The Long Reach of America's Most Controversial Statesman
Email this review


A focused examination of Henry Kissinger’s foreign policy as the normalization of “secrecy and spectacle,” from Southeast Asia to Chile to Iran to Iraq.

Grandin (History/New York Univ.; The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom and Deception in the New World, 2014, etc.) takes on what he considers the pernicious foreign policy legacy of Kissinger and his validation of the idea of perpetual need to “fight little wars in grey areas with resolve.” Unlike the “righteous indignation” of Christopher Hitchens’ The Trial of Henry Kissinger (2001) or Seymour Hersh’s incomplete The Price of Power (1983), Grandin takes in the full sweep of American foreign policy under Kissinger’s “shadow” through the present-day quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have featured the same imperial arrogance that drove Kissinger’s highly secret Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia policy under President Richard Nixon. The hallmarks of Kissinger’s style, as formulated as early as his 1954 Harvard doctoral thesis, were ethical relativism, a championing of man’s freedom over cause and effect and a rejection of the Cold War policy of containment. Kissinger’s “alarmism” proved “a good career move,” as Grandin demonstrates in his chronicle of Kissinger’s early advising of Nelson Rockefeller and his leaking of information on the September 1968 Paris peace talks between Washington and Hanoi to the Nixon campaign camp (to keep Democratic rival Hubert Humphrey from gaining the upper hand), which allowed Kissinger into the inner circle of Nixon, who “anointed” him national security adviser. Creating Operation Menu, the ultrasecret bombing campaign of Cambodia (a sovereign, neutral country), followed by a ground invasion, created a siege mentality within government in the face of civil opposition and ferocious adherence to action at all cost. Grandin knowledgeably depicts how “Nixon’s tool” similarly polarized governments in Pakistan, Angola, Iran, Chile, and elsewhere.

A trenchant and succinct depiction of the ongoing artful dodging of the nonagenarian statesman.

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-62779-449-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2015


NonfictionTHE END OF THE MYTH by Greg Grandin
by Greg Grandin
NonfictionTHE EMPIRE OF NECESSITY by Greg Grandin
by Greg Grandin
NonfictionFORDLANDIA by Greg Grandin
by Greg Grandin


NonfictionKISSINGER by Walter Isaacson
by Walter Isaacson
NonfictionNIXON AND KISSINGER by Robert Dallek
by Robert Dallek
NonfictionTHE BLOOD TELEGRAM by Gary J. Bass
by Gary J. Bass