The Flawed Architect: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy

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Henry Kissinger dominated American foreign relations like no other figure in recent history. He negotiated an end to American involvement in the Vietnam War, opened relations with Communist China, and orchestrated détente with the Soviet Union. Yet he is also the man behind the secret bombing of Cambodia and policies leading to the overthrow of Chile's President Salvador Allende. Which is more accurate, the picture of Kissinger the skilled diplomat or Kissinger the war criminal?
In The Flawed Architect, the first major reassessment of Kissinger in over a decade, historian Jussi Hanhimaki paints a subtle, carefully composed portrait of America's most famous and infamous statesman. Drawing on extensive research from newly declassified files, the author follows Kissinger from his beginnings in the Nixon administration up to the current controversy fed by Christopher Hitchens over whether Kissinger is a war criminal. Hanhimaki guides the reader through White House power struggles and debates behind the Cambodia and Laos invasions, the search for a strategy in Vietnam, the breakthrough with China, and the unfolding of Soviet-American detente. Here, too, are many other international crises of the period--the Indo-Pakistani War, the Yom Kippur War, the Angolan civil war--all set against the backdrop of Watergate. Along the way, Hanhimaki sheds light on Kissinger's personal flaws--he was obsessed with secrecy and bureaucratic infighting in an administration that self-destructed in its abuse of power--as well as his great strengths as a diplomat. We see Kissinger negotiating, threatening and joking with virtually all of the key foreign leaders of the 1970s, from Mao to Brezhnev and Anwar Sadat to Golda Meir.
This well researched account brings to life the complex nature of American foreign policymaking during the Kissinger years. It will be the standard work on Kissinger for years to come.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A striking indictment. Hanhimäki is one of the most persuasive of the many detractors of Henry Kissinger."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Absorbing and rich.... Hanhimäki provides breaking news by revealing Kissinger's efforts throughout the early 1970s to engineer a way of extracting US forces from Vietnam 'without immediate embarrassment,' meaning he was willing to betray South Vietnam."--Kirkus Reviews

"The tone is critical, it is not at all polemical. Hanhimaki gives Kissinger due credit for his very real accomplishments while not concealing unpleasant facts, placing this work midway between Seymour Hersh's Price of Power and Marvin and Bernard Kalb's more admiring Kissinger."--Library Journal

"No one can read The Flawed Architect without being impressed by the scope and complexity of the issues that ended up on Kissinger's desk. He was--as every secretary of state should be--a superb juggler. However, he displayed disdain for democracy and impatience with a free press and an active Congress. He sought refuge in secrecy, back channels and outright lies. He approved the wiretapping of his own staff. Many have considered these failings peccadilloes compared to his brilliance as a diplomat. By showing us precisely how Kissinger's globalist vision blinkered him to regional realities and how this undermined the effectiveness of his diplomacy, Hanhimaki makes us think again."--Raleigh News & Observer

"Was Kissinger a war criminal or a calculating realist? Was he the creative architect of a new world order or a traditional cold warrior? Was he an imaginative diplomat or a secretive opportunist bent on maximizing his personal power? Using a broad array of new archival materials and brilliantly assessing Kissinger's policies in the Third World, Hanhimaki persuasively argues that 'Super-K' was a superb tactician and flawed strategist. This book is essential reading for an understanding of the evolution of the Cold War." --Melvyn P. Leffler, Stettinius Professor of American History, University of Virginia

"Hanhimaki's study of Kissinger in power is first-rate scholarship. The author has mined rich veins of previously unavailable government documents to explain in detail a controversial set of foreign policies. Crisp prose and a sure command of materials make this important book a pleasure to read. In short: a splendid contribution to the literature of post-1945 U.S. diplomatic history." --David Mayers, Boston University

"A fine and illuminating reappraisal of one of the most lastingly controversial figures in the history of U.S. foreign policymaking. Rooted in a slew of recently declassified documentation on Kissingers tenure, The Flawed Architect gives us the good (détente, the opening to China, the Arab-Israeli shuttles), the bad (the secret bombing of Cambodia, the protracted agony of Vietnam, the coup in Chile), and the ugly (a tangled web of secrecy and deception all too redolent of Nixon's White House). As the United States struggles anew to find the right balance between American interests and American values, this book is as timely as it is engrossing." --Warren Bass, author of Support Any Friend: Kennedy's Middle East and the Making of the U.S.-Israel Alliance

"Hanhimaki offers the most detailed, considered, and persuasive account of Henry Kissinger's diplomacy in print. Most impressive, Hanhimaki offers a fair and balanced judgment of a man who more frequently inspires polemics. Those who wish to understand Henry Kissinger, the Cold War, and its legacies must read this book." --Jeremi Suri, author of Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Détente

"It is good to have a full, reliable account of Henry Kissinger's diplomacy by a well respected historian who has written extensively on post-1945 international affairs. Hanhimaki carefully examines Kissinger's accomplishments, frustrations, and failures in the context of his ideology and personality, as well as of his relationship with Richard Nixon and other world leaders." --Akira Iriye, Professor of History, Harvard University

