Kissinger Essay - Critical Essays

Kissinger

Henry Kissinger captured the imagination of millions of Americans in the 1970’s when, as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, he shuttled dramatically back and forth among the world’s capitals. He mixed socially with moguls and movie stars, while enjoying the reputation of being a scholar and deep thinker. The globe-trotting, jet-setting diplomat became a legend in his own time, and his aura of celebrity endures to this day, as he has become a fixture as a radio and television commentator on foreign policy. Walter Isaacson’s new study KISSINGER: A BIOGRAPHY provides a detailed account of Henry Kissinger’s life and a measured assessment of his achievements.

Henry Kissinger arrived in the United States as a boy, a Jewish refugee from Hitler’s Germany. Following a brilliant academic career during which Kissinger established himself as an authority on foreign policy, Richard Nixon chose him to serve as his National Security Advisor and, later, Secretary of State. Kissinger became Nixon’s partner in centralizing the control of foreign policy in the White House. Recognizing the limits of American power, Nixon and Kissinger developed a triangular diplomacy with China and the Soviet Union, exploiting these powers’ distrust of each other to further American interests. Kissinger believed the opening to China and detente with the Soviet Union would facilitate ending the Vietnam War. his proved a forlorn hope, and Nixon and Kissinger intensified the bombing of Vietnam and invaded Cambodia before they achieved a peace in 1973. Kissinger escaped the wreck of the Nixon Administration and continued as Secretary of State under Gerald Ford.

While acknowledging Kissinger’s great gifts as a diplomat, Isaacson criticizes Kissinger’s penchant for personal diplomacy and secrecy. He argues that if Kissinger had developed a more open and popularly understood foreign policy, such legacies as detente might not have been rejected by his successors. KISSINGER: A BIOGRAPHY is an important contribution to modern American history.

Sources for Further Study

The Christian Science Monitor. September 21, 1992, p. 13.

European Economic Review. XXXVI, May, 1992, p. 143.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. October 4, 1992, p. 1.

The Nation. CCLV, November 16, 1992, p. 584.

The New Republic. CCVII, November 16, 1992, pp. 32.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVII, September 6, 1992, p. 1.

The Times Literary Supplement. October 9, 1992, p. 4.

The Washington Post Book World. XXII, September 6, 1992, p. 1.