With Kissinger's memoirs imminent (see announcement below), Brandeis professor Brown (politics) decided to review the public...


THE CRISIS OF POWER: Foreign Policy in the Kissinger Years

With Kissinger's memoirs imminent (see announcement below), Brandeis professor Brown (politics) decided to review the public record once more before the former Secretary of State started rewriting history. Beginning with the major issues confronting the first Nixon Administration, Brown sees Kissinger as determined to confront the decline of American credibility and moral force as exemplified in Vietnam, on the one hand, and the increase in strategic power of the USSR, on the other. The outcomes of both lines are well known: in Vietnam, the simultaneous ""Vietnamization ""and punitive bombings; and, globally, the hard-line approach to Soviet policies in Chile, Portugal, and the Middle East, coupled with d‚tente and the opening to China. In exploiting Soviet economic weakness through the policy of d‚tente, Kissinger--according to Brown--was modernizing U.S. attitudes along lines first laid out by De Gaulle and Willy Brandt, rather than innovating. Similarly, Kissinger's late conversion to support of black African regimes (post-Angola) is seen as an analogue to the Kennedy Administration's post-Cuba policy toward Latin America, and a pragmatic adjustment to reality rather than part of a grand design. Though d‚tente and constructive relations with the Third World are still in evidence, Brown agrees with Tad Szulc--whose The Illusion of Peace remains the most comprehensive assessment of the Kissinger legacy--that Kissinger failed to achieve any lasting structures in international relations, a failure most obvious in his piecemeal approach to the Middle East. Unlike Szulc and others, Brown does not connect Kissinger's style of foreign policy to the increasingly administrative use of power by the Presidency, confining himself to disconnected observations on the embarrassment caused by Kissinger's artful use of the secret double-cross or his disregard of (temporary) changes wrought by Watergate. Brown's Kissinger is a conservative steeped in archaic concepts of geopolitics whose pragmatic talents nevertheless pulled him through. Not a particularly original work, but a good run-through ""before the deluge.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1979


Page Count: -

Publisher: Columbia Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1979