Publishers Weekly
Hanhimaki is one of the most persuasive of the many detractors of Henry Kissinger, President Nixon's national security adviser and eventually secretary of state. Kissinger's penchant for covert action to undermine governments the administration saw as enemies, such as Chile and Angola, and his employment of secret back channels rather than open diplomacy, were, the author contends, hallmarks of his foreign policy. Hanhimaki, an editor of the journal Cold War History, calls Kissinger's "unapologetic realpolitik" approach to the Soviet Union, China and North Vietnam "morally questionable," though he asserts that Kissinger was not a war criminal. He was, rather, "disappointing" in his short-sightedness, never anticipating the long-term consequences of deals with adversaries, acquiescing, for example, in Indonesia's genocidal takeover of East Timor to placate an anticommunist regime. Although Kissinger had insisted, "The U.S. will not negotiate a surrender of South Vietnam," in effect he did precisely that, winning a shared Nobel Peace Prize. The subsequent bloodbath led to a rare concession from a man who, according to Hanhimaki, valued his credibility above all: ruefully, he offered to return the Peace Prize, but was told he had to keep it ("Rules were rules"). Hanhimaki offers a striking indictment, so it is unfortunate that the many repetitions make his book sometimes tedious and frustrating to read. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
Hundreds of thousands of words have been written about Henry Kissinger, including many by the great man himself, so what is the justification for yet another volume? Hanhimäki's case is that the existing literature is polarized between celebrants and detractors, and that a large amount of new archive material makes possible a more balanced and informed analysis of Kissinger's performance as national security adviser and then secretary of state during the 1970s. This is a useful if at times dense analysis of the available material, which is now considerable, on this critical period in international history, covering détente and arms control, China and Vietnam, the Middle East and Chile. It is to Hanhimäki's credit that, although critical, he has avoided an overheated polemic. The "flawed architect" title comes from Hanhimäki's view that Kissinger's basic failure was his inability "to build a sustainable foreign policy structure." But however distasteful Kissinger's realpolitik and his bureaucratic methods could be, this charge may underestimate the lasting impact, for better or for worse, of this period in American diplomacy.
Library Journal
Henry Kissinger served concurrently as national security adviser and secretary of state during the Nixon and Ford administrations (1969-1977). He practiced a realist approach to all contemporary issues, including the Vietnam War and the problems of the Middle East, framing them in terms of the triangular tension he perceived among the United States, the Soviet Union, and China. At first, that approach produced significant results, especially the initial opening to China. In later conflicts and those in Third World countries, that same analysis led to unsuccessful strategies. Hanhimaki (Graduate Inst. of International Affairs, Switzerland) has drawn extensively on recently declassified documents to write this complement to Kissinger's three volumes of memoirs. The author's interpretations of events frequently differ from those of his subject. But though the tone is critical, it is not at all polemical. Hanhimaki gives Kissinger due credit for his very real accomplishments while not concealing unpleasant facts, placing this work midway between Seymour Hersh's Price of Power and Marvin and Bernard Kalb's more admiring Kissinger. Recommended, especially for academic libraries. Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195172218
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 9/9/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 576
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jussi Hanhimaki is Professor of International History and Politics at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. An editor of the journal Cold War History, he is the author or co-author of five books, and won the 2002 Bernath Prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction: A Prize-Winning Performance? xiii
1 The Aspiring Statesman 1
2 Kissinger, Nixon, and the Challenges of '69 17
3 Bombs and Back Channels 32
4 Progress and Promise 55
5 Negotiating in the Shadow of War 68
6 Crises and Opportunities 92
7 Breakthroughs 116
8 The First Test: Triangular Diplomacy and the Indo-Pakistani War 154
9 "The Week That Changed the World" 185
10 High Stakes: Triangulation, Moscow, and Vietnam 201
11 Exiting Vietnam 228
12 Highs and Lows 260
13 Secretary of State 291
14 Unilateral Advantage: The October War and Shuttle Diplomacy 302
15 Nixon's Farewell: Watergate, Kissinger, and Foreign Policy 332
16 Renewal? Ford, Vladivostok, and Kissinger 359
17 Not Our Loss: Exit from Vietnam 382
18 The Worst Hour: Angola and East Timor 399
19 "Worse Than in the Days of McCarthy": Kissinger and the Marathon of 1976 427
20 The Chairman "On Trial" 457
Conclusion: The Flawed Architect 485
Notes 493
Selected Bibliography 535
Index 541
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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2005

    Four stars for effort, three for content.

    Far be it that I enter the ring of the professionals in affairs of state, being just an observer of the period, so I cannot comment on the rights and wrongs. But as soon as I read the introduction, I said that there was no need to read further¿except if I wanted all the details. And then came all the details. I felt the author stated his thesis at the beginning, i.e., K thought maniy in terms of the triangle, the US, USSR and PRC¿neglecting local considerations. The author then proceeded to produce events, decisions and plans to back that thesis. And he did very well. But I can also hear in my mind's ear K¿who would always defend himself and never take criticism, saying, 'No, I was also thinking local.'

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