreign policy, and the Middle East have appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, American Scholar, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Washington Times, The American Conservative, Insight, Cato Policy Report, Journal of Economic Development, The Freeman, The World & I, Reason, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Middle East Policy, Liberty magazine, and other publications. He is a contributor to the The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. A former newspaper reporter and senior editor at the Cato Institute and the Institute for Humane Studies, Sheldon is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia. He blogs at Free Association. Send him e-mail.