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Kissinger Chairs Reflect on the 20th Anniversary of the Chair’s Establishment

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Introduction from the Director of the Kluge Center

Around the turn of the century, then-Librarian of Congress James Billington secured a generous gift to endow the Henry A. Kissinger Chair in Foreign Policy and International Relations, concurrent with the opening of the Kluge Center. Many of Dr. Kissinger’s friends and colleagues, as well as foundations, contributed to the endowment. The first chair, Aaron Friedberg, took residence just as the international order was thrown into disarray with the attacks on the US on September 11, 2001.

From the beginning, the Kissinger chairs have been drawn from the ranks of scholars and high-level practitioners in the field of foreign affairs, forming an impressive roster of 21st century thought leaders. They have come from many countries, and several chairs have held positions of the highest public trust, including John Bew (chair in 2013-14), currently Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Teresita Schaffer, (chair in 2008-2009), former US Ambassador in Sri Lanka. Books and articles in every conceivable area of foreign affairs have flowed from the research conducted at the Library.

The scholars have benefited not just from the vast Library of Congress collections, but also from conversations with Dr. Kissinger and interactions at the Kluge Center with other scholars from a wide range of disciplines. Alexander Evans, Kissinger Chair in 2011, reports meeting and working with Ambassador Ricardo Luna, later to be Foreign Minister of Peru. Jim Goldgeier (chair in 2005-6) enjoyed insights into the workings of the Congress from interactions with former Senator Alan Simpson, who was just across the hall from him at the Kluge Center. Lanxin Xiang (chair in 2003-4) met and worked with Fernando Cardoso, who had just served two terms as President of Brazil. Klaus Larres (chair in 2002-3) reports that Dr. Kissinger connected him to George Schultz, former President Bill Clinton, and others, which was of tremendous benefit to his research.

The events of the day have affected the direction of research of the Kissinger chairs. Hal Brands, whose time at Kluge in 2020 overlapped with the pandemic, shifted some of the focus of his research to produce a timely edited volume on COVID-19 and the international world order. Others found that digging into the Library collections led them along new and productive scholarly paths. The evolving political landscape in Eastern Europe profoundly influenced the research Ivan Krastev (chair in 2018-19) was doing at the Library, as well as his outlook on world events as expressed in columns in the New York Times and other publications.

We’re especially proud that Kissinger chairs have stayed a part of the Kluge family; Krastev returned in early 2020 for an event featuring “The Light that Failed,” the award-winning book (co-authored with Stephen Holmes) that he completed at the Library. Charles Kupchan, an early Kissinger chair, returned this year for a virtual event to discuss his recent book on the history of isolationist thought in the US. And Constanze Stelzenmüller (chair in 2019-20) led a discussion commemorating the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall at an event while in residence, and joined us later for a virtual roundtable on transatlantic politics.

These are just a few of the highlights from the chairs’ reminiscences of their time at the Library of Congress. Our heartfelt thanks go out to Dr. Kissinger for making all of this possible. Due to the generous gift, important work by future Kissinger chairs at the Library of Congress will surely continue to influence policymaking in the US and around the world.


Reflections from Holders of the Henry A. Kissinger Chair in Foreign Policy and International Relations


Portrait photo of Hal BrandsName: Hal Brands
Title: Henry A. Kissinger Distinguished Professor of Global Affairs, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS); Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).

I arrived, virtually, at the Kluge Center in July 2020. I originally had the idea of completing my forthcoming book on what the Cold War can teach us about long-term, great-power competition, and I did manage to complete that book with the help of the library’s digitized collections. But arriving, as I did, in the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic, I also found myself working on a collaborative project about the impact of COVID on world order. That project eventually took the form of an edited book, published in late 2020, that brought together experts from a variety of fields—public health, food security, geopolitics, and many others—to think about the world that made the pandemic and the world the pandemic was making. And I had the chance, while at the Kluge Center, to develop my thinking on these issues through a variety of events involving congressional staff and other interested observers. The experience was fruitful for me, in part because the Kluge Center provided the time, space, and concentration needed to do sustained research and writing. But it was also fruitful because the Library of Congress has such wonderful collections, and because the Center put me into conversation with other scholars who were working on related subjects and whose insights resonated with me as I formulated my own thoughts. I am probably the only Kissinger Chair never to set foot in the Library of Congress during the period in which I held the fellowship. But I nonetheless was fortunate to have an experience that was so beneficial intellectually and professionally.


