The reality is that while Kissinger was distinguished at times in terms of his diplomatic flexibility, little of what he did was particularly controversial within the foreign policy community of the time. The answer to the question “Is it worth sacrificing Dacca in order to win Beijing?” would have been answered with a resounding “yes” by the greater portion of the foreign policy community in 1972. Mao and his cohorts had slaughtered 40 million or more during the 1960s; what were a few hundred thousand Pakistanis to be added to the tally?It would be wrong to say that Kissinger simply gave voice to the foreign policy community; he was undoubtedly a dynamic actor within it and effectively pursued the ends that he sought. But it would also be wrong to claim that any of his actions were somehow alien to the norms of that community.Kissinger was mostly unapologetic about this record, not in the sense that he felt he needed to robustly defend it, but in that he barely needed to acknowledge it as a potential source of shame. Robert McNamara begged for absolution at the end of his life; Kissinger was uninterested in the revision that absolution would require.His true skill was ingratiating himself to those who had power, and escaping the opprobrium that normally fell upon war criminals. Leaders we all felt should have known better nevertheless embraced Kissinger when the time came. Clinton and Bush and Obama each believed that it could be some other way, then discovered that the president of the United States kills people when he gets out of bed each morning. For the powerful, Kissinger offered absolution in the terms of, “Whatever you’re doing, no matter how many people it kills, is okay as long as it serves the national interest.”Many sins can be placed on Kissinger’s shoulders; indeed, over the course of his career he did not seem particularly averse to the layering of additional sins, as each one seemed to increase his historical significance. Arguably his most strident critics simply enhanced his historical profile. This is perhaps best exemplified by Christopher Hitchens, who attempted to lay all of the sins of postwar American foreign policy upon the shoulders of Kissinger, only to become one of the most enthusiastic advocates of a war that would kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.One possible lesson to learn from Kissinger’s career is that the foreign policy establishment of the United States is rotten to the core, with Kissinger perhaps the worst of a barrel of bad apples. A different possible lesson, one that the statesman himself would probably prefer, is that the job of manning the helm of a great nation’s foreign policy is inherently destructive and morally compromised.