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White House Years Hardcover – 28 Sep 1988

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1521 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown US; 1st Edition edition (28 Sep 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316496618
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316496612
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 6.4 x 15.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 618,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Covering his first four years as National Security Adviser, Kissinger discusses his part in formulating the Nixon Doctrine, discloses his views on the Vietnam War, and offers important insights into his relationship with Nixon.

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By P. J. T. Dicken on 13 Jan 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 20 reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
A Monumental Work 8 Oct 1998
By Raymond R. Rubino - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Kissinger's book is a must read for those wishing to gain insight into the politics of the diplomatic process. He takes great pains to be fair in his assessment of a number of personalities from President Nixon, to Indira Gandi. Self-observations are modest to the point of self-deprecation. The chapters in which he chronicles the Nixon Administration's involvement in the Vietnam War is worth the price of the book. Mr. Kissinger's observation of this tumultuous time in our history is candid, sometimes sad, but scholarly without being pedantic. I highly recommend this book.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
"The Longest Journey Begins With The First Step" 22 Jan 2001
By Harold Y. Grooms - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The title of this review stems from an ancient Chinese proverb. Henry A. Kissinger's book, White House Years is the first of a three-volume trilogy that covers his remarkable career. This initial book begins with his appointment as National Security Advisor to Richard M. Nixon January 1969, and ends with the initialing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1973. Kissinger lets the reader know early on, they were under no illusions their journey would be easy or joyous.

He paints a vivid picture of Lyndon Johnson at Nixon's inauguration. If a political heavyweight like L.B.J. could be humbled by (sic) "Veetnam" no one could expect an easy time. Nixon, who had made a career of exhorting political opponents to, "Get tough with the Communists," now had his turn. He would either succeed where his predecessors had failed, or share L.B.J.s fate.

A series of opportunities to "get tough" with the Communists soon followed. The Soviets continued to harass Berlin; the Strateg!ic Arms Limitation (SALT) Talks provided critics from the right and left; West German leader Willie Brandt's Ostpolitik threatened the cohesion of the Atlantic Alliance and the Soviets' establishment of a submarine base at Cienfuegos, Cuba created a situation reminiscent of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Also, the election of Salvador Allende in Chile threatened to introduce a second, Communist state into the Western Hemisphere. Elsewhere, a crisis was brewing between India and Pakistan, and the powder keg in the Middle East threatened to explode at any time.

All these things occurred while the bulk of our military forces were mired in a seemingly endless stalemate in Vietnam that was tearing our nation apart and steadily draining both our coffers and our national resolve. Any of them had the potential to bring the two nuclear equipped superpowers into direct confrontation at any time. Kissinger calmly states: "Statesmen do not have the right to ask to serve only in simple t!imes." The early '70's were anything but, "simple times."

White House Years is a first-person account from a key player in each of these crises. Kissinger takes us step-for-step through the decision-making process they undertook before each action. These deliberations led to the most spectacular diplomatic initiative of our time: Nixon's historic trip to The Peoples Republic of China! The diplomatic opportunities made possible by this trip still shape our world today. Among other things it made Hanoi serious about negotiating an end to the War in Vietnam.

Dr. Kissinger narrates the maddening, secret negotiations with North Vietnam's Le Duc Tho in Paris. The differences between what the Communists were feeding the Western media and what they were saying behind closed doors makes the reader both loathe and admire them for their political skill. Their efforts finally led to the signing of the Paris Peace Accords. Kissinger sincerely believed South Vietnam would surv!ive. Unfortunately, he was wrong.

White House Years reads like a Greek tragedy. The reader gets excited and then remembers how it all ends. The very secretiveness that produced spectacular successes also sowed the seeds that would lead to Nixon's self-destruction.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the War in Vietnam and/or international relations. The conduct of international diplomacy today is still unquestionably influenced by the events narrated here. I am much better informed for having read it. You will be as well!
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful avalanche of publicity followed his appointment... 11 Mar 2008
By Mr Bassil A MARDELLI - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Kissinger is a German-born origin, now American Politician. There were countless attacks from left, right and center on the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Perhaps his German background prompted a writer in the ""Nation"" to draw a resemblance between Kissinger and Joachim von Ribbentrop, the Nazi foreign minister. (Couldn't they ever forget?)
In his memoirs, Kissinger alludes to the years he served as National Security adviser and one can fathom a touch of boasting on how much, in the eyes of many observers, his initiatives and allure was the main rescuing feature of an otherwise disastrous administration (Watergate!!).
His appointment as Secretary of State aroused not only favorable editorials; there was a great deal of unfriendly comment as well. Some reflected envy and grudging ill-will; there must have been many political gurus firmly convinced that they would have been able to do as good, and even a much effective, job than Kissinger.

During his time in the Nixon and Ford administrations he cut a showy personality like brightly colored movie stars, appearing at social occasions with many celebrities and in his pictures he appeared very much in joy at such occasions; at times his name was transfused to "'Henri the Kiss"" something like a sex reference, didn't he say "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac?"" Very few photos show him frowning; otherwise his face has always been smiley. His foreign policy record made him the feared goddess of vengeance to the anti-war groups as well as to the anti-communists.