Portrait photo of Constanze Stelzenmuller.Name: Constanze Stelzenmüller
Title: Fritz Stern Chair | Center on the United States and Europe, Foreign Policy | BROOKINGS

I arrived at the Library in October 2020 for a six-month sabbatical with the idea of putting a complete stop to my previous hectic travel, adopting a monastic lifestyle, and working on a Germany book. On my first day (and every day thereafter), my breath was taken away by the nobility of my surroundings, and the view of the Supreme Court from my cubicle. I was thrilled by the thought of all those books and resources within reach. But… it was the 30th anniversary of German reunification and the administration’s last year, and transatlantic relations were a little tense. I spent far more time out of the Library, and out of the country, than I had planned, thinking longingly of my cubicle all the while.

Fate ordained that my sabbatical should end just as the pandemic began. No more travel: check; monastic lifestyle: check; book project: on. But I do miss my view of the Supreme Court, and I can’t wait to go back for research.


Portrait photo of Ivan KrastevName: Ivan Krastev
Title: Chairman at Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia, Bulgaria and permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna

I arrived at the Kluge Center in 2018 with the idea of working on my book “The Light that Failed: A Reckoning” (Allen Lane, 2019), co-authored with Stephen Holmes – which won the 30th Annual Lionel Gelber Prize. 2018-2019 was an interesting time both for America and the world. Trump’s Presidency had forced many of us to re-assess the future of the post-Cold war liberal order. The stay in the Kluge Center helped me realize that the post-Cold war world to which we Europeans felt so attached is over. The intensity of the American debate and the privilege to discuss with many extremely wise people while at the Library profoundly influenced both my work but also general understanding of what was going on in the world. I was reminded of what Robert Cooper, one of Europe’s most understanding diplomats and Kissinger’s admirer did at the moment when the Cold War ended. He created a special OBE stamp (Overtaken By Events) and asked his colleagues from  Policy Planning in  the British Foreign Office to go through all the files and use the stamp where needed.


Portrait photo of Barry PosenName: Barry R. Posen
Title: Ford International Professor Of Political Science, MIT

I arrived at the Kluge Center in September of 2016.  My plan was to continue work I had already begun on the emerging structure of world power. I had recently finished a policy book, and wanted to do some work that was both theoretical and historical. I was trying then, and still am trying, to synthesize work on polarity, geography, and military technology into one explanatory framework. I hope to apply that framework to illuminate the plausible trajectory of international security over the next several decades.

The Library of Congress was an excellent place to undertake this effort because of the ready access to older works on geopolitics, both theoretical and historical.  I was particularly interested in the turn of the 19th to the 20th century.  Though it seems somewhat elementary in retrospect, perhaps my greatest insight from studying this period was to surface the interaction between major engineering projects and security politics.  In very short order, from 1869 thru 1913 the Suez Canal, the US Transcontinental railroad, the Trans-Siberian railroad, and finally the Panama Canal were completed.  This provided the infrastructure for a genuinely global international political system, in which security issues on one side of the world could profoundly influence security issues on the other. It was an unusual luxury to be able to read my way into this history, develop new questions, and quickly turn to the relevant sources. There was seldom a day when I did not leave the Library in the evening having learned something that I did not know when I arrived that morning.


