150+ Best Henry Kissinger Quotes: Exclusive Selection

Henry Alfred Kissinger is a Nobel Peace Prize winner, American politician, diplomat, and geopolitical consultant who served as United States Secretary of State and National Security Advisor. Profoundly inspirational Henry Kissinger quotes will encourage growth in life, make you wiser and broaden your perspective.

Famous Henry Kissinger Quotes

Accept everything about yourself – I mean everything, You are you and that is the beginning and the end – no apologies, no regrets. – Henry A. Kissinger

The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been. The public does not fully understand the world into which it is going. Leaders must invoke an alchemy of great vision. Those leaders who do not are ultimately judged failures, even though they may be popular at the moment. – Henry A. Kissinger

Who controls the food supply controls the people; who controls the energy can control whole continents; who controls money can control the world. – Henry A. Kissinger

Depopulation should be the highest priority of foreign policy towards the third world, because the US economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less developed countries. – Henry A. Kissinger

Don’t be too ambitious. Do the most important thing you can think of doing every year and then your career will take care of itself. – Henry A. Kissinger

You can’t make war in the Middle East without Egypt and you can’t make peace without Syria. – Henry A. Kissinger

History is not, of course, a cookbook offering pretested recipes. It teaches by analogy, not by maxims. It can illuminate the consequences of actions in comparable situations, yet each generation must discover for itself what situations are in fact comparable. – Henry A. Kissinger

It was a Greek tragedy. Nixon was fulfilling his own nature. Once it started it could not end otherwise. – Henry A. Kissinger

Committees are consumers and sometimes sterilizers of ideas, rarely creators of them. – Henry A. Kissinger

University politics make me long for the simplicity of the Middle East. – Henry A. Kissinger

The convictions that leaders have formed before reaching high office are the intellectual capital they will consume as long as they continue in office. – Henry A. Kissinger

No country can act wisely simultaneously in every part of the globe at every moment of time. – Henry A. Kissinger

I don’t think that that’s a desirable option for us. Besides, it wouldn’t work, because there are too many other countries that are willing to work economically with China. But I don’t think the basic relationship depends on economics. It depends on a political understanding of what is required for peace in Asia. – Henry A. Kissinger

If you control the food, you control a nation. If you control the energy, you control a region. If you control the money, you control the world. – Henry A. Kissinger

I don’t think we should pay people to fight terrorism. I would be amazed if they asked for anything in return. – Henry A. Kissinger

The challenge is whether China as a rising country, the United States as the superpower, can develop a cooperative relationship in this period before nationalism becomes so dominant in China as a substitute for communism, and a kind of self-righteous isolationism in this country that substitutes China for the Soviet Union. – Henry A. Kissinger

Power is the great aphrodisiac. – Henry A. Kissinger

Leaders must invoke an alchemy of great vision. – Henry A. Kissinger

Moderation is a virtue only in those who are thought to have an alternative. – Henry A. Kissinger

Peace depends ultimately not on political arrangements but on the conscience of mankind. – Henry A. Kissinger

Intelligence is not all that important in the exercise of power, and is often, in point of fact, useless. – Henry A. Kissinger

Baseball is the most intellectual game because most of the action goes on in your head. – Henry A. Kissinger

What China would do, I cannot predict. China has all but given up the claim to the use of force, except in the circumstance of Taiwan declaring its independence. That is a huge step forward over what the situation was many years ago. – Henry A. Kissinger

Americans believe that you can alter people by conversion, and that everybody in the world is a potential American. The Chinese also believe that their values are universal, but they do not believe that you can convert to becoming a Chinese unless you are born into it. – Henry A. Kissinger

We have three things in common: Irish wives, the ability to speak for 17 minutes without a verb, and the fact that we both speak with an accent. – Henry A. Kissinger

China had never had to deal in a world of countries of approximately equal strength, and so to adjust to such a world, is in itself a profound challenge to China, which now has fourteen countries on its borders, some of which are small, but can project their nationality into China, some of which are large, and historically significant, so that any attempt by Chinese to dominate the world, would involve in a disastrous for the peace of the world. – Henry A. Kissinger

The nuclear weapons were not useful for the achievement of political objectives. – Henry A. Kissinger

The important thing is to do the right thing. Then credibility will follow. – Henry A. Kissinger

The security of Israel is a moral imperative for all free peoples. – Henry A. Kissinger

It is an act of insanity and national humiliation to have a law prohibiting the President from ordering assassination. – Henry A. Kissinger

