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Diplomacy (A Touchstone book) by Henry…

Diplomacy (A Touchstone book) (original 1994; edition 1995)

by Henry Kissinger

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1,392115,459 (4.06)22
Title:Diplomacy (A Touchstone book)
Authors:Henry Kissinger
Info:Simon & Schuster (1995), Edition: Highlighting edition, Paperback, 912 pages
Collections:Political Science, Your library

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Diplomacy by Henry Kissinger (1994)



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Do not take seriously any economist, historian, diplomat speaking on the 20th century or the current state of the nations who has not read this book! Of course, many may not agree with some of Kissinger's conclusions, but I doubt there are many who could rival his insight and analysis of the conflicts and leaders who shaped the world we have now.

I also think this would be an excellent foundation for any negotiator. Seeing the detailed styles, techniques and mistakes of those we depended on in international negotiations would replace years of experience (mistakes), even for individual or minor negotiations. ( )
1 vote mdubois | Aug 15, 2013 |
With all of the controversy that still surrounds Kissinger's policies, that book makes me think he should have been a fine historian. Lucid and invigorating analysis of complex international relations issues. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 29, 2013 |
A very informative and well-researched book, Diplomacy can get tedious at times. This is why I only recommend this to those who are really interested in the topic. Otherwise, you might be tempted to skip chapters just to finish reading this book ( )
  zen_923 | May 3, 2012 |
This is a divided book. The chapters on the history of European and American diplomacy up to the korean war or so are excellent because here the author writes as a well-informed, almost objective historian. But then as he gets to the period of his own involvement he begins to write as a politician by pushing his own idiosyncratic interpretation of American foreign policy to the front. Needless to say, the first part is much better and I wish he would have left it there.
1 vote thcson | Nov 17, 2011 |

This is a somewhat frustrating book. The opening chapters, based apparently on the author's PhD thesis about diplomacy in the nineteenth century, are pretty dull, even soporific. But once Kissinger gets to the twentieth century, it all gets rather exciting - particularly as regards the foreign policy of Germany in the period between the two world wars and between 1945 and 1961; I don't think I have read a better analysis. But then, rather surprisingly, as Kissinger himself becomes an actor the book becomes less interesting; his fascination with the characters of Nixon and Reagan robs him of any ability to judge their efforts objectively, and even his account of ending the Vietnam War is repetitious and oddly unenlightening.

The book fails to establish its main intellectual theses which are that a) America is unique in bringing its own moral values to international diplomacy and b) that this is only successful when these are consciously married to a realist perception of what is possible. The first proposition is easily falsified by the large number of other countries which have attempted to export their own ideologies to the rest of the world. America has been more successful, admittedly (though the jury must surely still be out on the Chinese), but that's not the same as being unique.

The second proposition is trickier. Kissinger's bête noire is John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower's Secretary of State, who he blames for Suez, Hungary and the initial and irreversible commitment to Vietnam. But on Kissinger's evidence, the problem with Dulles was not faulty ideology but poor personal management skills; Dulles made speeches without reference to his own officials' painstakingly compiled research, containing commitments on which he was utterly unable to deliver (or, worse, from which it was impossible for him to disengage). It was, on Kissinger's account, fortunate for Dulles that for most of his term of office the Soviet Union was led by Khrushchev, whose own personal management skills were even worse.

Kissinger's praise for Ronald Reagan, despite his total lack of intellectual depth (which Kissinger describes in a couple of devastating phrases), is further evidence for my view that knowing a lot about international relations in theory is not a good qualification for actually being involved in practice. I'm dubious anyway about the genuine value of Reagan's legacy - again, on Kissinger's own evidence, Gorbachev and Shevardnadze first discussed how to change the Soviet Union years before Reagan came to power, thanks to the CSCE process started by Nixon and ended by Ford; SDI had little to do with it. But if you think Reagan was in any way successful, that in itself is a serious strike against the idea that studying IR is any use at all (other than for potentially generating literature to be read by other IR scholars, rather than practitioners). Kissinger damns Carter by barely mentioning him.

I also found fault with Kissinger's analysis of American discourse. He singles out the Vietnam war as having been a uniquely divisive and horrible event in the American psyche. But the more I read about American history, the more it seems to me that the nasty, viscerally horrible debate that was happening 40 years ago about Vietnam, the brutal debate happening now about health care, the question of slavery which sparked armed conflict in the 1860s, the division between John Adams and Alexander Hamilton in the 1790s, that this style is all fairly characteristic of the standard mode of American discourse. It's not for the faint-hearted, and it's not for me, but it's a recurrent phenomenon through history. I'm sure that for Kissinger and for many of his colleagues, Vietnam was a uniquely searing experience. But in the context of American history, it seems les so (at least to me).

Cyprus conspiracy theorists will be (and already have been) disappointed that the island is not mentioned even once in the book. ( )
  nwhyte | Sep 24, 2009 |
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To the men and women of the Foreign Service of the United States of America, whose professionalism and dedication sustain American diplomacy
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Almost as if according to some natural law, in every century there seems to emerge a country with the power, the will, and the intellectual and moral impetus to shape the entire international system in accordance with its own values.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0671510991, Paperback)


Moving from a sweeping overview of history to blow-by-blow accounts of his negotiations with world leaders, Henry Kissinger describes how the art of diplomacy has created the world in which we live, and how America's approach to foreign affairs has always differed vastly from that of other nations.

Brilliant, controversial, and profoundly incisive, Diplomacy stands as the culmination of a lifetime of diplomatic service and scholarship. It is vital reading for anyone concerned with the forces that have shaped our world today and will impact upon it tomorrow.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:23:44 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In this controversial and monumental book - arguably his most important - Henry Kissinger illuminates just what diplomacy is. Moving from a sweeping overview of his own interpretation of history to personal accounts of his negotiations with world leaders, Kissinger describes the ways in which the art of diplomacy and the balance of power have created the world we live in, and shows how Americans, protected by the size and isolation of their country, as well as by their own idealism and mistrust of the Old World, have sought to conduct a unique kind of foreign policy based on the way they wanted the world to be, as opposed to the way it really is. Spanning more than three centuries of history, from Cardinal Richelieu, the father of the modern state system, to the "New World Order" in which we live, Kissinger demonstrates how modern diplomacy emerged from the trials and experiences of the balance of power of warfare and peacemaking, and why America, sometimes to its peril, refused to learn its lessons. His intimate portraits of world leaders, including de Gaulle, Nixon, Chou En-lai, Mao Tse-tung, Reagan, and Gorbachev, based on personal experience and knowledge, provide the reader with a rare window on diplomacy at the summit, together with a wealth of detailed and original observations on the secret negotiations, great events, and the art of statesmanship that have shaped our lives in the decades before, during and since Henry Kissinger was himself at the center of things. Analyzing the differences in the national styles of diplomacy, Kissinger shows how various societies produce special ways of conducting foreign policy, and how Americans, from the very beginning, sought a distinctive foreign policy based on idealism. He illustrates his points with his own insights and with examples from his own experience, as well as with candid accounts of his breakthrough diplomatic initiatives as Nixon's foreign policy partner. Informed by deep historical knowledge, wit, a gift for irony, and a unique understanding of the forces that bind and sunder nations, Kissinger's Diplomacy is must reading for anyone who cares about America's position in the world.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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