Portrait photo of Bruce JentlesonName: Bruce W. Jentleson
Title: William Preston Few Distinguished Professor of Public Policy, Duke University

I am among those privileged to have held the Henry A. Kissinger Chair at the Library of Congress’s Kluge Center (2015-16). I was then researching and writing what became my book, “The Peacemakers: Leadership Lessons from 20th Century Statesmanship” (W.W. Norton, 2018), focusing on world leaders who made major breakthroughs towards peace. One of the chapters is on the 1971-72 US-China “opening” and the crucial roles played by then-National Security Advisor Kissinger and Chinese Foreign Minister Zho Enlai. For all the research I did using declassified documents and other literature, the chapter was greatly enhanced by an extended interview Dr. Kissinger gave me in January 2016. He provided insights and color that I could never have gotten from the documents. I was most appreciative, as no doubt my readers were as well.


Portrait photo of Brad LeeName: Brad Lee
Title: 2021: Professor Emeritus, Naval War College

On the last Friday of October 2014, I completed retirement papers, turned in security clearances, and left my office overlooking  Narragansett Bay at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, where I had served for twenty-seven years as a Professor of Strategy, teaching military officers and civilian officials and helping commanders and their staffs in overseas theaters with the problems posed by current wars (especially in Afghanistan) and possible future conflicts (especially with China). Since the 9/11 attacks, scholarship had not been my top priority. The Monday morning after my Friday departure from Newport, I moved into a new office at the Kluge Center overlooking the south side of the Supreme Court Building.  That afternoon I made the first of many treks through the tunnel under Independence Avenue to do historical research in the Manuscripts Division of the Library of Congress.  As Kissinger Chair until the end of May 2015, scholarship was now my overriding priority.

The pivot in setting and purpose was abrupt. My plan was ambitious, perhaps excessive: to assess what the United States had achieved, and at what cost, in the major wars that it fought over one hundred years of “blood-dimmed tides” from World War I onward.  The opportunity offered by the Kluge Center was abundant. The other scholars in residence diverted me from total immersion in blood-dimmed tides, not least by introducing me to local bars and restaurants (thank you, Simona Tobia and Bill Wilson). The Manuscripts Division had a true treasure trove of personal papers of policymakers and military commanders from World War I and World War II, and I soon realized that I could shed much new light even on the most familiar leaders and events of those wars. Beyond World War II, it may be hard to figure out which of the wars that lasted more than seven months was “worth it” for the United States.  But my seven months at the Kluge Center were certainly very worthwhile for me.


Portrait photo of John BewName: John Bew
Title: Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

The year I spent as Kissinger Chair at the Kluge Centre in 2013-14 was the most productive and fruitful of my academic career. It was primarily an amazing experience as a researcher, making use of the vast collections, databases and manuscript room for my history of Realpolitik, which was published in 2015. There is no better library in the world and there are some serious competitors in the U.K. The best thing about the Kissinger Chair is the underlying assumption that thorough and empirical scholarship and policy relevance should go hand in hand—one need not compromise the other. The Kissinger Chair also opened up a world of connections with a growing group of scholars and practitioners who think the business of foreign policy and international security could do with a greater dose of historical perspective—at the apex of which sits Dr. Kissinger himself. That community is thriving thanks to initiatives like this. Without the opportunity that I had at the Kluge Center, I doubt I would have made the transition from academia to government service.


Portrait photo of William HitchcockName: William Hitchcock
Title: Professor of History, Director Governing America in a Global Era

My tour in 2013 as the Kissinger Chair holder was a wonderfully productive time for me. Once I got settled into the comfortable office and found my way around the labyrinth of buildings, I worked steadily on a biography of Dwight Eisenhower that emerged in 2018 as “The Age of Eisenhower: America and the World in the 1950s,” which became a New York Times bestseller. The research in the private papers at the Library of Congress was critical to the book. Eisenhower wrote countless letters to friends and advisers and many of their papers are held at the Library; he also had some rivals, like Robert Taft, whose materials are also at the Library. I also found the scholarly community at the Kluge Center to be warm and welcoming. Weekly seminars and talks kept me learning new things, especially from the many younger scholars there. I also tried out some of my arguments in a public lecture at the Library titled “The Ike Age: Eisenhower, America and the World of the 1950s,” on May 2, 2013. My time as Kissinger Chair gave me the chance to do deep research into the Cold War, the origins of the national security state and America’s world role in the 1950s. I could not have written the book without the support of the Kissinger Chair.


