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Towards a Diplomacy for the 21st Century

by Henry Kissinger

Pub Date: June 14th, 2001
ISBN: 0-684-85567-4
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

The question is rhetorical: this is Henry (“Have foreign policy, will travel”) Kissinger, after all. Here, he takes America to task for its lack of vision in foreign policy, and maps the playing field for diplomatic consideration.

Kissinger has always been a flexible realist when it came to the delicate work of foreign relations, an approach he continues to champion as an invitation to dialogue between nation-states and multinational groups. He is dismayed by the way the US government force-feeds its values to other countries (particularly those with whom we do not share ideological footing), and he considers US sanctions—often the result of domestic pressure groups—nothing more than the bullying of a self-satisfied, prosperous, smug colossus that sees itself as “both the source and the guarantor of democratic institutions around the globe.” He is appalled that the US deals with foreign policy on a case-by-case basis, with no strategic design, for the inevitable transformations in the international scene will require a supple, subtle, and historically informed policy. Here, Kissinger the student of political history rushes to the fore, detailing major shifts in the 300-year-old policy of noninterference in the domestic affairs sovereign states (witness Haiti, Bosnia, Somalia, etc.), as well as the eclipse of both the Wilsonian ideal of common devotion to international order and the Hamiltonian faith that American foreign policy was “motivated by principles higher than those of the Old World.” And while he vigorously speaks to the balancing of values and interests—more than once he speaks of the “moral elevation” of foreign policy—don’t get him wrong: “What, for our survival, must we seek to prevent no matter how painful the means?”

Richly opinionated and controversial: a strong addition to the contemporary debate over America’s direction in the new century.