Henry Kissinger

Henry Alfred Kissinger / 1923–2023 / Political Scientist, Public Servant, Diplomat, Author


A diplomat’s task is to represent his country in such a manner as to encourage the respect and trust of the country to which he is accredited.

Diplomacy (1994).

Foreign Policy

The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously.

Years of Upheaval (1982).

Each success only buys an admission ticket to a more difficult problem.

White House Years (1979).

The superpowers often behave like two heavily armed blind men feeling their way around a room, each believing himself in mortal peril from the other, whom he assumes to have perfect vision.

Years of Upheaval (1982).

In the absence of an agreed objective, foreign policy and diplomacy resemble a waltz without music.

Source unknown.

No foreign policy—no matter how ingenious—has any chance of success if it is born in the minds of a few and carried in the hearts of none.

Source unknown.


History knows no resting places and no plateaus.

Source unknown.

Kissinger on Kissinger

The longer I am out of office, the more infallible I appear to myself.

Cited in Niall Ferguson, Kissinger: 1923–1968: The Idealist (2015).


The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.

American Foreign Policy (1969).

A leader does not deserve the name unless he is willing occasionally to stand alone.

Years of Renewal (1999).

Leaders are responsible not for running public opinion polls but for the consequences of their actions.

Source unknown.

It is, after all, the responsibility of the expert to operate the familiar and that of the leader to transcend it.

American Foreign Policy (1969).


Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.

Source unknown.


Power is the great aphrodisiac.

Interview, in Oriana Fallaci, If the Sun Dies (1965).


The statesman’s duty is to bridge the gap between his nation’s experience and his vision.

Source unknown.


The conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerrilla wins if he does not lose.

Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (1957).


The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.

Conversation re: US covert operations in Angola, recorded in the White House Situation Room, March 10, 1975; declassified in 2005.