Books by Henry Kissinger

WORLD ORDER by Henry Kissinger
Released: Sept. 9, 2014

"An astute analysis that illuminates many of today's critical international issues."
Former Secretary of State Kissinger (On China, 2011, etc.) considers the prospect for order in a world without agreed-upon rules. Read full book review >
ON CHINA by Henry Kissinger
Released: May 17, 2011

"Sage words and critical perspective lent by a significant participant in historical events."
From the eminent elder statesman, an astute appraisal on Chinese diplomacy from ancient times to the fraught present "strategic trust" with the United States. Read full book review >
Released: June 14, 2001

"Richly opinionated and controversial: a strong addition to the contemporary debate over America's direction in the new century."
The question is rhetorical: this is Henry ("Have foreign policy, will travel") Kissinger, after all. Here, he takes America to task for its lack of vision in foreign policy, and maps the playing field for diplomatic consideration. Read full book review >
YEARS OF RENEWAL by Henry Kissinger
Released: March 1, 1999

With this volume Kissinger concludes what may be the greatest memoir ever written by an American statesman (White House Years, 1979; Years of Upheaval, 1982). It is a tribute to the quality of his narrative that the reader is often entranced by the personalities and diplomatic maneuverings of the Ford administration, a quarter of a century ago. Of course, Kissinger does not always resist the temptation to be more prescient than he was at the time. Thus the statesman, who discerned in 1977 that we faced the 'stark reality that the [communist] challenge is unending," reports on going to Moscow several years earlier that one "could not but gain the impression that the whole elaborately constructed stage set was precarious and might collapse at any moment." Not surprisingly, we also see more of the good Henry, charitable in his judgments, even of bureaucratic enemies, and open in his methods, than the bad Henry (—Trust does not come to me spontaneously—). But the performance is always a bravura one: there is hardly a page without a wise observation or maxim of statecraft, or a characterization full of insight, including masterful sketches of Nixon, Ford, Mao, Helmut Schmidt, and a host of other leaders. There is just one point at which the tone, wise, avuncular, witty, and epigrammatic changes dramatically, and that is on the withdrawal of the US from Vietnam. Kissinger argues with anguished passion that those in Congress who called for US withdrawal welshed on their commitment to provide aid to the South Vietnamese when the US left; that the US abandonment was shameful; that it led to genocide and tragedy in Vietnam and Cambodia; and that it deeply injured the reputation and the interests of the US throughout the world. Enough time may now have elapsed for the truth of these observations to be more widely acknowledged. A brilliant, masterly, even seminal book. Read full book review >
DIPLOMACY by Henry Kissinger
Released: April 18, 1994

The Nobel laureate and former national security advisor and secretary of state (Years of Upheaval, 1982, etc.) presents an engrossing and monumental (in every sense) historical survey of diplomacy from the 17th century to the present. Kissinger begins his narrative after the Peace of Westphalia (1648), when militarily ascendant France strove for dominance on the continent, preventing the fragmented German states from coalescing into a major power. Thereafter Britain, its own internal turbulence quelled and its monarchy restored, sought to check France by creating alliances of weaker European states. Kissinger shows how wily statesmen like Richelieu, Britain's William III, Metternich, and Bismarck frankly pursued their own nation-state's interests without regard for the idealistic concepts of collective security that have motivated American policy since the Wilson administration: only Britain, because of its unique geographical position, actively pursued a policy of promoting equilibrium on the continent. Kissinger extensively discusses the unraveling of the post-Napoleonic arrangements in the decades leading up to WW I, Soviet and German consolidation and French and British demoralization in the years after the Versailles treaty, and the dominance of the Soviet-American rivalry in world politics after World War II. Kissinger draws fascinatingly on his own experiences as President Nixon's chief diplomat to illustrate his arguments about diplomacy. Finally, he argues that the ideal of collective security that American policy has promoted since Wilson's presidency and throughout the Cold War, while sometimes effective, is often weak because it is not strongly grounded in national interests. Buttressing his argument with a sweeping historical survey, Kissinger persuasively contends that leaders of the western democracies, particularly the US, should leaven their idealism in the turbulent post-Cold War era with the realistic pursuit of concrete national interests. Profound and important. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 1985