High office teaches decision making, not substance. It consumes intellectual capital; it does not create it. Most high officials leave office with the perceptions and insights with which they entered; they learn how to make decisions but not what decisions to make. – Henry A. Kissinger

Each success only buys an admission ticket to a more difficult problem. – Henry A. Kissinger

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

Statesman create; ordinary leaders consume. The ordinary leader is satisfied with ameliorating the environment, not transforming it; a statesman must be a visionary and an educator. – Henry A. Kissinger

Superstars strive for approbation; heroes walk alone. Superstars crave consensus; heroes define themselves by the judgment of a future they see it as their task to bring about. Superstars seek success in a technique for eliciting support; heroes pursue success as the outgrowth of inner values. – Henry A. Kissinger

If it’s going to come out eventually, better have it come out immediately. – Henry A. Kissinger

It is barely conceivable that there are people who like war. – Henry A. Kissinger

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

Nothing is more urgent than a serious, dare I say compassionate, debate as to where we are going at home and abroad. Technicians cannot master revolutions; every great achievement was an idea before it became a reality. Cathedrals cannot be built by those who are paralyzed by doubt or consumed by cynicism. If a society loses the capacity for great conception, it can be administered but not governed. – Henry A. Kissinger

Covert action should not be confused with missionary work. – Henry A. Kissinger

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. – Henry A. Kissinger

The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer. – Henry A. Kissinger

The Israelis want security. The Arabs want dignity. And they consider the demands of each other as incompatible. – Henry A. Kissinger

Donald Trump is a phenomenon that foreign countries haven’t seen. – Henry A. Kissinger

The key decision for a statesman is whether to commit his nation or not. There is no middle course. Once a great nation commits itself, it must prevail. It will acquire no kudos for translating its inner doubts into hesitation. – Henry A. Kissinger

University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small. – Henry A. Kissinger

We cannot give Russia veto over deployment of forces on NATO territory. But we have to understand their particular sensitivities, and, therefore, there should be a dialogue on these issues. – Henry A. Kissinger

I grew up in Germany during the Nazi period, and I came to this country when I was 15. And then I had to work in a factory because we had no resources. And I went to night school. So, it was not a rational ambition for me to become a world statesman. – Henry A. Kissinger

Let us fashion together a new world order. – Henry A. Kissinger

A leader who confines his role to his people’s experience dooms himself to stagnation; a leader who outstrips his people’s experience runs the risk of not being understood. – Henry A. Kissinger

I’ve often said that the desire to lecture China on how it should behave in the world is wrong. China was around for thousands of years even before America existed. It could even be that China’s growing power will allow itself to be slowed down. But as long as this immense empire doesn’t fall apart, it will become an important factor in global politics. – Henry A. Kissinger

You should not go to war for the privilege of withdrawal. You need to define your objective and the outcome, and it cannot be the removal of one man. – Henry A. Kissinger

Military men are just dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy. – Henry A. Kissinger

It is not a matter of what is true that counts, but a matter of what is perceived to be true. – Henry A. Kissinger

Today, America would be outraged if U.N. troops entered Los Angeles to restore order. Tomorrow they will be grateful! This is especially true if they were told that there were an outside threat from beyond, whether real or promulgated, that threatened our very existence. It is then that all peoples of the world will plead to deliver them from this evil. The one thing every man fears is the unknown. When presented with this scenario, individual rights will be willingly relinquished for the guarantee of their well-being granted to them by the World Government – Henry A. Kissinger

Democracy is too important to leave up to the votes of the people. – Henry A. Kissinger

To be an enemy of America can be dangerous, but to be a friend is fatal – Henry A. Kissinger

Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people. – Henry A. Kissinger

Accept everything about yourself – I mean everything, You are you and that is the beginning and the end – no apologies, no regrets. – Henry A. Kissinger

China is a country with a record of continuous self-government going back 4,000 years, the only society that has achieved this. One must start with the assumption that they must have learnt something about the requirements for survival, and it is not always to be assumed that we know it better than they do. – Henry A. Kissinger

World population needs to be decreased by 50% – Henry A. Kissinger

America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests. – Henry A. Kissinger

I can think of no faster way to unite the American people behind George W. Bush than a terrorist attack on an American target overseas. And I believe George W. Bush will quickly unite the American people through his foreign policy. – Henry A. Kissinger

The elderly are useless eaters. – Henry A. Kissinger

How to Achieve The New World Order – Henry A. Kissinger

Oil is much too important a commodity to be left in the hands of the Arabs. – Henry A. Kissinger

What we in America call terrorists are really groups of people that reject the international system – Henry A. Kissinger

