On “Henry Kissinger and His World” with author Barry Gewen

Summary

In my talk with Barry Gewen on his 2020 book, The Inevitability of Tragedy: Henry Kissinger and His World (W. W. Norton, 2020), we explore the disparate influences that shaped Kissinger as both an intellectual and as a practitioner of power. 

Our conversation touches on Kissinger’s upbringing in a German-Jewish community in Bavaria at the time of Hitler’s rise to power and pivots to an understanding of Kissinger’s Realism as his pessimistic yet unwavering approach to foreign affairs and exigencies like the balance of power. In his committed opposition to the Wilsonian creed—the missionary idea of America’s role in the world—Kissinger was decidedly in the camp of the political scientist Hans Morgenthau, a fellow German-Jewish immigrant and mentor of sorts. Barry Gewen, a former editor at The New York Times Book Review, deserves to be heard, and his book deserves to be read, for his judicious, textured appraisal of Kissinger. His Kissinger is neither a war criminal nor a diplomatic magician but one guided by the stern maxim that order is prior to justice in the affairs of an ever-perilous world. Our talk closes with Gewen’s assessment of Kissinger’s thinking on the present-day foreign-policy challenges for the U.S. of China and the Russia-Ukraine war.

Veteran journalist Paul Starobin is a former Moscow bureau chief for Business Week and a former contributing editor of The Atlantic. He has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and many other publications. His latest book, Putin’s Exiles: Their Fight for a Better Russia (Columbia Global Reports) will be published in January.

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Paul Starobin

Veteran journalist Paul Starobin is a former Moscow bureau chief for Business Week and a former contributing editor of The Atlantic. He has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and many other publications. His latest book, Putin’s Exiles: Their Fight for a Better Russia (Columbia Global Reports) will be published in January.

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