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by Henry Kissinger

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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…  See more details below


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

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Kissinger maintains that the United States cannot dominate the emerging new world order but should rely instead on a balance of power built on security pacts and economic alliances. In this magisterial political history, the former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State draws lessons from the statecraft of Richelieu, Napoleon, Bismarck and Metternich, then shrewdly reappraises the foreign policy blunders and the failures of moral nerve and vision that led in our century to the mass carnage of two world wars, genocide, Cold War and a nuclear arms race. He limns striking portraits of Hitler craving war to fulfill his global ambitions, of Stalin, a ``supreme realist'' in international affairs, and of Franklin D. Roosevelt courageously steering an isolationist people into war. Kissinger defines Nixon's achievement as a refusal to abdicate America's global role, and he gives Reagan a large measure of credit for the collapse of the Soviet empire. While urging support for Russian liberalism, he stresses that the U.S. should simultaneously bolster obstacles to Russian expansionism, which neither Bush nor Clinton has done. Photos. BOMC and History Book Club main selections. (Apr.)
Library Journal
After nearly a dozen books and service as secretary of state for presidents Nixon and Ford, Kissinger has established himself as a major thinker, writer, and actor on the world's diplomatic stage. His newest work is a remarkable survey of the craft of international relations from the early 17th century to the present era. Beginning with the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, Kissinger summarizes three centuries of Western diplomacy, giving special attenton to the influence of Wilsonian idealism on 20th-century American foreign policy. He is not shy about describing his own contributions to Nixon's foreign gambits, nor is he reticient about offering his own advice to the current administration on how to handle Russia, China, or the rest of the world. From Kissinger we learn that there is really little new about the New World Order. This is an important contribution to the theoretical literature on foreign affairs and will also serve quite ably as a one-volume synthesis of modern diplomatic history. All libraries should have this impressive book. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/93.-- Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames
Gilbert Taylor
Neither time nor the strong reactions his person and Nixon-era actions evoke has dampened Kissinger's talent for cogent distillation of international complexity. If anything, this closely argued work, spaciously peppered with anecdotes and personal observations, is his best yet. It is "not", be mindful, a diplomatic history per se, but instead a reminder of the geopolitical constraints on America's endeavor--the third this century--to fashion a new world order. Naturally, Kissinger's approach is historical, beginning with Cardinal Richelieu's policy in the Thirty Years' War, but his arguments are conceptual dissections of the principles on which the statesman of the moment operated. Whether discussing the Cardinal's "raison d'etat", Metternich's (and then Palmerston's) balance-of-power, Bismarck's naked "Realpolitik", Wilson's rejection of the above in favor of a vaporous collective security, the aggressive ideologies of expansion that issued from World War I, or the more solid collective security embodied in NATO, Kissinger is implicitly showing America's present (and near future) administrators the analogous choices on their post-Cold War menu. Referring often to John Quincy Adams' famed 1821 admonition that "America should not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy," Kissinger cautions against the exceptional American temptation, regardless of party, to compel a democratic transformation of the world. He would prefer the revival of a balance-of-power outlook, which America has never practiced, but through which, among other outcomes, Russia becomes reconciled to its reduced, though still vast, territory. Authorial fame and powerful prose will secure Kissinger's new book a slot atop the sales lists.
From the Publisher
Michiko Kakutani The New York Times An elegantly written study of Western diplomacy....Shrewd, often vexing, and consistently absorbing.

Simon Schama The New Yorker Kissinger's absorbing book tackles head-on some of the toughest questions of our time....Its pages sparkle with insight.

George P. Shultz This is a great book....Brilliant in its analysis and masterly in its sweep.

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. This rich and absorbing work is both a brilliant study of the international crises that have shaped the modern world and a provocative meditation on the American style in foreign affairs.

Walter Laqueur Chairman, International Research Council, Center for Strategic and International Studies The most important work on diplomacy for thirty years.

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Simon & Schuster
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The New World Order

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. In the seventeenth century, France under Cardinal Richelieu introduced the modern approach to international relations, based on the nation-state and motivated by national interest as its ultimate purpose. In the eighteenth century, Great Britain elaborated the concept of the balance of power, which dominated European diplomacy for the next 200 years. In the nineteenth century, Metternich's Austria reconstructed the Concert of Europe and Bismarck's Germany dismantled it, reshaping European diplomacy into a cold-blooded game of power politics.

In the twentieth century, no country has influenced international relations as decisively and at the same time as ambivalently as the United States. No society has more firmly insisted on the inadmissibility of intervention in the domestic affairs of other states, or more passionately asserted that its own values were universally applicable. No nation has been more pragmatic in the day-to-day conduct of its diplomacy, or more ideological in the pursuit of its historic moral convictions. No country has been more reluctant to engage itself abroad even while undertaking alliances and commitments of unprecedented reach and scope.

