THE ILLUSION OF PEACE: Foreign Policy in the Nixon-Kissinger Years by Tad Szulc
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THE ILLUSION OF PEACE: Foreign Policy in the Nixon-Kissinger Years

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If there is one tiring upon which commentators can agree, it is that Nixonian foreign policy operated on two levels--one of public pronouncements and spectaculars, and another of private deals and secrecy. This theme is now taken up by Szulc, a former New York Times reporter who currently writes for The New Republic. Contemporary history is a field to which journalists often lay claim, and Szulc's book is an admirable justification of that position--a massive (800+ pages) narrative tracing the lines of foreign policy from 1969 to 1974, relying on public records and available documents, buttressed by personal interviews. Szulc does his job with great skill, showing how the Nixon policy of personal diplomacy virtually mandated the secrecy and self-consuming spying that ultimately brought Nixon down. Underpinning the whole structure was the need for media successes in summitry--the illusionary factor--and this required last-minute shifts in strategy and diplomatic concessions in order to meet summit deadlines. Consequently, Nixon and Kissinger, who began their terms with elaborate plans for foreign policy, wound up employing ad hoc measures, leaving behind little in the way of lasting foreign policy structures. But if Szulc goes as far as is presently possible in recounting the history of the period, and in laying bare the internal contradictions and entailments of policy, he stops short of connecting his understanding of Nixon's political style with the nature of American politics today. Unquestionably the best narrative yet, but we are left to draw our own conclusions.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1978
Publisher: Viking