Portrait photo of Alexander EvansName: Alexander Evans
Title: Dr. Alexander Evans OBE, British Diplomatic Service

My time at the Kluge Center in 2011 immediately followed on from working as a senior adviser on Pakistan and Afghanistan at the U.S. Department of State. I wanted time to think, research and write on Pakistan’s strategic culture. The Library allowed me to dive into archives, including oral histories, and access an extraordinary array of books. My research led to pieces in Foreign Affairs, Contemporary South Asia and RUSI Journal. I also used archival finds to shape graduate courses I later taught at Yale as a Senior Fellow. The experience significantly enriched me as a diplomat, informing later roles in South Asia, including as British Deputy and Acting High Commissioner (Ambassador) to India.  The Kluge Center helped me to ‘think long’ and underpinned my work on the U.K.’s 2021 Integrated Review, Global Britain in a Competitive Age—where I had the pleasure of working in 10 Downing Street with another holder of the Kissinger Chair, the superb historian, Professor John Bew. Finally, another Kluge scholar, Ambassador Ricardo Luna, later Peru’s Foreign Minister, became a firm friend when we overlapped at the Library. We continue to share ideas, syllabus content and even cartoons about international diplomacy a decade later.


Portrait photo of Ben FordhamName: Benjamin O. Fordham
Title: Professor of Political Science, Binghamton University(SUNY)

I arrived at the Kluge Center in the fall of 2010 to start a project on the politics of US foreign policy during the 1890-1914 period, when the country first emerged as a world power. It proved to be the perfect place to begin this work. The Library of Congress houses the papers of many of the policymakers I was reading about. Naturally, it also had all their published work, however obscure some of it has become in the intervening years. Working at the Kluge Center also had intangible benefits that were just as important. The Thomas Jefferson building (built between 1890 and 1897) was completed right in the middle of the period I was studying and was full of reminders of that time. I loved coming to work there each day. The Center also gave me the chance to get to know lots of scholars from other fields over lunch, coffee, or drinks after work. The process of explaining what I was doing to such a wide range of people, and hearing them talk about their work, led me to reflect on the advantages and limitations of my home discipline as well as my own research within it. My interest in looking beyond my home discipline has only grown in the years since and has enormously affected the way I think and write about US foreign policy.


Portrait photo of Raja MohanName: Raja Mohan
Title: Director, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore

I had the privilege of spending six months at the Kluge Center from September 2009 to February 2010 as the Henry A. Kissinger Chair in Foreign Policy and International Relations. I arrived there to work on my book “Samudra Manthan: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Indo-Pacific.” Published in 2012, the book was among the first to point to the rise of maritime geopolitics as well as to delineate the emerging geography of the Indo-Pacific. It also explained the growing strategic convergence between India and the United States in the maritime domain that laid the foundation for the so-called Quad–the quadrilateral framework involving Australia, India, Japan and the United States. The access to the Library of Congress enriched my book and set me on the course of looking at India’s own changing geopolitics. Besides my own work, I benefited from the interactions with a very diverse and brilliant set of scholars at the Kluge Center in our regular brown-bag sessions. I enjoyed the work space in the splendid Jefferson Building amid the grandeur of Capitol Hill.


Teresita Schaffer photo portraitName: Teresita Schaffer
Title: Ambassador Teresita C. Schaffer

Libraries give the gift of serendipity, and my time as the Kissinger Chair starting in the fall of 2008, was no exception. I was three chapters short of finishing a book on US-India relations, a subject at the heart of my thirty-year career in the US Foreign Service. The Library of Congress let me immerse myself in my writing project, reading a broad array of views not just about India but about the global order and how it was shifting. So Kissinger unwittingly helped me finish “The U.S. and India in the 21st Century: Reinventing Partnership”—somewhat ironically, since during my time as a diplomat he was well known for implementing President Nixon’s rather hostile policy toward India. And as a totally unexpected dividend, the woman who occupied the office across the hall from me, who managed Scandinavian language acquisitions for the Library, found me some amazing material on my great-grandmother’s work on textile art in Sweden and Finland!


