[FOUNTAIN]Who’s the next Kissinger?The power of the National Security Council of the U.S. White House was strongest during the Nixon administration from 1969 to 1974, when Henry Kissinger headed it. The State Department was helpless before Kissinger, who was talented, passionate and had the full trust of the president.
When President Nixon met with Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador to the United States, a month after his inauguration, Mr. Kissinger was present, but the secretary of state, William Rogers, was not. Later, a Kissinger-Dobrynin channel was set up. Mr. Kissinger asked Mr. Dobrynin to deal with Mr. Rogers only on minor issues. Mr. Kissinger had a similar relationship with Zhou Enlai, China’s prime minister. When Mr. Zhou was a state guest in the United States, he was seen almost constantly with Mr. Kissinger.
Acting under the president’s authority, Mr. Kissinger controlled not only the national security policy agenda but also the important telegraphic traffic of the White House. His 34 staff members, up from 12 when he took office, were his antennas. He also headed six councils related to the NSC and was an emperor aide. Many stories are hidden in his detente diplomacy with the Soviet Union.
When Mr. Rogers resigned as secretary of state in 1973, Mr. Kissinger took that job as well; the concurrent appointments a first in U.S. history. His influence also extended into the early part of the Ford administration.
His downfall came when his rivals began engaging in what they called “Henry hunting.” The leaders were Donald Rumsfeld, then presidential chief of staff, and his deputy Dick Cheney. Although they differed on some policy issues, their skepticism about Mr. Kissinger’s diplomacy was the glue that kept them together. Morton Abramowitz, former assistant secretary of state, said later, “I still remember clearly how he trampled Kissinger down thoroughly,” speaking of Mr. Rumsfeld. Mr. Kissinger later called Mr. Rumsfeld “the rudest person I ever met in the administration. But that was the start of Mr. Rumsfeld’s “he never loses” mystique.
The NSC did not function well after Mr. Kissinger left, and President Carter didn’t rely on the NSC system, holding only 10 meetings during his four years in office. Instead, he met individually with the heads of agencies on the council. The NSC became, as it was during the Johnson administration before Mr. Nixon, a rubber stamp. The Korean security council is being buffeted by document leaks. After last month’s revamping of the council, new people are being named to posts there. Who will be the first to get the president’s ear? The curtain has risen on a new battle.
by Oh Young-hwan
The writer is a deputy political news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.