This morning on Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, Henry Kissinger was interviewed about Bob Woodward’s new book and his mention in it. Highlights follow…
On his role in the Bush White House
KISSINGER: I haven’t read the book, but I have — first of all, my conversations with the president and the vice president — I think if they counted the number of times Secretary Powell and Secretary Rice have asked my opinion, they would be at least as frequent as the other two.
BLITZER: Excuse me for interrupting, Dr. Kissinger, but the book suggests that, at least once a month, if not more frequently, you’re consulted, you’re brought in by the president or the vice president.
KISSINGER: I have told you what the balance is. And I think you will find that I have seen the secretary of state as frequently as I’ve seen the president and the vice president and that it’s almost always at the request of the people that I’m talking to.
But there’s a more fundamental point to be made. It is absurd to believe that an outsider who comes in, at most, once every six weeks for an hour or so, has any significant influence on tactical decisions.
Where outsiders like myself and Zbig can be helpful is to give a middle-term perspective and to deal with and to advise on issues that may not be right front, center.
And that has been the role that I believe where I can be useful. I have tried to play that with every president since I left office and, to some extent, have.
And it is simply wrong to imply that I am a shaper of day-to-day decisions. This is not my role. I’m an outsider; I’m a friend. And I respond to questions that are put to me, but they’re mostly conceptual and have to do with problems that are not ready for decision.
On the Bush administration
KISSINGER: Look, it is amazing that I’m asked to comment on a book that I haven’t read, that Brzezinski’s asked to comment on views that I don’t hold. I have written nine articles on Iraq in the last two years. Anybody can get them on the Internet and can see that I have tried to analyze the various aspects of the war. In some of them I have made recommendations for changes.
I agree that we need a comprehensive strategy. I do not believe that there is wobbliness within the administration. Of course there are sharp differences, which have been widely reported, but in almost every administration that I have seen, there have been differences, sometimes more, sometimes less intense.
And I think we should focus our national agenda — discussion on where we should go now. I believe at some point, at some early point, other countries have to be brought into the discussion of the future of Iraq. Something that I’ve been writing about also for some time. I don’t think the choice is between victory in the abstract and pulling out in the abstract.
The choice is between trying to leave the situation in such a way that the security of the free people is not being threatened by the emergence of al Qaida-type regimes on Iraqi territory and that America does not leave the conditions under conditions of total chaos. But that does not preclude that one — and in fact, it requires that one also has a strategy that expresses this in concrete terms, and that has been my major theme. And not platitudes like victory or wobbliness.
On fighting between Afghanistan and Pakistan leaders
KISSINGER: These two allies in these two countries haven’t necessarily been on the same page for a few hundred years. We should make it clear to Pakistan that tolerating al Qaida on their territory and supporting the insurrection in Afghanistan is not compatible inthe long term with good relations with the United States.