Thomas A. SchwartzDec 26, 2023
Henry Kissinger and American Power
A Political Biography
Hill and Wang 2020
Over the past six decades, Henry Kissinger has been America's most consistently praised--and reviled--public figure. He was hailed as a "miracle worker" for his peacemaking in the Middle East, pursuit of détente with the Soviet Union, negotiation of an end to the Vietnam War, and secret plan to open the United States to China. He was assailed from the left and from the right for his indifference to human rights, complicity in the pointless sacrifice of American and Vietnamese lives, and reliance on deception and intrigue. Was he a brilliant master strategist--"the 20th century's greatest 19th century statesman"--or a cold-blooded monster who eroded America's moral standing for the sake of self-promotion?
In Henry Kissinger and American Power: A Political Biography (Hill and Wang, 2020), the renowned diplomatic historian Thomas A. Schwartz offers an authoritative, and fair-minded, answer to this question. While other biographers have engaged in hagiography or demonology, Schwartz takes a measured view of his subject. He recognizes Kissinger's successes and acknowledges that Kissinger thought seriously and with great insight about the foreign policy issues of his time, while also recognizing his failures, his penchant for backbiting, and his reliance on ingratiating and fawning praise of the president as a source of power. Throughout, Schwartz stresses Kissinger's artful invention of himself as a celebrity diplomat and his domination of the medium of television news. He also notes Kissinger's sensitivity to domestic and partisan politics, complicating--and undermining--the image of the far-seeing statesman who stands above the squabbles of popular strife.
Rounded and textured, and rich with new insights into key dilemmas of American power, Henry Kissinger and American Power stands as an essential guide to a man whose legacy is as complex as the last sixty years of US history itself.