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Diplomat Henry Kissinger was U.S. secretary of state under Richard Nixon, winning the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for the Vietnam War accords.
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On January 27, 1973, Kissinger and his North Vietnamese negotiating partner Le Duc Tho finally signed a ceasefire agreement to end direct American involvement in the conflict. Both men were honored with the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize, although Duc declined, leaving Kissinger the sole recipient of the award. Nevertheless, Kissinger's handling of the Vietnam War was highly controversial. His "peace with honor" strategy prolonged the war for four years,
from 1969-73, during which 22,000 American troops and countless Vietnamese died. Furthermore, he initiated a secret bombing campaign in Cambodia that ravaged the country and helped the genocidal Khmer Rouge take power there.
In addition to ending the Vietnam War, Kissinger also accomplished a host of other foreign policy achievements. In 1971, Kissinger made two secret trips to the People's Republic of China, paving the way for President Nixon's historic visit in 1972 and the normalization of Chinese-American relations in 1979. Kissinger was also instrumental in bringing about the early 1970s détente between the United States and the Soviet Union. In 1972, he negotiated the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, helping to ease tensions between the two Cold War superpowers. When détente was threatened by the October 1973 Yom Kippur War between Israel, an American ally, and Egypt, a Soviet ally, Kissinger proved crucial in leading diplomatic efforts to prevent the war from escalating into a global confrontation. Kissinger stepped down as secretary of state at the conclusion of the Ford administration in 1977.
Since, then Kissinger has continued to play a major role in American foreign policy. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan appointed him to chair the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America, and from 1984-90, under Presidents Reagan and Bush, he served on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Kissinger founded the international consulting firm Kissinger Associates in 1982, and he serves as a board member and trustee to numerous companies and foundations. Kissinger has authored several books and countless articles on American foreign policy and diplomatic history.
Henry Kissinger stands out as the dominant American statesman and foreign policymaker of the late 20th century. With his intellectual prowess and tough, skillful negotiating style, Kissinger ended the Vietnam War and greatly improved American relations with its two primary Cold War enemies, China and the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, Kissinger's ruthlessly pragmatic, sometimes Machiavellian tactics have earned him as many critics as admirers. The writer Christopher Hitchens, for example, has castigated Kissinger for bombing Cambodia, endorsing the Indonesian occupation of East Timor and orchestrating the overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende. Regardless of whether they praise or despise him, commentators agree that the current international order is the product of Kissinger's policies.
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When Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel died in 1896, he left his fortune to create an annual series of prizes for the individuals who confer "the greatest benefit on mankind." The most prestigious of the awards is the Nobel Peace Prize. Historians believe Alfred Nobel wanted to award people who work for peace to compensate for his own role in inventing dynamite. Since its establishment, the prize has gone to many courageous individuals who have fought for peace and human rights around the world.
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