Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 249
Henry Kissinger’s book Diplomacy has had its share of both praise and criticism. Many agree that the text forms a cohesive, powerful argument in favor of political realism over idealism. The book has also been praised for its extensive detail, ability to shift from philosophical to narrative modes, adept comparisons of historical times and figures, and reflections on theoretical underpinnings of political events.
However, the work has been criticized for its lack of balance and accuracy in analysis of historical events. A New York Times review by Ernest R. May criticized that Kissinger “does not take pains to reconstruct the past as the past rather than as a source of parables for the present.” May points out that Kissinger’s version of the past intends to bolster his own worldview.
Others have pointed out that Kissinger sometimes overgeneralizes, painting historical events with too broad of strokes. Sometimes the accuracy of his statements have been questioned. For example, Kissinger writes that before the British Raj, India had not been ruled as a single political unit, ignoring the rule of the Mughal empire.
Kissinger’s book can also be read as an attempt to explain and vindicate his own policy decisions serving as Secretary of State and National Security Adviser under Nixon and Ford. The historical backdrop he provides serves as a lens through which to see his own diplomatic actions. He defends the decisions related to the Vietnam War as the best course considering the circumstances and available options.
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