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KISSINGER by Walter Isaacson

KISSINGER

By Walter Isaacson

Pub Date: Sept. 16th, 1992
ISBN: 0-671-66323-2
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

A critical but resolutely objective and utterly fascinating biography of the guileful, egocentric geopolitical scientist who became America's most celebrated secretary of state. Drawing on access to his subject's private papers, family members, friends, and foes, as well as on archival sources, Isaacson (an assistant managing editor at Time; coauthor, The Wise Men, 1986) offers an authoritative and comprehensive account. Tracking Kissinger from his boyhood as a persecuted Jew in Nazi Germany through his current estate as a globe-trotting business consultant who turns 70 next May, the author notes that Kissinger has displayed a knack for attracting influential patrons throughout his career. This talent served Kissinger well as an Army intelligence operative during WW II, at Harvard (where he earned a Ph.D. and professorship), and as a cold-war strategist who made a name for himself advising think tanks and government agencies. Latching on to an ultimate sponsor, he joined the Nixon Administration in 1969; survived Watergate largely unscathed; gained worldwide fame (plus a Nobel Peace Prize) for negotiating an end to the Vietnam War; and won even greater renown for feats of shuttle diplomacy in Africa, the Mideast, and elsewhere. While Isaacson gives Kissinger full marks for his many accomplishments in foreign policy, he minces few words in recounting the secretiveness, devotion to Realpolitik, and personal insecurities that gained Kissinger a reputation for Dr. Strangelove-like duplicity. Although Kissinger consistently had the courage of his conviction--that those engaged in statecraft must deal with ambiguities and accommodations--Isaacson concludes that a general perception of Kissinger's ruthlessness frequently cost him dearly owing to Americans' allegiance to human rights, democratic principles, the rule of international law, and other idealistic values. An evenhanded, warts-and-all portrait of a larger-than-life individual who has left his mark behind.