The one thing man fears is the unknown. When presented with this scenario, individual rights will be willingly relinquished for the guarantee of their well-being granted to them by a World Government, a New World Order. – Henry A. Kissinger

In 10 years, there will be no more Israel. – Henry A. Kissinger

The test of policy is how it ends, not how it begins. Foreign policy is the art of establishing priorities. Demonization is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one. The test is not absolute satisfaction but balanced dissatisfaction. – Henry A. Kissinger

The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously. – Henry A. Kissinger

Donald Rumsfeld is the most ruthless man I have ever met? and I mean that as a compliment. – Henry A. Kissinger

There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full. – Henry A. Kissinger

If we do what is necessary, all the odds are in our favor. – Henry A. Kissinger

Any fact that needs to be disclosed should be put out now or as quickly as possible, because otherwise the bleeding will not end. – Henry A. Kissinger

If eighty percent of your sales come from twenty percent of all of your items, just carry those twenty percent. – Henry A. Kissinger

Blessed are the people whose leaders can look destiny in the eye without flinching but also without attempting to play God. – Henry A. Kissinger

For other nations, utopia is a blessed past never to be recovered; for Americans it is just beyond the horizon. – Henry A. Kissinger

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

The conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerrilla wins if he does not lose. – Henry A. Kissinger

While we should never give up our principles, we must also realize that we cannot maintain our principles unless we survive. – Henry A. Kissinger

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

I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves. – Henry A. Kissinger

Art is man’s expression of his joy in labor. – Henry A. Kissinger

The American foreign policy trauma of the sixties and seventies was caused by applying valid principles to unsuitable conditions. – Henry A. Kissinger

We cannot always assure the future of our friends; we have a better chance of assuring our future if we remember who our friends are. – Henry A. Kissinger

If I should ever be captured, I want no negotiation – and if I should request a negotiation from captivity they should consider that a sign of duress. – Henry A. Kissinger

The nice thing about being a celebrity is that, if you bore people, they think it’s their fault. – Henry A. Kissinger

In crises the most daring course is often safest. – Henry A. Kissinger

The longer I am out of office, the more infallible I appear to myself. – Henry A. Kissinger

The Vietnam War required us to emphasize the national interest rather than abstract principles. What President Nixon and I tried to do was unnatural. And that is why we didn’t make it. – Henry A. Kissinger

The American temptation is to believe that foreign policy is a subdivision of psychiatry. – Henry A. Kissinger

I am being frank about myself in this book. I tell of my first mistake on page 850. – Henry A. Kissinger

No one will ever win the battle of the sexes; there’s too much fraternizing with the enemy. – Henry A. Kissinger

Most foreign policies that history has marked highly, in whatever country, have been originated by leaders who were opposed by experts. – Henry A. Kissinger

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. – Henry A. Kissinger

If you don’t know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere. – Henry A. Kissinger

People are generally amazed that I would take an interest in any form that would require me to stop talking for three hours. – Henry A. Kissinger

We are here because cooperative relations with China are in the American national interest. Every president for 30 years has come to that conclusion, and a rejection of this agreement would be a vote for an adversarial relationship with the most populous nation of China. – Henry A. Kissinger

We had a very interesting and positive discussion, and I appreciate the opportunity to meet with several of the key staff members of the governor’s staff, … A few weeks ago, I stood with the governor when I spoke about present events and nuclear strategy, and my impression is we share very compatible views. – Henry A. Kissinger

My heart goes out to the president because I’ve served in an administration that faced a very divided country in a very difficult set of circumstances. – Henry A. Kissinger

Ninety percent of all politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation. – Henry A. Kissinger

Because of the axiom that guerrillas win if they do not lose, stalemate is unacceptable, … the military challenge in Iraq is more elusive. – Henry A. Kissinger

For me, the tragedy of Vietnam was the divisions that occurred in the United States that made it, in the end, impossible to achieve an outcome that was compatible with the sacrifices that had been made, … Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer. – Henry A. Kissinger

Kay ennobled all of her human relationships, … In the pain of this moment, none of us would trade places with those whose lives were never touched by Kay Graham. – Henry A. Kissinger

I think the only way to go is to do what they think is the right thing and explain it as well as they can to the American people, as the president is attempting to do with these speeches. The public will not forgive you for losing even if it seems to reflect what they thought they wanted. – Henry A. Kissinger

It is not unreasonable for us to desire some options. Some Europeans, I know, believe it is necessary that we guarantee our own destruction to give them the assurances they claim they need. However, to deprive ourselves of options is to paralyze us. … What do we mean by control of escalation? – Henry A. Kissinger

