Kissinger’s Dark Legacy: Weaponizing Population Control
A few years ago, Henry Kissinger gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal about China. Kissinger, who passed away on November 29, famously served as the Secretary of State under President Richard Nixon, and as national security advisor to President Gerald Ford.
Among many other things, Kissinger is known for advocating a policy of rapprochement between the United States and communist China, increasing the economic inter-dependencies between the two superpowers. In the Wall Street Journal interview, Kissinger was asked about his feelings on Chinese nationalism, and how that might affect the global order.
Interestingly, Kissinger immediately began musing about how children in China overwhelmingly come from one-child families. One result of this, he noted, is that each child has four grandparents and two parents who are pouring all of their energy into a single child.
Consequently, he said, the children “become very self-centered and very assertive,” having it “drilled into them that if they don’t get A+ in school, that they have disgraced the family.” Kissinger worried that when this generation of children is put in charge of foreign policy, “they could be quite ruthless.”
In concluding, Kissinger noted that while it is a “strange phenomenon” that the dominance of the one-child family is producing “a greater change in Chinese culture” with potentially global implications, nevertheless “there are good demographic reasons” for this situation.
In other words, far be it from him to question the fact that China brutally enforced a one-child policy for decades. There were, after all, “good” reasons to do so.
Kissinger’s Foreign Policy: Reduce Births in “Threatening” Nations
Anyone who served in power for as long as Kissinger, in as prominent positions as he did, is certain to have a complex legacy. However, for those of us who work to stem the tide of the culture of death, the name of Kissinger immediately serves to call to mind a single document—the so-called “Kissinger Report.”
The technical name of this document is National Security Study Memorandum 200 (i.e. NSSM-200). It is called the Kissinger Report after its author, i.e., Henry Kissinger.
This memorandum was penned in 1974 and was originally highly classified. However, researchers managed to obtain copies of it in the early 1990s. It outlines what Kissinger and the Nixon Administration viewed as the serious national security threats posed by population growth, particularly in the developing nations.
Ultimately, the document explicitly advocates that the United States export and weaponize population control, with the goal of reducing the fertility rate of nations and peoples that Nixon, Kissinger, and the U.S. security apparatus viewed as a “threat” to the U.S.
It is difficult to overstate just how important and impactful this document was and remains. Under Kissinger’s guidance, population control became official U.S. foreign policy, with all manner of military, financial, social and aid decisions being overtly guided by the need to reduce the fertility of various foreign nations, using any means possible.
Given this, we should not be surprised to hear Kissinger coolly musing that there were “good demographic reasons” behind China’s one-child-policy, without the slightest nod towards the vast, unimaginable human suffering perpetrated by that policy on the people of China. So far as Kissinger was concerned, human fertility was merely one “problem” that governments, politicians and government advisors like himself must “solve.”
The Kissinger Report: Utilitarian Control of Fertility
Indeed, in reading the Kissinger Report, one is struck by its dispassionate, cold-blooded approach to a question that has such profound human and social implications, i.e. human reproduction and the welcoming of children.
Throughout the document, there is scarcely a nod towards the sensitivity and indeed sacredness of the topic. Instead, it is obvious that the authors take an utterly utilitarian and mechanistic view of this question: taking it for granted that, since fertility rates in foreign nations are relevant to the United States’ national security interests, they must be subject to the manipulation of the American government, so as to produce the most “beneficial” result for America.
NSSM-200 was written and adopted at a time when overpopulation hysteria was at its peak. Paul Ehrlich famously published The Population Bomb in 1968. Ehrlich opened his book with a single, chilling line: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over.” He then went on to predict the starvation of hundreds of millions of people in the 1970s, including tens of millions of Americans. Overpopulation, he warned, would essentially lead to the complete breakdown of the social and political order, with various powerful nations ceasing to exist, producing vast human suffering.
NSSM-200 takes Ehlich’s doom-mongering for granted. “Growing populations will have a serious impact on the need for food especially in the poorest, fastest growing LDCs [Less Developed Countries],” it states, adding, “The most serious consequence for the short and middle term is the possibility of massive famines in certain parts of the world, especially the poorest regions.”
Weaponizing Population Control to Boost U.S. Economy
NSSM-200 includes one of the most chilling paragraphs ever written, drawing out the implications of continued population growth:
The U.S. economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less developed countries. That fact gives the U.S. enhanced interest in the political, economic, and social stability of the supplying countries. Wherever a lessening of population pressures through reduced birth rates can increase the prospects for such stability, population policy becomes relevant to resource supplies and to the economic interests of the United States….
Pause and think about that paragraph for a moment. So far as Kissinger, Nixon, and their cronies were concerned, the most important consideration in relation to population growth in poorer countries, is that this population growth could threaten America’s access to cheap and plentiful minerals and other resources. Given this, the United States had good reason to meddle in questions of population in these nations, steering things in the direction that the U.S. thought served its own interests.
