Henry Kissinger’s March 5th op-ed in the Washington Post was an attempt to influence policy toward the ongoing Ukraine crisis. The former secretary of state and decorated academic offered poignant insights and observations of the crisis and those involved. At a time when many opinion makers and influencers are sabre rattling, calling for confrontation with Russia, Kissinger adopted an opposing view, arguing for cooperation instead. The argument he formulates is served well by techniques of argumentation introduced by Chaim Perelman.
Kissinger uses facts and presumptions to support truths that form the basis of his argument. He relies on historical precedents of the US’s military failures to ...view middle of the document...
Similar observations are made of the conduct of the EU, the US, and Ukraine from paragraphs 3-9.
The former secretary of state expands on Perelman’s idea of the person-action liaison so to further the audience’s understanding of these nations through their past conduct. He presented a Ukraine for instance that is a young, divided nation with deep cultural ties to both Russia and the West that go back hundreds of years and split geographically. This is an explanation of the domestic political infighting and divided loyalties to the outside world that define the country today. He paints similar pictures of Russia (bold, belligerent, foolish), the EU (misguided), the US (heavy-handed policemen of the world), and the west altogether (ignorant of the historical link between Russia and Ukraine and Russian psychology).
With the characters and the failures of their past polities established, Kissinger is free to use the liaison of direction to introduce the principles he believes should influence good policy at the end of the article.
Kissinger uses two of Perelman’s tactics for strengthening an argument: avoiding the common argument and repetition. Kissinger acknowledges at the outset of his argument that prevailing wisdom is for the world powers confront Russia for its conduct in Ukraine. Kissinger goes in the opposite direction, arguing instead for reconciliation. The former secretary also uses the terms bridge, cooperate, reconciliation, and shared power in his article. This repetition of terms with similar meanings establishes a theme that falls in line with his previously stated policy preference and reinforces his argument.
Kissinger organizes his argument similarly to the model Perelman established. His name and title as former secretary of state are at the top of the article, establishing his credibility to speak on the Ukrainian crisis. From there he introduced facts agreeable to the audience to set up his argument. The assertion that the US entered four wars with strong...