A collection of diplomatic opinions from this latter-day Metternich, culled from lectures, essays, and interviews during the period 1982-1984. Kissinger's selections encompass a litany of flashpoints in the geopolitical firmament. Nuclear policy, Central America, Sino-American relations, Soviet-American problems, difficulties within the Atlantic Alliance, the Mideast quagmire, African affairs, and Arms Control talks—all come in for analysis. But problems within NATO and the Atlantic Alliance monopolize Kissinger's attention here (eight of the 14 selections focus on this growing concern). The Alliance, he contends, is gradually breaking down through a combination of short sightedness on the part of leaders of both sides and irrevocable currents of change sweeping the world. Indeed, he opines that there is practically no issue in the current agenda on which the US and its supposed European allies agree anymore. The consequences for the future, he implies, are frightening. Kissinger insists that 1) the leaders of our Allies stop grandstanding—that is, criticizing our policies on minor issues, such as Grenada, in order to make points with the Third World and the Soviets; and 2) the American public rally around a bipartisan foreign policy so that we stop shifting gears—and, thus, confusing our allies and our foes—every four or eight years. Despite a repetitiveness that unavoidably renders some of these readings monotonous, Kissinger's opinions are fresh and insightful. A minor quibble is that the book is ordered chronologically rather than by subject. But until the next issue of Foreign Affairs arrives, this collection will substitute quite well. Read full book review >
YEARS OF UPHEAVAL by Henry Kissinger
Released: March 25, 1982

Part two of the Kissinger memoirs begins with his appointment as Secretary of State, in September 1973, and ends with Nixon's resignation, in August 1974. (A third volume, covering the Ford years, can thus be expected.) Kissinger professes to have been surprised by the appointment, reasoning that Nixon would not want a powerful Secretary of State. His clout as National Security Adviser he attributes practically to chance. Nixon, he thinks, saw him prospectively as an innocuous ploy, meant to undercut State; but his key role in dramatic events—the secret Vietnam negotiations, setting up Nixon's historic trip to China—turned him into a celebrity. The travails of Watergate then compelled Nixon to cede power to a forceful Kissinger in order to safeguard the foreign policy successes he so cherished for his reputation. Indeed, the weakening of the president by Watergate—and the ensuing "Kafkaesque," "surrealistic" atmosphere—is one of the volume's leitmotifs. Kissinger resumes battle, though, over conflicts in the first volume. He is preoccupied with blaming Cambodia's ghastly fate on the North Vietnamese and the US Congress. The Lon Nol regime, he claims, consisted of the same personnel as Sihanouk's; and he compares Lon Nol's fall with that of Diem. Nonetheless he was negotiating with the Chinese to return Sihanouk to power when Congress undercut him by banning the further bombing of Cambodia—the only tool left him since Congress had also ruled out US military aid to the Cambodian government. The negotiations collapsed, and the fate of Cambodia was sealed. Against critics like William Shawcross, he presents a document supposedly setting out the truth of the bombing campaign to refute charges that its savagery led directly to Khmer Rouge savagery; this, however, is merely a self-defense by the then-US ambassador, and his Deputy Chief of Mission. On Chile, Kissinger still maintains that the US had no hand in overthrowing Allende, "an avowed enemy of democracy as we know it"; but since Allende was a man of principle, it would also be an insult not to assume that he intended to make good on his radical proposals. The details of Kissinger's Middle East shuttle diplomacy are here—as well as of the ill-fated Salt II negotiations: a victim of Watergate, in Kissinger's view, since only a weak president would have countenanced the wrecking tactics of Secretary of Defense Schlesinger. Watergate takes its final toll as Kissinger prays with Nixon on the last night—pondering the "biblical proportions" of his fate. Myth-making and self-justifying on a grand scale—but with fewer momentous happenings than in volume one. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 30, 1980

As if he knew something we didn't, former Secretary of State Kissinger has chosen to come out with a collection of "statements"—interviews and speeches—from his recent years out of office. The lead offering is a now-passÉ 1977 speech on the evils of Eurocommunism, in which Kissinger justifies American meddling in European politics to preserve an "alliance" that at least some Europeans are no longer so comfortable with. Nestled among tributes to Golda Meir, Anwar Sadat, and Nelson Rockefeller are speeches rehearsing other big Kissinger themes, like the imperatives of "linkage" (whereby various items under negotiation with the USSR are treated in harmony instead of as discrete entities) or the iniquities of the Third World. Kissinger repeatedly berates the Third World for what he sees as unjustified attacks on the US. In this regard, he brandishes the OPEC-induced rise in oil prices—which he says stifled economic development in other Third World nations—and extolls the positive benefits of multinationals. For posterity, there's also his Time article praising his friend the Shah and his Senate SALT II testimony, in which he conditionally supported the treaty. Plus: some interviews that allow him to ruminate at length on the nuances and subtleties of the "art" of foreign policy. It almost makes one nostalgic, all that reasoned pomposity. But it will do, as the title suggests, for the record. Read full book review >
WHITE HOUSE YEARS by Henry Kissinger
Released: Oct. 23, 1979

