As reporters continued to pour over the WikiLeaks revelations last week, the Nixon Museum released 265 hours of White House recordings from February and March 1973. In them, Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s national security adviser, can be heard saying, “The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.” “I know,” Nixon responded. “We can’t blow up the world because of it.”
“Maybe” a humanitarian concern? Perhaps even more than today, in 1973, only three decades after the Holocaust, wasn’t it clear that sending people to gas chambers is one of the most hideous crimes against humanity? At that time, as well as now, shouldn’t that crime have been not only one of the most vital humanitarian concerns, but national security interests, of any American administration, regardless of the ethnic, racial, or religious identity of the potential victims?
Moreover, wasn’t distinguishing between good and evil, and trying to extinguish the latter, one of the main justifications of the Cold War?
President Nixon (L) and Henry Kissinger (R)
Thankfully, Ronald Reagan understood the Cold War differently than Nixon and Kissinger, which is why he defeated the evil empire. It’s hard to believe words like those used by Kissinger could be uttered by anyone in Reagan’s close circle, or, for that matter, in George W. Bush’s administration.
In light of the newly released recordings, two quick observations come to mind. First, it’s important to note that Kissinger was a Jew serving in Nixon’s administration. In the same batch of recordings, Nixon vents his disgust towards American Jews, including many of his top Jewish advisers – among them, Kissinger – and argued that they shared a common trait, of needing to compensate for an inferiority complex. Perhaps Kissinger knew his boss’ attitude and felt the need to adopt tough stances on issues, especially concerning Jews.
The second observation is also clear, and still very much relevant: While the United States has supported Israel throughout its history, Israel’s existence continues to be the best guarantee that gas chambers will never again be used to murder Jews. A timely reminder, when Zionism and the very existence of Israel are under a concerted, worldwide attack. Not least from the Islamic Republic of Iran and particularly, its nuclear program, which, realistically, only Israel will militarily strike even though the Arab world considers it a threat, as the WikiLeaks cables exposed.
Kissinger’s lasting words highlight the difference between a foreign policy exclusively based on realpolitik and one that attempts to blend geo-politics with morality. One can only hope that the future produces no documents in which the very possibility of another Holocaust is “maybe” a humanitarian affair.
Dr. Josef Olmert is a JPC contributor and Adjunct Professor at American University. He is a well-known Israeli Middle East expert and brother of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.