The Nobel laureate and former national security advisor and secretary of state (Years of Upheaval, 1982, etc.) presents an engrossing and monumental (in every sense) historical survey of diplomacy from the 17th century to the present. Kissinger begins his narrative after the Peace of Westphalia (1648), when militarily ascendant France strove for dominance on the continent, preventing the fragmented German states from coalescing into a major power. Thereafter Britain, its own internal turbulence quelled and its monarchy restored, sought to check France by creating alliances of weaker European states. Kissinger shows how wily statesmen like Richelieu, Britain's William III, Metternich, and Bismarck frankly pursued their own nation-state's interests without regard for the idealistic concepts of collective security that have motivated American policy since the Wilson administration: only Britain, because of its unique geographical position, actively pursued a policy of promoting equilibrium on the continent. Kissinger extensively discusses the unraveling of the post-Napoleonic arrangements in the decades leading up to WW I, Soviet and German consolidation and French and British demoralization in the years after the Versailles treaty, and the dominance of the Soviet-American rivalry in world politics after World War II. Kissinger draws fascinatingly on his own experiences as President Nixon's chief diplomat to illustrate his arguments about diplomacy. Finally, he argues that the ideal of collective security that American policy has promoted since Wilson's presidency and throughout the Cold War, while sometimes effective, is often weak because it is not strongly grounded in national interests. Buttressing his argument with a sweeping historical survey, Kissinger persuasively contends that leaders of the western democracies, particularly the US, should leaven their idealism in the turbulent post-Cold War era with the realistic pursuit of concrete national interests. Profound and important.