by Abba Eban ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 10, 1983
Israel's scholarly, articulate, English-bred senior diplomat--chief UN delegate, ambassador to the US, foreign minister, and (currently) opposition spokesman on foreign affairs--reviews international relations since WW II; predictably, he scorns postwar ""visions of a universal order"" and praises small, negotiated steps toward comity--but one need not share his pro-""realist"", anti-""messianic"" bias to find him lucid, incisive, and often eloquent. (One may also sometimes find him smug.) ""It was not intellectually justified at any time to believe in the myth of the continuing Great Power alliance,"" Eban lectures the US in particular; nor was it justified to believe ""that international security would cease to depend on alliances and balances of power as the result of the establishment of the United Nations."" In essence, Eban approves of Henry Kissinger and disapproves of Dag Hammerskjold. Nonetheless it would be difficult to find a better 75-pp. summary-and-analysis of US foreign policy from Yalta to El Salvador. Yes, ""American policy has become the central theme of contemporary international life""; yes, that policy has repeatedly swung from confrontation to conciliation, while US public opinion has oscillated between ""idealism and dejection""; yes, ""American self-criticism reflects a genuine, objective dilemma. . .there are Americans who believe in the carrot and others who believe in the stick in dealing with the Soviet Union; but the American carrots are not very inviting and the sticks are not very painful."" Most misguided: American notions of ""contagion and linkage""--the domino theory (the US not only had no interests in Vietnam, it didn't need to prove itself there) and historical analogy (Salvador is not Vietnam). But, Eban reminds Americans, the Soviet Union hasn't been doing so brilliantly either. As regards the USSR, he would first jettison ""the myth of Soviet incalculability."" What to do is another matter--wound around two pregnant motifs: Soviet power has waxed as revolutionary Communism has waned; the ""distinguishing features of Soviet society are military strength and economic weakness."" (In the latter case, they're dependent--and defensive.) Europe? Vitally and realistically engaged, since WW II, in two fields: ""social and economic reconstruction and the exploration of the European idea."" The Middle East? A feverish advance ""from subjection to self-assertion."" Stabilizing undercurrents, Arab and Israeli, if ""no perfect, final solutions."" Book II (the final 150 pp.) consists of a barbed critique of the UN (activities, techniques); pointed examination of arms-control endeavors; lifetime reflections on old and new diplomacy. From an earlier section: ""Diplomacy is not theology; there is no salvation in it."" As for international affairs: ""things do not hang together. There is far more paradox than logic."" For a broad, interested readership--beyond the American-Jewish and academic communities.
Pub Date: Oct. 10, 1983
Page Count: -
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983
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