Kissingers Approach To The World

In his approach to diplomacy, Kissinger has sought to challenge and recast the traditional American approach to the world. He believes that a more realistic, sober tradition that of European statecraft recommends itself to the United States, especially as it approaches the new century. To be sure, Kissinger does not believe that Americans will ever become Europeans. But he thinks that American optimism and naive about international relations should be leavened by the harsh experience of other men and times.Kissinger's approach to the world is based on the great European diplomatic tradition often referred to as "realpolitik" as it developed from the 17th to the 19th centuries. This tradition can be summed up in two ideas. All status quo nations benefit from this arrangement: they can check the pretensions of the most aggressive nation, and thereby achieve international stability and moderation.

Kissinger's pantheon of practitioners of balance-of power politics includes Cardinal Richelieu, William of Orange, Frederick the Great, Metternich, Castlereagh, and Bismarck. To be sure, Kissinger is not an unqualified admirer of realpolitik. He warns that European-style diplomacy tempts its practitioners toward overextension. Nations that pursue security through the acquisition of power can easily go too far. This dangerous tendency led to the tragedy of the First World War. Kissinger believes that the solution to overextension lies in seeking "an agreement on common values. The balance of power inhibits the capacity to overthrow the international order; agreement on shared values inhibits the desire to overthrow the international order." The American diplomatic tradition, as Kissinger sees it, is a rejection of raison d'etat in favor of a different standard of international relations. This standard, in Thomas Jefferson's words, is that there should be "but one system of ethics for men and for nations."