Three Essays
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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.
Pub Date: May 1st, 1969
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1969


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