Henry Kissinger Explains Why U.S. Is More Divided Now Than During Vietnam

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has highlighted the reasons why he believes the U.S. is more divided now than it was during the Vietnam War.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Sunday Times, the 99-year-old statesman said the U.S. is "infinitely more" divided now and highlighted the differences between the 1970s and modern politics. Most notably, he said, there had been a reduction in the possibility of bipartisanship.

"The national interest was a meaningful term, it was not in itself a subject of debate," he said.

"That has ended. Every administration now faces the unremitting hostility of the opposition and in a way that is built on different premises.

"The unstated but very real debate in America right now is about whether the basic values of America have been valid," he said.

When President Joe Biden was sworn in, he received praise for his determination to "unify" America as he acknowledged the country was divided.

"I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify; who doesn't see red states and blue states, only sees the United States," he said in his victory speech in 2020.

However, during his presidency, Biden has faced criticism for his inability to unify the right and left of the country towards agreed common goals.

Kissinger, a Republican since the 1950s, also spoke about the "progressive left" in American politics and said some on the left were questioning the basic values that have underpinned U.S. political life.

On the progressive left, according to Kissinger, people now argued that "unless these basic values are overturned, and the principles of [their] execution altered, we have no moral right even to carry out our own domestic policy, much less our foreign policy.

"[This] is not a common view yet, but it is sufficiently virulent to drive everything else in its direction and to prevent unifying policies.

"[It is a view held] by a large group of the intellectual community, probably dominating all universities and many media."

Asked how the divisions could be fixed, Kissinger said: "What happens if you have unbridgeable divisions is one of two things.

"Either the society collapses and is no longer capable of carrying out its missions under either leadership, or it transcends them."

He was also asked if the U.S. needs an "external shock or an external enemy" and replied: "That's one way of doing it. Or you could have an unmanageable domestic crisis."

Newsweek has contacted Kissinger for comment.

Henry Kissinger
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger speaks during the Department of State 230th Anniversary Celebration at the Harry S. Truman Headquarters building July 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. Kissinger served as Secretary of State for former presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford from 1973 to 1977. Chip Somodevilla/Getty