Inquisitive look at a year in the life of Henry Kissinger, who said, “I was the glue that held it together in 1973—and I’m not being boastful.”
After a landslide reelection for Richard Nixon and a U.S. foreign policy that seemed on the verge of peace with honor in Vietnam and an open dialogue with China, 1973 was eventually marked by the Yom Kippur War and Watergate. In addition to providing colorful portraits of the international figures that played Kissinger’s foils—Leonid Brezhnev, Golda Meir, Anwar Sadat—historian Horne (To Lose a Battle: France 1940, 2007, etc.) follows the statesman month by frantic month in his dealings with China, Vietnam, the Soviet Union, Chile, Europe and the Middle East. During the year in which Kissinger won a Nobel Prize and became Secretary of State, Nixon’s precipitous decline loomed over everything, which was vividly reflected during the Yom Kippur War. Horne grippingly recounts those tense days of international negotiation, all the more dramatic due to the psychological withdrawal of the president. The dynamic between Nixon and Kissinger, so different in personality and background, propels the narrative. The author writes perceptively of the strange bond between the two men—one marked by “a certain extraordinary insecurity” but also by a shared political vision and a conspiratorial secrecy. In a relationship that Kissinger characterized as “ambivalent, compounded of aloofness and respect, of distrust and admiration,” Horne provocatively wonders if “Nixon’s self-destruction…made Kissinger.”
Occasionally distracting footnotes aside, an admiring treatment of Kissinger and an intriguing examination of the fraught Nixon/Kissinger relationship.