In reading NSSM-200, and in witnessing the vast, global impacts of the policy it advocates for on the whole course of the 20th century, it is difficult to wrap one’s head around the fact that individual men like Kissinger could operate with such breathtaking hubris in the face of such sacred realities.
Everything about the document suggests that it was penned by men who lacked even the most preliminary ability to think about matters from any viewpoint other than the utterly pragmatic. The question of whether it is right for America to insert itself into reproductive decisions of couples in foreign nations doesn’t even come up. Instead, it is taken for granted that any matter that might impact America is a matter that America has a right to manipulate.
This is Realpolitik at its most cynical.
United States’ Secret Funding of Abortion
Nowhere is this more evident than in the document’s discussion of abortion. On the one hand, the document’s authors claim to have “no specific recommendations to propose on abortion,” noting the political “sensitivity” of the topic. On the other hand, they immediately go on to note that, “No country has reduced its population growth without resorting to abortion.”
Given that the central thesis of the document is that nations must reduce their population growth, and that America has a central role to play in helping them to do so, the implications are blindingly clear. While the document notes that U.S. aid programs cannot directly fund abortions, nevertheless the government can support general population control programs. Similarly, while government monies cannot be used to directly fund training in how to commit abortions, it can be used to fund general obstetric programs that include abortion training. It coyly notes that while abortion is illegal in many nations, nevertheless abortion is readily obtained in many of those countries.
The abortion section is filled with such nudges and winks: indicating that, wherever possible, the U.S. government can find ways to circumvent technical restrictions on promoting abortion, since (after all) abortion is the key way to reduce fertility, and fertility must be reduced. Again, there is no discussion of the question of whether it is right for America to support the killing of foreign, preborn children.
America Turned a Blind Eye to Brutal One-Child Policy
It is worth noting that one way that America supported population control in foreign nations was by investing massively in the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The UNFPA notoriously supported population control programs all over the world, including brutal, coercive policies in China and India. However, for pro-population control U.S. administrations, UNFPA served as a useful front for advancing U.S. interests, under the guise of funding unbiased, independent, “charitable” international organizations.
In China under the one-child policy, untold hundreds of millions of families were subjected to the most inhumane restrictions on one of the most intimate, fundamental aspects of their lives and relationships, i.e. the decision to welcome children. Millions of women were forcibly sterilized or forced to undergo horrific forced abortions. Families that had “too many” children were penalized with crippling fines, and their “excess” children rendered non-citizens, cut off from things like government healthcare, or the ability to go to schools or universities. And UNFPA actively supported all of the above.
While Kissinger, Nixon, or other U.S. administrations cannot receive the sole blame for China’s policy, which was enthusiastically supported within China, NSSM-200 casts light on the reasons why the U.S. government has so rarely expressed any opposition to the grotesque human rights violations happening under China’s one-child policy. Powerful men like Kissinger thought that there were “good demographic reasons” for such policies and were perfectly happy to turn a blind eye to egregious abuses, in the smug satisfaction that such abuses were “necessary” to protect U.S. political and economic interests.
Kissinger’s Policies Threaten Futures of Developing Nations
There is no person whose life or legacy is so evil that they are excluded from the possibility of receiving God’s mercy, or who ought not to receive our heartfelt prayers. Kissinger has met his Maker and has seen in the clear light of God’s omnipotent wisdom the truth of his life and legacy. Now we pray that he came to know and to repent of his support for population control, and that God has had mercy on his soul.
However, we must not understate the impact of Kissinger’s document and policy, a policy that has never been rejected by the U.S and remains operative. I spend much of my time as President of Human Life International travelling to less-developed nations, to meet with those who have dedicated their lives to advocating for a Culture of Life and opposing the culture of death. Everywhere I go, people share with me the bitter fruit of decades of U.S.-funded and supported population control efforts.
Pro-life and pro-family nations have been flooded with propaganda advocating both contraception and abortion, as well as with the contraceptives and other resources needed to prevent the children that Kissinger and his ilk viewed as such a threat to American interests. Many of these nations are now waking up to the reality that decades of rock-bottom fertility rates, engineered in part by U.S. policy and coercion, have created an existential threat to their cultures, and very future.
There are places that I visit that are desperately in need of authentic foreign aid in the form of food and medicine. However, rather than providing this assistance, U.S. and international aid either takes the form of contraceptives or is given on condition that recipient nations implement the population control programs (i.e. sexual reproductive health) that the U.S. and other international governments view as necessary to protect their interests. As NSSM-200 states, questions of which countries receive U.S. aid, “should take account of what steps a country is taking in population control as well as food production.”
Billions of people have been directly impacted by the policies advocated and outlined in the Kissinger Report. Now, we are left cleaning up the mess that Kissinger left behind.
As president of Human Life International, Fr. Boquet is a leading expert on the international pro-life and family movement, having journeyed to nearly 90 countries on pro-life missions over the last decade. Father Boquet works with pro-life and family leaders in 116 counties that partner with HLI to proclaim and advance the Gospel of Life. Read his full bio here.