The long-awaited first installment of Henry's History has finally arrived and, advertising hype aside, it is an event. Beginning with the call from Richard Nixon in 1969—ironically, while Kissinger was lunching with Nelson Rockefeller—that brought him into national prominence, and ending with the signing of the Paris accords on Vietnam in 1972, this segment inevitably centers on the Vietnam War, with side-trips to Moscow and China. Much attention will be paid to the nuts and bolts of negotiations between the U.S. and North Vietnam, the beginnings of détente, the secret mission to Peking, and the Mideast maneuvers of the period, as well as to Kissinger's profiles of colleagues and of Nixon. But one of those profiles may provide a clue to this maze of words; in speaking of then-Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, Kissinger notes that Laird would raise a host of issues in order to camouflage the main issue on which he wanted to prevail in inter-departmental wrangling. Kissinger's appreciation of Laird's bureaucratic acumen may be reflected in the massive scale of this book, fully 1500 pages in all. But the layers of meetings, memoranda, and reflection can't hide its basic value; this is one of the great documents of today's amoral, antidemocratic political manipulation. Kissinger claims, for instance, that he originally intended to maintain the structure of the National Security Council as he found it, but that Nixon, suspicious of the Foreign Service, insisted on strengthening the NSC as his instrument. Later—in reference to presumed disagreements between him and Nixon over the Christmas bombing of Hanoi in 1971—he claims disingenuously that "a Presidential Assistant soon learns that his only strength is the President's confidence"; but the intervening 1450 pages have shown us a Kissinger who knew how to institutionalize his power, and who, in the end, outmaneuvered even Richard Nixon. Kissinger's amorality is apparent from the start, as he never questions the propriety of accepting a position with the Nixon Administration after extolling the virtues of Rockefeller; the only question was which position to go for. Later, he could claim that "Cambodia was not a moral issue." But the greatest example may be Chile, where Kissinger justifies covert actions against Allende because his election was based "only" on a plurality—and, in any event, "was a challenge to our national interest," solely on the basis of his Marxist ideology. For Kissinger, values are ideology, power is truth. Though he wrings his hands over the "poor Cambodians" and those killed in Vietnam, his commitment was to American international "credibility" and effectiveness. For those not snowed by the erudition and charm, then, this is a fundamentally important book. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1974

When the second edition of this book appeared in 1974 (it was first published in 1969), Henry Kissinger had only recently become Secretary of State. This new edition contains many of the major policy speeches he delivered in the fob lowing two years, concluding with a July 1976 talk. The selections from this period, which take up most of the book, include addresses covering all major regions of the world; in content they range from general conceptual themes to specific policy proposals. Many speeches are now tinged with irony—the same Henry Kissinger who ordered wiretaps on his staff addresses the American Bar Association on international law—while others, such as the "year of Europe" speech and the UN address outlining proposals for aiding Third World economic growth, are testimonials to lost opportunities and unfulfilled promises. Kissinger's emphasis upon great power leadership in world affairs emerges clearly, as does the fragility of his foreign policy edifice; the speech on the meaning of "détente" appears anachronistic now. The significance of these speeches for an understanding of Kissinger's tenure may change with time, but at the moment, just six months after his departure, they already form an illuminating counterpoint to his actions. Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1969