The singularities that America has ascribed to itself throughout its history have produced two contradictory attitudes toward foreign policy. The first is that America serves its values best by perfecting democracy athome, thereby acting as a beacon for the rest of mankind; the second, that America's values impose on it an obligation to crusade for them around the world. Torn between nostalgia for a pristine past and yearning for a perfect future, American thought has oscillated between isolationism and commitment, though, since the end of the Second World War, the realities of interdependence have predominated.

Both schools of thought -- of America as beacon and of America as crusader -- envision as normal a global international order based on democracy, free commerce, and international law. Since no such system has ever existed, its evocation often appears to other societies as utopian, if not naïve. Still, foreign skepticism never dimmed the idealism of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, or Ronald Reagan, or indeed of all other twentieth-century American presidents. If anything, it has spurred America's faith that history can be overcome and that if the world truly wants peace, it needs to apply America's moral prescriptions.

Both schools of thought were products of the American experience. Though other republics have existed, none had been consciously created to vindicate the idea of liberty. No other country's population had chosen to head for a new continent and tame its wilderness in the name of freedom and prosperity for all. Thus the two approaches, the isolationist and the missionary, so contradictory on the surface, reflected a common underlying faith: that the United States possessed the world's best system of government, and that the rest of mankind could attain peace and prosperity by abandoning traditional diplomacy and adopting America's reverence for international law and democracy.

America's journey through international politics has been a triumph of faith over experience. Since the time America entered the arena of world politics in 1917, it has been so preponderant in strength and so convinced of the rightness of its ideals that this century's major international agreements have been embodiments of American values -- from the League of Nations and the Kellogg-Briand Pact to the United Nations Charter and the Helsinki Final Act. The collapse of Soviet communism marked the intellectual vindication of American ideals and, ironically, brought America face to face with the kind of world it had been seeking to escape throughout its history. In the emerging international order, nationalism has gained a new lease on life. Nations have pursued self-interest more frequently than high-minded principle, and have competed more than they have cooperated. There is little evidence to suggest that this age-old mode of behavior has changed, or that it is likely to change in the decades ahead.

What is new about the emerging world order is that, for the first time, the United States can neither withdraw from the world nor dominate it. America cannot change the way it has perceived its role throughout its history, not should it want to. When America entered the international arena, it was young and robust and had the power to make the world conform to its vision of international relations. By the end of the Second World War in 1945, the United States was so powerful (at one point about 35 percent of the world's entire economic production was American) that it seemed as if it was destined to shape the world according to its preferences.

John F. Kennedy declared confidently in 1961 that America was strong enough to "pay any price, bear any burden" to ensure the success of liberty. Three decades later, the United States is in less of a position to insist on the immediate realization of all its desires. Other countries have grown into Great Power status. The United States now faces the challenge of reaching its goals in stages, each of which is an amalgam of American values and geopolitical necessities. One of the new necessities is that a world comprising several states of comparable strength must base its order on some concept of equilibrium -- an idea with which the United States has never felt comfortable.

When American thinking on foreign policy and European diplomatic traditions encountered each other at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, the differences in historical experience became dramatically evident. The European leaders sought to refurbish the existing system according to familiar methods; the American peacemakers believed that the Great War had resulted not from intractable geopolitical conflicts hut from flawed European practices. In his famous Fourteen Points, Woodrow Wilson told the Europeans that, henceforth, the international system should be based not on the balance of power but on ethnic self-determination, that their security should depend not on military alliances but on collective security, and that their diplomacy should no longer be conducted secretly by experts but on the basis of "open agreements, openly arrived at." Clearly, Wilson had come not so much to discuss the terms for ending a war or for restoring the existing international order, as he had to recast a whole system of international relations as it had been practiced for nearly three centuries.

For as long as Americans have been reflecting on foreign policy, they have ascribed Europe's travails to the balance-of-power system. And since the time Europe first had to concern itself with American foreign policy, its leaders have looked askance at America's self-appointed mission of global reform. Each side has behaved as if the other had freely chosen its mode of diplomatic behavior and could have, were it wiser or less bellicose, selected some other, more agreeable, method.

In fact, both the American and the European approaches to foreign policy were the products of their own unique circumstances. Americans inhabited a nearly empty continent shielded from predatory powers by two vast oceans and with weak countries as neighbors. Since America confronted no power in need of being balanced, it could hardly have occupied itself with the challenges of equilibrium even if its leaders had been seized by the bizarre notion of replicating European conditions amidst a people who had turned their backs on Europe.

