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.
Diplomacy examines the evolution of international foreign policy, mainly from the balance-of-power 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.
Henry Kissinger, with his background in foreign affairs going back to almost the end of World War II and his academic 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.
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.
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.
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.