by Henry Kissinger

Hardcover, 1994




New York : Simon & Schuster, 1994.


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)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Kade
I think the previous reviewer really was off the mark. Examining Diplomacy as a moral treatise in international foreign policy is much like speedreading through Immanuel Kant. You're missing the point.

Diplomacy examines the evolution of international foreign policy, mainly from the balance-of-power
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perspective, starting with the Vienna Congress and analyzing its "Pax Europa" that it established up until the First World War. Then it examines, critiques, and analyzes 20th century foreign policy in the United States, with discussions of World War II, Potsdam, Korea, and of course Vietnam. Personally I strongly urge people to skip the Vietnam chapters, as they're so glossed over with omissions because of his criminal liability in certain parts of the globe as to make them fairly bland.

If you want a good commentary on power politics and realist foreign policy to either critique or understand realist policy, here it is. If, like Haelius you love Carter-era/U.N. foreign policy methodology and think any other method is morally analogous to fellating Shaitan, you will probably hate this book.
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LibraryThing member ernst.schnell
This book unfortunately has a misleading title, as it is much more about history than about diplomacy itself. But that is not necessarily a problem, as it still has a lot to offer.

Henry Kissinger, with his background in foreign affairs going back to almost the end of World War II and his academic
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origins has a lot to offer, both in detailed knowledge, engaging narrative and an interesting way of weaving historic trends together not necessarily in chronological order.

The only thing that I did not find quite so excellent was a trend to impose his own position on his description of event that he participated in. This has led to a definitely POV narrative where a bit of academic distance would have better served, and a certain disregard of contemporary event not involving the author, in particular the Carter administration, which certainly has diplomatic content that he could have expanded on.

It might have been better to make this a true history book, keeping to past events. But it is certainly a worthwhile if quite voluminous read.
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LibraryThing member Halieus
Probably the worst book I've started to read on diplomacy; a complete waste of paper. He is so far from reality, in so many areas, that I quit reading the book and only skimmed through the rest of it. I cannot understand anyone entrusting the fate of a nation to someone holding these ideas/ideals.
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Having lived in many states (of the USA), several other countries, and in speaking with numerous friends from around the globe, my personal opinion is: this man's extrememly distorted view of reality can only be relied upon to be a clear picture of what will NOT work.
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LibraryThing member fdhondt
Masterpiece. Truly impressive, though of course biased by Kissingers personal views. Should be on the pillow of every statesman. A huge argument for the compulsory teaching of International Relations History to anyone concerned with the "res publica".
LibraryThing member thcson
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member HadriantheBlind
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.
LibraryThing member mdubois
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member Angelic55blonde
This is a hefty book so it took me a long time to read but Henry Kissinger was extremely thorough in his research and details. There is a large amount of information in this book, and it covers diplomacy worldwide, not just American diplomacy, which I liked. It could get a little dry from time to
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time but I'm glad I waded through the book.

If you are interested in international relations and diplomacy, then this would be an excellent book for you. Just be prepared for it to take a long time to get through.
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LibraryThing member fierolucent
I will not say which highly placed government official called this book a sleeper, and unless you're an international relations freak, this is exactly the book you need guaranteed to do in a few minutes what a nice cup of tea (and a sleeping pill) before bed will. That is, if you like to sleep with
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this tome on your nightstand.

But since I am an international relations freak, I found this book extremely informative with enough subject matter for one of those um, dinner conversations where you're too polite to throw cutleries at each other when you don't agree on things but deliver your opinions with knife precision anyway. And should there be someone unfortunate enough to enter my bedroom unannounced, this book with its dimension and weight also makes for good self defense material. ┬┤nuff said.
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LibraryThing member Scaryguy
An interesting reference. An even better cure for insomnia.
LibraryThing member zen_923
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


LA Times Book Prize (Finalist — 1994)



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