Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 291
Being a work of nonfiction, Diplomacy does not have characters per se, but several historical and modern figures are discussed through the work. The text also reveals much about its author, Henry Kissinger.
Kissinger comments on the early historical figures of Richelieu, William of Orange, and Pitt the Younger. He uses their examples to show how political policy was often influenced by the idea of balance of power. The book then turns its attention to Napoleon and Bismarck. Kissinger criticizes Napoleon’s lack of an overarching plan for his ambitious empire building. Bismarck provides a contrasting example of a political leader whose decisions were based on principles of realpolitik and focused on pragmatic concerns over ideological ones.
Kissinger casts a critical eye on Woodrow Wilson, whose politics were guided largely by the idea of American exceptionalism. Kissinger focuses on the negative results of Wilson’s international policy and the creation of the League of Nations.
In discussing the events of World War II, readers may want to keep in mind that Kissinger had personal connections to those events. As German Jews, he and his family were forced to flee Nazi persecution in 1938 when he was 15 years old. He calls Hitler a “demonic personality” whose global ambitions spurred his desire for war. Kissinger sees Stalin as a “supreme realist'' in his political decision making. The book praises Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s wisdom in edging America toward participation in World War II. Kissinger then contrasts Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin in their approaches to seeking peace.
Kissinger believes that Nixon's grand achievement was maintaining America’s role as a global superpower, especially given the circumstances he inherited from Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson. He gives Reagan credit for the dissolution of the Soviet empire.
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