It is hard to believe that Kay is no longer among us. But in a way, she will never leave us. Her place in this country will not be filled, nor the void her death leaves on the lives of her friends, – Henry A. Kissinger

We’ll do it in the quickest way possible that is compatible with foreigners and making sure that when the report is finished, there can be no question about the fact that every aspect has been explored, … Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer. – Henry A. Kissinger

We will go where the facts lead us, – Henry A. Kissinger

Congress can’t do much more damage to us than they already have. To this extent we’re liberated to do what is right. … Our successors will be living in a nightmare if we don’t do what is right. – Henry A. Kissinger

an occasion to blow off their frustrations on an issue on which they didn’t look as if they are begging (the United States) for help. – Henry A. Kissinger

a review of withdrawal strategy … seems in order. – Henry A. Kissinger

I want to get into the President’s head some idea of what he can do. If military actions are recommended to him for decision, I want him to know what he is doing when he decides. – Henry A. Kissinger

I’m confident John Bolton will bring peace to the world before he brings peace to his relations with The New York Times, – Henry A. Kissinger

if East Pakistan becomes independent, it is going to become a cesspool. It’s going to be 100 million people; they have the lowest standard of living in Asia. They are going to become a ripe field for communist infiltration. – Henry A. Kissinger

I believe — and certainly from everything I’ve been told about him — that he’s an honorable enough man so that he will carry out his assignment with ability and with care. – Henry A. Kissinger

I don’t consider China a communist state, no. I know that sounds paradoxical, but it’s my view. – Henry A. Kissinger

The defining issue is that the government in Taiwan was considered to be the government of all of China, and the authorities in Beijing were not recognized as a government of China. So Taiwan was the residuary for all of China. – Henry A. Kissinger

Certainly not a party of the workers and the peasants. In fact, Jiang Zemin in recent weeks has officially said that capitalists and the entrepreneurs should be enrolled in the Communist Party. – Henry A. Kissinger

People are now starting to explain the Cold War. Even in the crises at that time the survival of millions of people was at stake. And we (the USA) had to threaten the other superpower with retaliation to prevent it from doing something to us. Today we live in a world in which a lot of things are in flux. That creates a lot of fear. But it is also a time of great opportunity. And I would call on today’s statesmen to not allow their thinking to be directed by fear. – Henry A. Kissinger

In the 1960s, I would have considered China with its CPC an ideologically more dynamic country than the Soviet Union. But the Soviet Union was strategically more threatening. – Henry A. Kissinger

I wouldn’t say it’s a split. It’s a difference of emphasis. It does exist between, I would say, the State Department and the Defense Department. – Henry A. Kissinger

What is applicable is to understand that first of all China has undergone a huge revolution in the last years. Anyone who saw China as I did in 1971 – and for that matter even in 1979, because not much had changed between 1971 and 1979 – and sees China today, knows one is in a different economic system. – Henry A. Kissinger

When I first saw China, there were no automobiles. There were no supermarkets. There were no high-rise buildings. There were no consumer goods. There were no restaurants that were at least accessible that foreigners could see. It was a Stalinist society, and a very poor Stalinist society. So, the economic system has totally changed, and the private sector in the economic system is now the dominant sector. It didn’t exist at all as late as 1979. – Henry A. Kissinger

The China of the 1970s was a communist dictatorship. The China of the twenty-first century is a one-party state without a firm ideological foundation, more similar to Mexico under the PRI than Russia under Stalin. But the measurement of the political and the economic evolution has not yet been completed and is one of the weak points of the system. – Henry A. Kissinger

America has made it very clear in several administrations that if there is an attack by China on Taiwan, the United States is very likely to resist. – Henry A. Kissinger

Well it did not make excessive sense to say that 20 million people are the recognized government of a billion people that have their own institutions. We did not change it in the sense that we said this has to end, but there was a U.N. vote that transferred the legitimacy of China from Taiwan to Beijing. Beijing was recognized as the government of all of China. Then, under President Carter, we followed what the U.N. had already done eight years earlier. – Henry A. Kissinger

I have great respect for the Taiwanese. They have done an extraordinary job. But it was not a sustainable position to say that the legitimate government of China resides in Taiwan, which at that time didn’t have much contact with the mainland. – Henry A. Kissinger

Well, I don’t know whether it caused anguish in China, but it was not a wise way to proceed. But one has to remember that it was the first experience. And in a Republican administration, there is a conservative wing that looks at China as the last embodiment of communism, which therefore tends towards a more bellicose rhetoric anyway than I would. It’s not the dominant element, but every once in a while, they get a crack at public statement. – Henry A. Kissinger

