Indyk on Kissinger

The Realist “Master of the Game” Pursued Order and Stability Instead of an Ideal of Peace

Book Cover
Book Cover

Indyk on Kissinger

Recently Martin Indyk, a strong supporter of Israel, former presidential envoy to Israel and twice US ambassador in Israel, wrote a book about Henry Kissinger, another strong supporter of Israel,  former presidential National Security Advisor and  Secretary of State, as well as Indyk’s friend, boss, mentor, and the boss of his wife when she was his personal secretary.

News reports said Kissinger was unhappy about parts of the book that described him as “manipulative,” particularly in dealing with Arab countries during his “shuttle diplomacy” in the aftermath of the 1973 war between Israel and the Arabs. But, the title of the book, “Master of the Game,” shows Indyk's main goal of glorifying Kissinger.

These are some of the book’s chapters:

The Strategy. Gaining Control. The Jordan Crisis. Golda’s Inferno. Henry of Arabia. The Sinai Disengagement. Breakthrough. The Step Not Taken. Reassessment.

As shown in these chapters, the book was mostly tracing Kissinger’s Middle East policies and achievements, which were apparently guidelines for Indyk’s own policies and achievements when he was an important player in managing US policies in the Middle East – about 20 years after Kissinger left his official positions.

The book’s title, “Master of the Game,” would have been more interesting and more accurate if it was “Master of Manipulation,” and if Indyk had elaborated on his description of Kissinger as “manipulative," -- but Indyk wanted to glorify Kissinger.

Tens of books have been written about Kissinger, and a few of them stand out: “The Trial of Henry Kissinger,” by Christopher Hitchens; “Kissinger: A Biography,” by Walter Isaacson; and “The Price of Power,” by Seymour Hersh. Although the first, as its title showed, was clearly critical, the other two were fair, showing different aspects of his life.

Indyk said that he chose the title of his book, “Master of the Game,”  because Kissinger “was so good at those kinds of things, which are necessary for great diplomats. The art of diplomacy is to move leaders to places where they’d rather not go, and he was masterful at that.”

One of a few revelations in the book was that Kissinger “was very suspicious about peace” between Israel and its Arab neighbors, in the sense that Kissinger believed there would be no real peace between the two sides. Most probably Indyk believed that also.

Indyk wrote in the book that for Kissinger “peacemaking was a process designed to ameliorate conflicts between competing powers, not to end them.” And that Kissinger “would prove mightily resistant to more ambitious efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict because he feared that pursuing peace as an idealistic final goal would jeopardize the stability that his order was designed to generate.”

And this: “Peace for Kissinger was a problem, not a solution.”

Indyk argued that Kissinger was not a real supporter of the principle of “Land for Peace,” but of land “for legitimizing the order.”  And that Kissinger “introduced a so-called step-by-step approach, which was designed to buy Israel time—time to strengthen itself with American support, and time for the Arabs to exhaust themselves until they would come to accept Israel.”

Kissinger,  ever the realist, wanted the Arabs to be realists too: Israel was here to stay, with the strong support of the US.

Strangely, Indyk argued that US policy in the Middle East slowed down since Kissinger left the government. Maybe Indyk wanted to satisfy Kissinger’s ego because, actually, the US has allowed Israel, year after year, to build more settlements in the West Bank and in the Syrian Golan Heights. Moreover, during Donald Trump’s presidency, the Israelis won far more than they had ever imagined: recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Israeli’s sovereignty on the Golan Heights. (In partial gratitude, the Israelis are building settlements they named “Trump Heights").

Trump outdid both Kissinger and Indyk by realizing their goal to “buy Israel time—time to strengthen itself with American support, and time for the Arabs to exhaust themselves until they would come to accept Israel.”

Recently, some of the Arabs did exactly that, notwithstanding the fact that the earlier Arab recognitions of Israel (by Egypt and Jordan) have not resulted in real peace. But, in another victory for Kissinger, the goal was not to make real peace, but to “ameliorate conflicts between competing powers, not to end them.”

Most probably, the Arabs who have recognized Israel also believed in this “Kissingerism” as a win-win solution: the Arabs and the Israelis have agreed on less-than-real peace, on pseudo-peace.

Indyk wrote that “Kissinger’s success was in taking Egypt out of the conflict with Israel. When he did that through the two agreements he negotiated between Israel and Egypt, he made it impossible for the other Arab states to consider going to war with Israel.”

Of course, all that wouldn’t have happened without the important role of the US, and, according to Indyk, “The Israel-Egypt peace treaty, the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, the Oslo Accords—the parties could not have achieved their agreements without the involvement of the United States.”

How about the Palestinians? Would they, also, accept Kissingerism’s not real but pseudo peace?

Indyk answered: “To be sure, time buying did not end the conflict with the stateless Palestinians in Israel’s midst, but it has steadily lowered their expectations of what their state would look like.”

Indyk added: “Palestinians started out with the objective of destroying Israel. So, it became necessary for them to adjust their objectives, which they did.”

How about the morality of Kissingerism’s not real but pseudo peace? Indyk answered: “I think that Kissinger is much more the realist than the moralist.”

What about Kissingerism’s stand on continuous wars in the Middle East that didn’t directly involve Israel? Indyk answered: Kissinger was “opposed to wars that disrupt the stability of the order that he was trying to create. So, he’s not opposed to wars launched and he’s not opposed to going to war to maintain the order.”

Indyk added that Kissinger was “opposed to wars that disrupt the order.”

From two men, Kissinger and Indyk, who strongly support Israel, these answers should surprise no one.

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