Charles Kupchan headshot portraitName: Charles Kupchan
Title: Professor of International Affairs at Georgetown University and Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

I was honored to serve as the Kissinger Chair in 2007-2008. During my tenure, I focused primarily on completing a book entitled “How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace” (Princeton University Press, 2010). This study examined how and under what circumstances longstanding adversaries are able to pursue rapprochement and find their way to lasting peace. When and why does peace break out? The Kluge Center provided an ideal venue and intellectual community for researching the twenty historical cases examined in the book, which ranged from the formation of the Iroquois Confederation in 1450, to rapprochement between the United Kingdom and United States after 1895, to the founding of ASEAN in 1967. Other fellows provided valuable intellectual input as the project evolved. And it is of course hard to imagine a more beautiful and inspiring spot for contemplation than the main reading room of the Library of Congress.  My time as the Kissinger Chair provided a unique opportunity for research and intellectual development – and I have maintained strong connections to the Kluge Center ever since. Indeed, I was pleased to join Kluge Center director John Haskell recently for a presentation on my most recent book: “Isolationism: A History of America’s Efforts to Shield Itself from the World” (Oxford University Press, 2020).


James Goldgeier headshot photoName: James Goldgeier
Title: Robert Bosch Senior Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution and Professor of International Relations at American University

I arrived at the Kluge Center in September 2005 to work on a book that was published in 2008 as “America Between the Wars: From 11/9 to 9/11,” co-authored with Derek Chollet. Because of other funding I had after the fellowship ended, I was able to stay in residence through December 2006. I was finally dragged out of my office at the end of that year, leaving behind quite a stack of books on US foreign policy from the Library’s collections. Critical to my work was the ability to go through the unclassified papers of Clinton national security adviser Anthony Lake that are housed at the Library. My next-door office neighbor, former Stanford President Gerhard Casper was absolutely fascinating to hang out with, and the most fun was former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, who decamped in the office across from me to work on a collection of his jokes. That kept us all laughing daily! At my lunch with Henry Kissinger that year, try as I might, I was unable to convince him that UC Berkeley really wasn’t as radical a campus as he thought it was. He really did not like my alma mater! I had such a wonderful sixteen months in residence in 2005-06 that in 2018, I jumped at the chance to come back to the Kluge Center to hold the inaugural Library of Congress chair in U.S.-Russia relations. Kluge is a magical place for a scholar.


Portrait photo of Lanxin XiangName: Lanxin Xiang
Title: Professor, International History and Politics, The Graduate Institute Geneva

I arrived at the Kluge Center in September 2003 with the idea of working on a project about the ideological context of US-China relations.

It was challenging because the fundamental difference in ideology and political value between the US and China remained the root cause of potential conflict, even though the relationship was stable at that time.  While at the Library, I read most of the relevant works about differences in ideology, from antiquity to contemporary literature, and organized several workshops on this subject. I also had conversations with top thinkers working that year as Kluge scholars, such as the former President of Brazil, Fernando Cardoso, and Indian historian Romila Thapar, and of course the great James Billington (Librarian of Congress from 1987 to 2015).

The numerous private conversations with Dr. Kissinger on US-China relations were most inspiring. At one point, I tried to explain why the American elite failed to understand the true nature of the Chinese authoritarian system, because they made the mistake of categorizing it as a faceless and docile collectivist culture without individualism. Starting from the difference between ancient Greek philosophers and Confucian thinkers, and moving to how Western thinkers distorted the Chinese political model during the European Enlightenment, I stressed that the Chinese are actually far more individualistic than the Japanese and Koreans. Dr. Kissinger grasped my convoluted argument with one succinct comment, “so, that is because China has too many individuals?” We both laughed heartily.