I had an opportunity to express my views, yes. I agreed with the approach which we took, namely, to make a distinction between the loss of life of the Chinese pilot and our military operations outside territorial waters or territorial limits. – Henry A. Kissinger

We first became conscious of the plane publicly on a Monday. I thought then by the weekend it would be done. But then the Chinese military, the defense minister made a statement saying that if there was no apology from the United States, the Chinese military and the Chinese people would never understand. No reference to the government or the Communist Party, and that obviously presented an internal problem to the Chinese leadership, which was travelling at that moment. – Henry A. Kissinger

The American formal position has been that we oppose violence by governments against their people. That principle should not be abandoned. – Henry A. Kissinger

I do not criticize people who take a public stand on human rights issues. I express my respect for them. But some people are more influential without a public confrontation. – Henry A. Kissinger

American politics are normally a result of pragmatic and not philosophical reasoning. No one in Washington has said we now prefer multilateralism. – Henry A. Kissinger

Access to natural resources can become a question of survival for many states. – Henry A. Kissinger

China is a one-party state. Sooner or later China will get to the point when the new social classes, which have emerged thanks to economic success, will have to be integrated into the political system. There is no guarantee that this process will run smoothly. – Henry A. Kissinger

I am against portraying China as the demon of the global community. China has grasped more quickly than other countries what globalization means and what it demands. The country has learned how to use other people’s innovations for itself. India, incidentally, is not far behind China in this respect. Both are not nations in the European sense, but rather cultural communities with enormous markets. The challenge of the future is to work out how to deal with that. – Henry A. Kissinger

Well, on the American side, every new administration has to cut its teeth in a crisis, because before a crisis, you don’t really know what your various subordinates are thinking under stress. – Henry A. Kissinger

The first reactions are often instinctive. So, one of the first things we said was that the Chinese had no right to inspect the plane, and that we had a sovereign right to. I don’t know what the legal position is, but it was surely psychologically absolutely the unwise thing to do. – Henry A. Kissinger

The Chinese, on the other hand, were in the position of having an American military spy plane on a Chinese military base and they had their own internal problems to deal with. At first, the Chinese weren’t all that belligerent. They were just stalling to get their own bureaucracy in line. – Henry A. Kissinger

If a Chinese plane landed at Los Angeles Airport having just bought down an American military plane, he wouldn’t be permitted to leave the next day. So then we developed a framework which should have been acceptable as a concept to the Chinese, namely to express regret for the loss of life and maintain our position that we had a right to fly these missions. – Henry A. Kissinger

Certainly nothing is easier than to rewrite history. If we had made Taiwan a separate state, it would have led to a fundamental conflict with China, and probably to war. Certainly in the long term, it would have led to war. – Henry A. Kissinger

In the short term, it would not have made it possible to resume relations, because in the Chinese mind, the humiliation of China started with the annexation of Taiwan by Japan. If the United States had suddenly declared Taiwan as a separate state – for which we would have had no support among other nations – the consequences would have been giving up our relationship with China and committing ourselves to a long-term conflict with China. – Henry A. Kissinger

I see the future of China as growth. I think that historically China has often gone through periods of consolidation, and then periods of sort of weakening central authority. They undoubtedly face tremendous challenges. – Henry A. Kissinger

You know, this is a very strange phenomenon. I keep reading that in American newspapers, and I keep reading extensive speculations. I meet with the Chinese leaders periodically, and while I don’t say they’ve endorsed the missile shield, it has not been in the forefront of their discussions. – Henry A. Kissinger

More and more of the Taiwanese economy is connected with the mainland. There are more and more exchanges taking place. There’s no reason to doubt that over a period of ten years or so, or maybe more, the conditions of life on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait will become more comparable, and the dialogue on the political level therefore easier. – Henry A. Kissinger

I think China will do nothing to obstruct it, and they probably will go along with it. – Henry A. Kissinger

Like any developing country, it has an inequality of wealth. In the Chinese case, it is particularly [pronounced] by the fact that they decided they couldn’t make the whole country move forward simultaneously, so they’ve started region by region. So, the interior regions are much less well off than the coastal regions. And this is certainly a huge challenge, because it produces a flow of populations from the poorer regions to the richer regions. – Henry A. Kissinger

China has had a long and complex history and has managed to evolve its own culture for 4,000 years. It therefore not necessarily true that we know exactly what is best for the internal structure of China. – Henry A. Kissinger

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