Straws in the crosswinds: the essay on the Vietnam conferences in Paris probably has greater interest than the ones on problems of domestic and international "structures" in general. Kissinger is said to be Nixon's brainiest military adviser. Here he employs discredited platitudes like Hanoi's conviction that American dissent will bring victory. Not surprisingly, he also bypasses the issues of past U.S. sabotage of negotiation offers and current U.S. offensives, simply mentioning "a substantial improvement in the American military position" since the bombing halts. What is notable is the opinion that "negotiating a ceasefire may well be tantamount to establishing the preconditions of a political settlement," and that U.S. imposition of a coalition government would be disastrous. Instead, a withdrawal of "external forces" should push Saigon to settle, formally or tacitly, with the NLF—and/or face collapse. The other two essays are abstract in the most unsatisfactory sense, conservative in the literal sense. Kissinger calls for an international "agreed concept of order." The U.S. dilemma: "there can be no stability without equilibrium," but "equilibrium is not a purpose with which we can respond to the travail of our world." (Watch those imperial pronouns!) The reader who can get through the turgor of "modern states," "thoughtful Europeans," "charismatic leadership" will find criticisms of bureaucratic decision-making; strategic recommendations (NATO must avoid "false inconsistencies between allied unity and detente"); and such amazing dicta as "until the emergence of the race problem [when, one wonders?] we were blessed by the absence of conflicts between classes and over ultimate ends." Doubtless a great many readers will make the effort. Read full book review >
Released: April 26, 1965

This is the first of the twelve volume AtLantic Policy Studies being sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations. In taking up the subject of United States relations with Europe, Dr. Kissinger has been able to_expand the material he touched upon in The Necessity for Choice. His examination, of course, is primarily in terms of Western defensive strategy and heavily influenced by his complex theories on nuclear deterrence which he introduced in Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy. The military problems of the Alliance are closely involved with and interact upon its political and structural situation. The tremendous recovery of war-torn Europe, coupled with a re-identification of national attitudes, must be reconciled with the need for European integration, and the United States must be willing to re-evaluate its standing with the European nations individually and as a unit. Politically this involves reaching an agreement on the reunification of Germany and an understanding of the divisiveness of Europe, which has been too easily symbolized by De Gaulle's refusal to include Great Britain in the Common Market. Dr. Kissinger probes into the inconsistencies of NATO's defenses especially with regard to the use of conventional weapons, and provides an alternative to the Multilateral Force in terms of the stronger, more cohesive Europe which he forsees. For the astute in international affairs this is a provocative study by Harvard's military analyst. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 6, 1960

Henry Kissinger is Associate Professor of Government at Harvard and Executive Director of the Harvard International Seminar. He was also, during 1956-57, director of the Special Studies Project for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. And he is the author of Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy. This formidable and serious book, addressed only to the politically knowledgeable, is an attempt to define the major issues of foreign policy that will confront America in the sixties. He deals with the overwhelmingly difficult problems of arms control, the possibility of the reunification of Germany, NATO, the conduct of diplomacy, the concept of limited warfare and the emergence of new nations. It would be impossible to describe here all the ramifications of Professor Kissinger's thinking on these complex issues for he by no means believes that simple virtue and persistence will eventually lead to easy solutions nor does he believe that policy-making can be approached from an attitude of abstraction. He does insist, however, that we have come to the end of the policies and of the men who dominated the post-war period and that the past 15 years can be characterized as a decline for the West. Broadly the direction of the discussion can be indicated: he does not think that the answer to our political problems can be found in reducing our defenses; the problem of NATO cannot be resolved on a national basis; a reunified, neutralized Germany is a feasible proposal; it's impossible to rely on personalities at the Summit; and schemes for arms control should not be considered substitutes for dealing with the political causes of the Cold War. After dealing with these specific policy dilemmas the author then discusses the process of political evolution — in the Soviet Union and the newly emerging nations. And he concludes with an examination of the roles of the policymaker and the intellectual in a bureaucratic system. Unquestionably the book is an important one but it is probably not for general readership. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 14, 1957

The period- 1812-1822- was marked by the diplomatic wizardry of Metternich, Talleyrand and Castlereagh, who reached their apotheosis at the Congress of Vienna; Napoleonic rule and the French Revolution had ended; the great powers of Europe, Russia, Prussia, Austria, France England- were in a turmoil of realignments, and with each seeking a stabilization to its own best advantage. Kissinger has analyzed the varied aspects of this crisis, showing the goals, purposes, methods, ideals which actuated the great powers, the precise political gains at stake, and the personal motivations of the rulers, leaders and their emissaries. The reconstruction performed by Kissinger astonishes the reader by its insight, perception and capacity to clarify the baffling incongruities of diplomatic tactics. The captious may say the style is plodding and perhaps unduly calculating but for the student of history and politics, this book will be truly a feast. Read full book review >