Henry Kissinger and American Power: A Political Biography

Hill and Wang. Aug. 2020. 560p. ISBN 9780809095377. $35. BIOG
Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger (b. 1923), who has not held a government office since 1977, remains one of the most polarizing officials of the modern era, claims Schwartz (history, Vanderbilt Univ.; Lyndon Johnson and Europe) in this deeply researched, first-rate narrative. The author bridges those who accuse Kissinger of being a war criminal for his politics toward Vietnam, Cambodia, and Chile, and those who praise his negotiations with China, the Soviet Union, and the Middle East. Kissinger is portrayed as a skillful media manipulator, which made him the most sought-after foreign policy TV commentator for decades and cemented his role as the acting foreign-policy president, according to Schwartz, during President Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal. The author faults Kissinger for his arrogance and pettiness, which led to bureaucratic warfare and a bitter relationship with Nixon, but concludes that Kissinger is too complex to be viewed in a two-dimensional manner. Although he was always controversial, every president from Carter through Trump has sought Kissinger’s insights into realpolitik.
VERDICT This richly detailed investigation will find an appreciative audience among Cold War scholars and current history readers. See Barry Gewen’s The Inevitability of Tragedy for more insight into Kissinger’s political underpinnings.

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