Kissinger's Advice to Bush

Primary sources exposed and explained.
Oct. 3 2006 2:17 PM

Kissinger's Advice to Bush

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In his new book, State of Denial, Bob Woodward reports that Henry Kissinger was a "powerful, largely invisible influence on Bush's Iraq policy." Woodward quotes Vice President Dick Cheney saying in 2005 that he talked to Kissinger "at least once a month." Kissinger met with President Bush, Woodward writes, "every couple of months."

Kissinger saw Iraq "through the prism of the Vietnam war," which Kissinger believes was won in 1972 but subsequently lost "because of the weakened resolve of the public and Congress." (For more of Kissinger's revisionist views on Vietnam and their relevance to Iraq, click here.) One Vietnam lesson, Kissinger told Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, was that Bush must resist public pressure to withdraw troops from Iraq.

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To underscore the point, Kissinger gave Gerson a memo that he wrote for President Nixon in 1969. That memo, posted online by the National Security Archive  and reprinted below and on the following four pages, compares the withdrawal of troops to "salted peanuts," the consumption of which, Kissinger posits, doesn't satisfy hunger so much as create the desire for ... more salted peanuts. Since Kissinger acknowledges that the United States is defending a weak regime in South Vietnam, and that there's little prospect for victory during the next two years, his memo reads less like a call to action than like a call to dissemble.

To read John Prados' commentary for the National Security Archive about the memo, click here. To listen to an excerpt of Dizzy Gillespie's "Salt Peanuts," click here. To buy a can of hand-cooked Virginia salted peanuts, click here.

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Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His  book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.

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