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February 3, 2023

The value of solidarity in Henry Kissinger’s interpretation

By Ioan Voicu

The topic announced in the title of this article would deserve detailed analyses justifying it  for some  recommendations to be addressed to  students registered for doctoral dissertations in international relations. It would require a careful critical reading of over twenty volumes signed or co-authored   by Henry Kissinger, the most prominent American scholar  in the field of diplomacy who celebrated 99 years in May 2022.

In reality, our article will be modestly  focused  on a  short but  attentive presentation of the modalities in which the value of solidarity is interpreted by Dr.  Henry  Kissinger in the volume entitled Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy , published in New York by Penguin Press in 2022. The volume has ‎ 528 pages and is dedicated to six leaders : Konrad Adenauer, Charles de Gaulle, Richard Nixon, Anwar Sadat, Lee Kuan Yew and Margaret Thatcher. The leaders are presented  in the light of   the circumstances of their dramatic historical period and as  architects of the postwar evolution of their societies and of  the development of international order.

Our  pages are limited only to three examples involving the role of solidarity  in the diplomatic conduct of France , Egypt and United Kingdom.

The first reference to solidarity  is related to the position of Charles de Gaulle in France. Kissinger depicts the situation as follows :” The French were living in a state of spiritual as well as material penury. Communism presented itself as the expression of solidarity with the downtrodden and a vessel of prestige by dint of its outsized representation in the ranks of the Resistance – as well as Stalin’s victories on the Eastern Front. De Gaulle therefore identified the government’s’ immediate task’ as the realization of, in his words, ‘reforms by which he could regroup allegiances, obtain worker support, and assure economic recovery’ – all salutary ends in themselves, and all having the secondary effect of preventing the Communist Party from seizing control of France”.

The next reference to solidarity is linked to Arab nationalism. The author is categorical on this link. He writes :” Nationalism, newly combined with a sense of Arab solidarity and fueled by a resentment of Britain’s ongoing interference, characterized the mindset of much of Egypt in the first half of the twentieth century. This was the milieu into which Anwar Sadat was born in December 1918″…. In 1967  the Six-Day War had illustrated to Sadat  the danger of placing pan-Arab solidarity above the national interest and desired Egypt’s full ‘initiation into the world system’. Anwar Sadat  had gravitated toward frameworks governed more by state sovereignty than by imperial hegemony or regional solidarity.

The value of solidarity is analyzed further in relation with the mandate of Margaret Thatcher’s singular achievement as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. According to Kissinger, in 1945, the UK had emerged from six years of total war “victorious but exhausted and bankrupt. Its postwar foreign relations were marked by a series of disappointments. Wartime solidarity with the United States was replaced by watching with some unease as Washington proceeded to supplant Britain’s global preeminence”. On assuming office,  Margaret Thatcher was determined to reassert the earlier theme of partnership with the US “which  was best exemplified by Anglo- American solidarity in the Second World War”. In a spirit of solidarity she was prepared to support American diplomatic efforts in the Cold War.

In another context , in a previous century, Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger  in a statement  made before the House International Relations Committee on 17 June 1976 declared : “Three years ago the United States called for a reaffirmation of European-American solidarity. We believed that it was imperative to reaffirm the central place of Western unity in all that we were about to do.” On the same occasion he announced :” At the NATO meeting last month there was firm agreement that our common security rests on the foundation of Western solidarity and strength, and that continuing defense efforts will be necessary to counter Soviet assertiveness and induce restraint in Soviet behavior. There was broad agreement that efforts to seek stability and improvements in East-West relations should continue, but that such efforts too must be based on a clear foundation of military strength and resolve”.

By an unexpected coincidence, in the most recent diplomatic document of NATO entitled – Statement by NATO Foreign Ministers, Bucharest, 29-30 November 2022= ,we read :” We stand together in unity and solidarity and reaffirm the enduring transatlantic bond between our nations. We will continue to strive for peace, security and stability in the whole of the Euro-Atlantic area”.

Beyond  the value  of solidarity,- the central theme of these lines,- many lessons can be learned from the book under consideration and many questions can be asked. Reflecting on leadership from the current complex perspectives, Kissinger himself starts the list of interrogations. He writes :” Leadership is most essential during periods of transition, when values and institutions are losing their relevance, and the outlines of a worthy future are in controversy. In such times, leaders are called upon to think creatively and diagnostically :what are the sources of the society’s well-being? Of its decay? Which inheritances from the past should be preserved, and which adapted or discarded? Which objectives deserve commitment, and which prospects must be rejected no matter how tempting? And, at the extreme, is one’s society sufficiently vital and confident to tolerate sacrifice as a waystation to a more fulfilling future?”

It is the every reader’s role in consulting the book Leadership by Henry Kissinger  to answer these questions and to meditate on additional ones.

On the value of solidarity we have suggested in Nine O’Clock  a short answer available at https://www.nineoclock.ro/2021/10/01/solidarity-and-multilateral-diplomacy/


*Dr Ioan Voicu was a Visiting Professor at Assumption University in
Bangkok (2000-2019)



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