His memoirs portrays him as the devout advocate of ""Realpolitik"", and tell us how far the man played a dominant role in USA foreign policies between 1969 and 1973. In less than five years, he `taught' the world the policy of `'détente" that led to a significant relaxation in U.S.-Soviet tensions and played a crucial role in 1971 talks with China's Premier Zhou Enlai that concluded with a rapprochement between the two countries (tennis games) and the formation of a new strategic anti-Soviet Sino-American alliance.

His help and energy to put an end to the fighting in Vietnam rewarded him the Nobel Peace Prize (1973). But the subsequent events failed him dearly when a ceasefire in Vietnam could not remain durable.
Kissinger preferred the maintenance of friendly diplomatic relationships with anti-Communist military dictatorships in many places in Latin America, however he approved of half-hidden intervention in Chilean politics. Such disguised approach caused him the accusation of encouraging and taking part in the atrocities committed by the Argentine military junta.

Looking at his accomplishment, one cannot but associate his name (and indeed his personality) mainly with:
Détente and the opening to China
Vietnam and Cambodia
1971 Indo-Pakistan War
falling short of reviewing:
1973 Yom Kippur War
1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus

Kissinger was never connected with the Watergate scandal which eventually ruined Nixon and many of his close associates. The media labeled Kissinger as the ""clean man"" of the "Bunch""

I wonder why he did not mention in these memoirs the notion that prevailed for a short period of ending the requirement that a U.S. president be born in America. Some examined the possibility of amending the U.S. Constitution so that Kissinger could have a chance to run for President of the United States of America.

Perhaps what's missing in details for us in the Middle East is the 1973 Yum Kippur War. The memoirs, unfortunately, ended on the borders of 1973. From page 1290 until the end of the chapter we figure some secret channels between Sadat and Kissinger, we do not know how far such talks have led to the 1973 War. Was the war really surprising? Kissinger negotiated the end to the war, which had begun with a massive and, a so called, surprise attack against Israel by Egyptian and Syrian regular armies. According to Kissinger, if Israel had begun the war, they would not have received "so much as a nail" in aid from the United States. But since the Arabs started it all, the U.S military performed the largest military airlift in history, that led to the 1973 OPEC embargo against the United States and its Western European allies, which was lifted in March 1974.
When Israel recovered back most of the lands they lost during the initial stage of the `'surprise'' attack, the Israeli Army mounted a counter attack and regained some more territories. In this debacle Kissinger became the actual movie Star in this part of the world. USA, with the nickname: Uncle Sam became Uncle Henry (or Dear Henry). Kissinger was able to pressure Israel to cede some of the newly captured land back to the Arabs, contributing to the first phases of lasting Israeli-Egyptian peace. The move saw a warming in U.S.-Egyptian relations, bitter since the 1950s, as the country moved away from its former pro-Soviet stance and into a close partnership with the United States.

Can we ever get the whole truth from the memoirs of shrewd politicians in the caliber of Henry Kissinger?, or only time can tell!!
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Architect of a modern foreign poligy 23 Jan 2005
By David Fourer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I started this book on a whim in a coffee shop and soon decided to read all 1,475 pages (which required buying the book!) Kissinger has an amazing story to tell and writes exceptionally well. He gives vivid descriptions of encounters with world leaders and of Washington politics. His reflections range over history, politics, culture in many countries, war, and US policy.

He is full of surprises, sharp-edged, hilarious, philosophical, and always authoritative. Professor Kissinger doesn't use fancy words. He is never aloof. His purpose is to make the material understandable. Some passages about negotiations have perhaps more detail than one really wants.

The last four years of the Viet Nam war figure prominently in the book. Nixon and Kissinger's insistence on winding down the war slowly over four years is controversial. The whole book is unsentimental, convincing and will appeal to the liberal or conservative reader. It is also a revealing study of the "Cold War", including Nixon's trip to China, the Middle East, the SALT treaty, European relations, war between India and Pakistan, and more.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Mixed 6 Aug 2011
By Matthew Smith - Published on
Format: Hardcover
One reads this book because it is a first hand account of one of the most dynamic and divisive eras in US history, and to truly understand what happened it is necessary to hear from those people who were instrumental in the policies that were implemented. This is what this book does; it gives the reader perspective. The inside account from one of the most influential men of this time is a must for anyone wanting to understand this history. With that said this book has many problems as well, and at times may confound more than it enlightens which is why I gave three stars and titled my review as mixed. The writing is not great by any means, and the book is a labor. The author's prose does not carry the reader along and most of the work is dense.

