YEARS OF RENEWAL by Henry Kissinger


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With this volume Kissinger concludes what may be the greatest memoir ever written by an American statesman (White House Years, 1979; Years of Upheaval, 1982). It is a tribute to the quality of his narrative that the reader is often entranced by the personalities and diplomatic maneuverings of the Ford administration, a quarter of a century ago. Of course, Kissinger does not always resist the temptation to be more prescient than he was at the time. Thus the statesman, who discerned in 1977 that we faced the ’stark reality that the [communist] challenge is unending,” reports on going to Moscow several years earlier that one “could not but gain the impression that the whole elaborately constructed stage set was precarious and might collapse at any moment.” Not surprisingly, we also see more of the good Henry, charitable in his judgments, even of bureaucratic enemies, and open in his methods, than the bad Henry (—Trust does not come to me spontaneously—). But the performance is always a bravura one: there is hardly a page without a wise observation or maxim of statecraft, or a characterization full of insight, including masterful sketches of Nixon, Ford, Mao, Helmut Schmidt, and a host of other leaders. There is just one point at which the tone, wise, avuncular, witty, and epigrammatic changes dramatically, and that is on the withdrawal of the US from Vietnam. Kissinger argues with anguished passion that those in Congress who called for US withdrawal welshed on their commitment to provide aid to the South Vietnamese when the US left; that the US abandonment was shameful; that it led to genocide and tragedy in Vietnam and Cambodia; and that it deeply injured the reputation and the interests of the US throughout the world. Enough time may now have elapsed for the truth of these observations to be more widely acknowledged. A brilliant, masterly, even seminal book.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-85571-2
Page count: 1168pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1999


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