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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.
Bert Ruiz
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on 6 August 2009
One has to admire Hersh for his forensic appraisal of Henry Kissingers time at the helm of President Nixons National Security Council (NSC). One of those astonishing facts is that some still have a high regard for the wisdom of Henry Kissinger; one has to only type his name into the search box on Amazon to read rave reviews for some of his writings. Anyone who has a tendency in that direction would be well advised to read through the 600 tightly written pages of "Kissinger: The Price of Power". Hopefully (and Im probably being hopelessly optimistic!) by the time they get to page 30 they will be cured, but will no doubt - as I did - feel compelled to read through to the end.

Though focusing on Kissingers NSC and Nixon, the War in Vietnam is the thread running through the book. It provides Kissinger with the opportunity to use his contacts to inform Nixon of the efforts for peace being made by the Johnson administration . Nixon was frantic about peace "breaking out" before the '68 election and used Kissingers information to derail the peace negotiations. Kissingers reward was to lead Nixons NSC. Strangely enough, peace didn't break out after the election, instead intermittent and brutal bombing of North and South Vietnam, Laos, and later the so called "Secret Bombing" of Cambodia.

Other area/events covered include the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT), Chinese and Soviet negotiations and treaties. The India/Pakistan War of 1971 in which the U.S. tilted towards West Pakistan who were then involved in a murderous campaign in East Pakistan that resulted in between one and three million dead and the state of Bangladesh declaring its independence. The Middle East also appears and the Kissinger policy of leaving Sadat and his peace proposals out in the cold is examined, this misguided policy clearly played a part in the lead up to the October 73 war. Hersh marshals the information with regard to all those events, and others, and puts together a detailed picture of what happened. It is rarely pretty and Hersh, unlike his protagonist and his boss, bears in mind the cost in death and destruction.

The details on how the Nixon administration functioned (or didn't function) are a constant source of revelation: the Joint Chiefs spying on the NSC & Whitehouse, Kissingers spinning, the tapping of NSC staff and others telephones, Nixons drunken rages, Kissingers relationship with Alexander Haig, J.Edgar Hoover and Tricky Dicky himself. . . the list is practically endless.

Recommended reading for those interested in International History in general, and the U.S. foreign policy in particular during the first Nixon administration - it does focus on the "big" events though and shouldnt be regarded as being comprehensive on U.S. foreign policy for that period. The book was written in 1983 so I don't doubt that their has been an increase in the amount known about this period, but from my recollections of reading say The Trial of Henry Kissinger or The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon this account is still broadly correct. Some may find the sheer amount of detail a little off putting, in particular the SALT negotiations, but it is still a readable and fascinating book.
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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.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 September 2011
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.
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