One of the things that grated on me the most was the author's tone in sections of the book. He sounds more like a spoiled, petulant child rather than an educated, hard-nosed bureaucrat. Throughout the entire work the author repeatedly goes on for paragraphs and pages about how mean the papers were to Nixon and his administration. Over and over again the reader is subjected to snippets of critical articles written about the administration. This would have been alright once or twice but the author bludgens the reader with negative articles over and over again. Any potential reader is going to know this was a wrenching moment in US history so the idea that he has to keep driving this point home is ridiculous, and the author doesn't spend nearly as much time explaining that the administration's paranoia and secrecy was probably a pretty big factor in their PR problems. The other thing is HK continually talks about the war the Nixon administration "inherited" from the previous administration. As if the presidency of the United States or the NSA position are the equivalency of male pattern baldness. The idea that they "inherited" these problems is absurd. The American people didn't beg Nixon to become president. He ran for this position as hard if not harder than almost anyone who has ever aspired to this position, so the idea that either of these men inhereted these problems is pushing the bounds of incredulity.

As for the sections on Vietnam, the most compelling and enlightening sections are his insider accounts of the negotiations. This is where the value lies. The author basically takes the reader into the room with him giving details and descriptions that the reader really can't get anywhere else. The ability to see the inside negotiations and also the discussion inside the administration that set policy was invaluable. The reader can't get this kind of information anywhere else, and this is why this book has to be read to understand what really happened and why.

With that said I had problems with his analysis at times. It always shines a too favorable light on the administrations decisions. He does this by ignoring, completely, anything that may contradict his favorable rendering. He never discusses the major problems of the Thieu presidency and its own lack of legitimacy as well as it less than democratic tendancies. The reader gets the impression that Thieu is just a patriot and honorable man doing the best he can for his country. The major political problems are simply ignored. The other problem I have is the author delves into morality when discussing Vietnam. The problem for the author is this opens himself up to other areas of critique. He can make the case for his policies on the grounds of Realpolitik and simple US interest, but when making a moral case he opens himself up for the argument that in the end his policies were basically going to do nothing but trade a communist totalitarian rule for a right wing military dictatorship. The author never admits this, and in fact the picture he paints is one where South Vietnam was on the verge of US style republicanism. This is optimistic to say the least.

The other problem is the author goes back and forth when discussing the North Vietnamese. Early on he talks about how they are implacable enemies willing to hold out forever and take any amount of pain the US can inflict. An enemy willing to go underground and be bombed into the stone age if necessary, but then when discussing the end of the war for the US he begins to describe an enemy ready, even eager, to end the war. At this point the US congress becomes the enemy, and if only they didn't have to race against the clock then they could force ever increasing demands on the North. Of course the administration's own secrecy doesn't deserve some blame, nor is the 180 degree turn in the enemy explained by the author.

The other major part of the book focuses on the relationship with Russia. This is another area that shines. It goes along way in explaining why and how things went the way they did, and it also does a great job in showing the dysfunctionality of the Soviet system. The author gives the reader a great juxtaposition of the two differing systems which illustrates the dynamism of US politics as apposed to the single minded and determined approach of the Soviets. He does a good job illustrating the negatives and positives of both systems and giving examples of how these played out in the relationship.

The one area where I had problems is the author tends to overestimate the level of influence the Russians had with their allies around the world. In discussing the Middle East he assumes a level of influence for the Russians that was much lower than the US's influence on its own allies. After the 67 war he continually discusses the Soviets intransigence and refusal to reign in their allies like Nasser. At one point he discusses a Russian peace proposal and describes it as radical. He says that there is no way that the US could get its ally, Israel, to agree to these terms, but then he turns right around and accuses the Soviets of not forcing terms on Nasser. I don't understand why the author believes that the Soviets had more influence over Nasser, to the point they could impose terms on him, than we had over Israel. The way the author makes it out is that the Syrains, Egyptians, ect were mere vassal states to the Russians, whereas the Israelis were more on equal terms. The author gives no evidence for his view that the Soviets had more influence or why they would have, but he simply takes it as a given that they did. The idea that anyone could dictate terms to Nasser seems ridiculous to me though.

The other problem I have with his Middle East section is he tacitly legitimizes expansion of territory through war by describing the very notion of Israel going back to the pre 67 borders as radical. I understand realpolitik and that the US can't impose terms nor is morality always a good guide for national policy, but I think it is in US interest, as rule, to not legitimize any territorial gains through war whether defensive or offensive.

The last section I had a problem with was the author's discussion of Chile. This is one area of history I have neglected. I know the parameters of what happened but that is it. I had no preconceived notions at all, and readily admit my ignorance of the history behind this controversy. With that said Dr. Kissenger did not achieve his desired results with me in this section. He sounded defensive and at times hyper aggressive, while at other time apologetic, so much so that in the end I went back and forth over whether he was hiding something or his ego was offended which made him lash out. In the end the tone in this section was very different from the rest of the book. I think he would have done better just presenting his version without the emotion.

I have gone on long enough, and yet I haven't talked about his and Nixon's trips to China. There is just too much to go over to do it justice. I will reiterate that my review is mixed. This is an essential read for any real historian. The value in this work far exceeds its effort, even though this book is definitely a labor and a chore. The author obviously sees his contribution to history through rose colored glasses. He ignores a lot of information that would be critical of the version of history he puts forth, but that is his right. He is writing his version of this history, and I think this work stands out. No matter what you think of the man he is one of the most important figures in US history, and as such his words are of profound importance. This is a must read despite its many problems. As with any book come into it with a critical mind and you will be rewarded for your effort.
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