on 19 September 2003
Only a handful of journalists in the nation have the credibility to write of book of this nature. To this end, Author Seymour Hersh puts his considerable reputation on the line and uses his powerful contacts in Washington to painstakingly document the shallow political and career motives of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger.
Hersh does a tremendous service to America. He single-handedly destroys the myth that Nixon and Kissinger were dedicated to the swift end of the Vietnam war. To his credit, Hersh documents the formation of Nixon's secret "Madman" policy and how the President and Kissinger employed this risky strategy to prolong the war.
"The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House," is also a serious study of how certain key cabinet members that opposed the manipulation of foreign policy were quickly isolated and discredited. Hersch interviews key individuals that Kissinger personally recruited to work at the NSC to show how significant contributions to foreign policy was wrestled from the State Department and firmly established in the White House. The early consolidation of power by Nixon and Kissinger set the pattern for a long string of dark policy.
The secret bombing of Cambodia, the crisis in Korea, the SALT talks, the Mideast, Cuba, China, the Berlin settlement are all explored in this text. However, the most damaging information to the reputation of Henry Kissinger is how his secret information to the Nixon campaign during the Johnson administrations peace talks in Paris compromised any chance of reaching an early conclusion to the war. Hersh meticulously researches how Kissinger manipulates his contacts in Paris to circumvent the practice of conflict resolution by Lyndon Johnson. Hersh also explains how Kissinger used this secret information to position himself on Nixon's short list of foreign policy advisors after the defeat of Hubert H. Humprhey in the 1968 presidential elections.
There is little flattery of the 37th President of the United States in this book. If anything Hersch displays the ruthlessness of the Nixon White House and how Henry Kissinger would sacrifice everything to implement a dark policy that cost thousands of lives. In conclusion, this book is a bitter pill for the brave young men and women who answered the nation's call in Vietnam.
on 26 March 2008
This account of the Nixon foreign policy is far better than Walter Isaacson's or Robert Dallek's. Hersh shows in detail how in July 1968 Nixon and Kissinger told President Thieu of South Vietnam to reject US calls to begin participating in peace talks. In doing so, they broke the US law against private citizens conducting diplomatic negotiations.
Throughout 1968, Nixon campaigned on a platform of ending the war, yet then escalated the war. Nixon and Kissinger always opposed unilateral withdrawal. They aimed to continue the US aggression against Vietnam until victory could be achieved. When they talked of an `honourable settlement', they meant one that achieved all the USA's aggressive war aims. More US soldiers would have to die so that the earlier deaths would not have been in vain, which, absurdly, equates to saving the dead.
Nixon and Kissinger cruelly indulged in sunshine talk about the war, promising the American people that one last push, one more invasion, would bring victory. But the truth was that the USA had lost. There was no alternative to withdrawal: their only choice was whether to end the war swiftly, or end it a bit later after killing yet more Vietnamese and having even more American soldiers killed pointlessly (20,000 were killed under Nixon).
Nixon and Kissinger never grasped that a quick exit from Vietnam would have helped, not undermined, US credibility. They never asked other governments what they thought about a speedy exit. Détente was just a cynical device to try to divide Vietnam from its allies, and it failed.
Nixon and Kissinger's policy towards Vietnam was a disaster, killing thousands of Americans, Vietnamese and Cambodians. They claimed that their policies were realistic and intelligent, but neither could see that the Vietnamese people were justly fighting for their national liberation. Nixon and Kissinger were not tragic, flawed heroes but despicable war criminals.
Hersh is great at seeking dirt, which is a public service as he uncovers so much of it. Guys like him serve a function only as long as we keep his role in perspective. He found My-Lai, yes, but does he approve of anything whatsoever? This book is a 500-page indictment of Kissinger that follows no standard other than to show that the guy was really really bad. There is little if any acknowledgment of what Kissinger accomplished, virtually no consistent standards discussed of what would have been better, and no suggestions offered. As such, it is simply over the top.