The anguishing dilemmas of security that

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Diplomacy 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Written at the opening to the post-Cold War world, Henry Kissinger¿s Diplomacy seeks to explore the coming of George H. W. Bush¿s ¿New World Order.¿ Official Washington in 1994, busy with an historic change in Congress, probably skipped to the book¿s final chapter ¿The New World Order Reconsidered¿ for insight by one of America¿s most ¿assertive, arrogant, and disdainful¿ people to lead the foreign service. Had they skipped ahead, they would have missed a master¿s class on statecraft.

The first half of Diplomacy is the story of how France, once an unrivaled leader in European affairs, transformed into the irrelevant actor most Americans recognize today.

"Insecure about his purposes and indeed his legitimacy, [Napoleon III] relied on public opinion to bridge the gap. Napoleon conducted his foreign policy in the style of modern political leaders who measure their success by the reaction of the television evening news. Like them, Napoleon made himself a prisoner of the purely tactical, focusing on short-term objectives and immediate results, seeking to impress his public by magnifying the pressures he has set out to create. For in the end, it is reality, not publicity, that determines whether a leader has made a difference (136)."

Napoleon III started France¿s slide into irrelevance. By World War II, her foreign policy has become nearly schizophrenic. France feared a strong Germany. She was obsessed at the notion. And despite her best efforts to contain it, all of her moves made German unification all-the-more easy. Reduced to a protectorate of Great Britain and later NATO, France was psychologically incapable of standing alone.

The second half of Diplomacy deals with Russia¿s rise as a Super Power, and America¿s policy of containment. Kissinger delivers tremendous, first-hand insight into Cold War policy, and Nixon¿s intercourse with China.

The most interested aspect of Kissinger¿s work is the frequent lectures on foreign affairs. Throughout Diplomacy, Kissinger will deliver tremendous analysis on the subjects. Sometimes they are just quips, such as this one about Adolph Hitler¿s real objectives.

"In the 1930s, British leaders were too unsure about Hitler¿s objectives and French leaders too unsure about themselves to act on the basis of assessment which they could not prove. The tuition fee for learning about Hitler¿s true nature was tens of millions of graves stretching from one end of Europe to the other. On the other hand, had the democracies forced a showdown with Hitler early in his rule, historians would still be arguing about whether Hitler had been a misunderstood nationalist or a maniac bent on world domination (294)."

Although thick, and at times dense, Diplomacy is worth the investment it takes to read 850+ pages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a masters student in International Relations, I found this to be a great book to build a foundation of understanding in the field of western diplomacy. To me it was essential reading to underline all contempary debates and provide a historical understanding to modern problems. Not a book for everyone, but great for those looking for a detailed account of how American policy theories have evolved and why the US fundamentally differs from its European counterparts.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've never had to carry such a heavy load everywhere I went if I wanted to read one book- not only Diplomacy, but a dictionary would, of necessity, accompany me everywhere I went with this book. If it's light reading you're looking for, look elsewhere. If you want to take the time out of your life to broaden your political horizon and enrich your casual conversation on any issue from politics to war, read this book. You will not be disappointed.
glauver More than 1 year ago
Diplomacy might better be titled The Balance Of Power. Henry Kissinger was always very much a disciple of Realpolitik. As I read the book I was not certain of Kissinger's objective. I decided that, if he was not personally involved in the events he was narrating, he was fairly trustworthy. His account up through WWII and Korea seems pretty even-handed. I perused the Vietnam chapters with a good deal of suspicion. Kissinger seemed to gloss over events like the secret war in Laos. If he and Nixon thought the war was unwinnable, why did they expend so many lives and money to save face? I am not dismissing the book completely; I just think the reader needs to understand it is not an unbiased account. It is thought provoking and not as dry as you might think.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Have read this before 10 - 15 years ago - just revisiting it, and his 3 volume set / Memoirs. 4,000 pages of concentrated /distlled brilliance.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Others seem to think Diplomacy hard to read because of the diction, but I don't find this to be true at all. Kissinger's premise, and it's one I find hard to fault, is that power relationships are ignored at your peril. Initially, I approached this book with a grain of salt, for I remember the author being at the heart of the decision to bomb Cambodia during the Vietnam War, with the catastrophic consequences that country suffered as a result [see 'Side-Show: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia' by William Shawcross 1979 EAN: 9780671426828] and frankly, I'm interested in what Kissinger has to say on that, if anything. In retrospect, it seems an impossible decision to defend, and in the context of our relations with Pakistan these days, relevant. However, I find Diplomacy to be thought-provoking and am thoroughly enjoying the read. Lots of good, solid substance to mull over in every chapter.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am reading this book the second time. The more tastier time. Now I am reading NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND FOREIGN POLICY, also from Henry Kissinger. Good. Real good
Guest More than 1 year ago
Being foced to read it for History class!!! Biaist, and opinionated...too hard to understand!I found it dry, and uninteresting. Good book for older readers, who have a greater interest in the subject!