The experience was significant for me because the Kluge program provided an excellent intellectual environment for debate and learning, not to mention a superb collection at the library.  I also made many great life-long friends. Cardoso has invited me three times to deliver talks in Sao Paolo. My new book, “The Quest for Legitimacy in Chinese Politics:   A New Interpretation, published in 2019, originated from my Kissinger project. It has been  well received, among others by reviewers at The Economist, who commented, “’The Quest for Legitimacy in Chinese Politics, A New Interpretation,” is an invaluable guide to the feelings of hurt and injustice that consume those same ruling classes now.”


Klaus Larres headshot photoName: Klaus Larres
Title: Richard M. Krasno Distinguished Professor, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

I had a wonderful time as the second holder of the Kissinger Chair from September 2002 to August 2003. I arrived at the Library after having just published my book on “Churchill’s Cold War: The Politics of Personal Diplomacy” (Yale UP, 2002) and started working on a new project on the US and transatlantic relations from the 1970s to the 1990s. The collections of private papers in the Manuscript Division (not least Henry Kissinger’s papers) were invaluable for my research. Among the many highlights of my stay was the grand dinner and concert, featuring Tony Bennett, Librarian of Congress Dr. James Billington gave in honor of John Kluge, in appreciation of his generous donation for establishing the Kluge Center.

Being the holder of the Kissinger Chair, and Kissinger’s personal recommendations, helped  to open doors in Washington and conduct a large number of interviews and conversations with leading politicians and diplomats, including George Shultz, Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Alexander Haig, Lawrence Eagleburger, Tony Lake, Strobe Talbott, and Bill Clinton. . In fact my forthcoming book entitled “Uncertain Allies: Nixon, Kissinger, and the Threat of a United Europe” (Yale UP, November 2021) partially still draws on the research and interviews I was able to do all those years ago as the second Kissinger Chair.

My time at the Library of Congress overlapped with the aftermath of 9/11 and the controversial Iraq war. During these difficult and emotional times both my expertise on Churchill’s leadership and on transatlantic relations, not least German-French-US and US-UK relations, were much in demand. While at the Library,  I organized a number of popular roundtables on Nixon and Kissinger’s foreign policy and transatlantic relations, mostly broadcast on C-Span. Among the participants were Henry Kissinger himself as well as James Schlesinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, Richard Holbrooke, Helmut Sonnenfeldt, and many other politicians and diplomats, as well as  scholars and journalists  such as Walter Isaacson and Marvin Kalb. My time as the second holder of the Kissinger Chair in 2002-03 was thus wonderfully fruitful and productive and it had a genuinely positive impact on my professional life.  Later on, having held the Kissinger Chair at the Library  also proved to be a ‘door opener’ for  many other academic, think tank, and policy positions, such as at the German embassy in Beijing, China.


Aaron Friedberg headshot photoName: Aaron Friedberg
Title: Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University

My first day at work at the Library of Congress was September 10, 2001. I was delayed in catching the Metro the next morning because I had to meet the landlord of the apartment I had rented for my stay in Washington.  Needless to say, I never made it in that day, nor for many days after. When I did return to the Capitol I found it an armed camp, complete with barricades and heavily armed troops.

Despite all this, and the frequent false alarms, evacuation drills, and occasional anthrax alerts that disrupted the first few months of my time as the Kissinger Chair, I was able to have an extremely productive year. Drawing on the Library’s matchless resources I researched and wrote the first part of what I intended to be a largely historical book on “America as a Pacific Power.”  But being in the nation’s capital and observing the events unfolding outside the windows of my magnificent office in the Jefferson Building also caused me to spend more time thinking and writing about contemporary issues and, in particular, about what seemed to me to be an intensifying strategic rivalry between the United States and China.  The book that I wound up writing – “A Contest for Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia”was very different from the one I had originally envisioned, but I like to think it was better because of the perspective I gained during my year in Washington. I remain very grateful to the Library of Congress, the Kluge Center, and the Kissinger Program for giving me this opportunity.

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