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on 23 July 2002
Just a few facts anyone considering buying this book needs to know before they part with their hard-earned greenbacks. It is really a book of two halves: pre-1945, and post-1945. Indeed, the diplomacy of WW2 and the 40 years immediately afterwards, is given very close analysis by the author, to the extent that it covers half the book. Yet Kissenger seems to pick his subjects selectively, rather than providing us with a comprehensive overview. The Cuban Missile Crisis, for example, gets only cursory treatment, but Vietnam gets three chapters! Similarly, the Sino-Soviet split, the Arab-Israeli Wars, the Indo-Pakistan crises, all are relegated to bit parts.
The book begins in the 1600s with Cardinal Richelieu, and seems to intimate that prior to this, international diplomacy did not exist, or was dominated by religious issues - an oversimplification at best. No insights are given to the way the Ancients dealt with each other, and the lessons to be drawn from this (e.g. Roman diplomatic thought must give us a useful comparative model vis-a-vis today's Pax Americana, but no, Kissenger feels it is irrelevant).
I also felt that Asia was sadly neglected in this work. The complex relationship between the US and Japan in the 1920s and 1930s is utterly ignored - Japan only starts to appear in the book in 1941, yet is was an important part of British strategy in Asia as early as 1901. The epochal arms limitation agreements limiting fleet sizes in 1921 and 1930 are also ignored. Indeed, Asia only appears in Kissenger's sights when US troops are embroiled there after 1945 in Korea and Vietnam. Post-1949 Chinese foreign policy, and, indeed, China's historical record with its neighbours in the period 1600-1800 are also ignored, a pity given China's increasing importance on the world stage.
On the positive side, it does give an insight into Kissenger's mind. There are some anecdotes on his meetings with famous players in 20th century politics, like Charles de Gaulle and Harry Truman, as well as some educational views on ge-strategic relationships (I liked his analysis of the inadequacies of western intelligence services).
In summary, the valuable part of this book is the second half, and more as a tool to understand the author and the Cold War rather than the art of diplomacy itself.
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on 20 March 2014
We'll written, biased but still great read.
Great account from a great historian.

Highly recommended to those interested in history and politics
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on 27 January 2005
Sometimes it takes an outsider to understand the nature of a country and its direction. Henry Kissinger certainly does that to my mind. Although a previous reviewer is correct when he points out that centuries of diplomatic activity is given very quick analysis and telling, the book obviously has other concerns than the history of diplomacy. It is more about the nature of American diplomacy. And three hundred years of European diplomacy is used to enlighten that particular connundrum.
The book, unsurprisingly I suppose, focuses a great deal on the periods of history that the author has direct relation with. A great many pages are expended on the issues and forces at work in Vietnam - eerily reminisecent in its genesis of the current situation in Iraq. That in itself is interesting. As are the many anecdotes, thumbnail portraits and recounted attitudes of major pollitical figures, again especially over the last fifty years. The book is entertaining both as a political and historical work.
The weaknesses of it are weaknesses that would be expected from Henry Kissinger. The focus of the book resides solely in the manipulation of power throughout history. There is no broadening of the book into areas such as the legitimacy of certain wars or even some of the darker actions of diplomacy throughout the years: the American backed coup in Chile; the support given for the Suharto regime; the death of a million Indonesians, sponsored by America, are not touched upon: the reasons why states act the way they do and their interconnection with economics remain unexplored. Kissinger would argue, probably, that these questions and actions were outwith the paradigm of his argument. Fair enough.
For the book is really an argument, using history to illustrate two key concepts, and illuminate and repudiate another. Kissinger cites America as an idealistic nation whose expectations of themselves and the world do not meet with reality as it actually is. This fosters disillusion and withdrawal and disaster.(Woodrow Wilson and the Versailles Treaty are spectactular examples of this. The one's fourteen points abandoned; and the peace of Versailles that appealed to such abstract concepts like justice and retribution on behalf of the victors yet ignored the requirments and likely developments of the political situation, thereby stored up catastrophe for later on.) There is a always a danger that America will withdraw from the world when matters do not go as hoped for.
Kissinger instead asks for a policy of engagement with the world by America, based on the premises of realpolitik or raison d'etat (the heroes of the book are Bismark and Richlieu: the villain the-absurdly-blind-to-the-realities-of-power Napoleon III). The world is multi-polar and imperfect; but America needs to engage and needs to accept working within limits. This is, for Kissinger, the best that can be achieved. As an argument it is painstakingly, subtly and thoroughly put together. It is a powerful, well-written work that educates and persuades. For anyone interested in the subject this is a good read.
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on 13 February 2016
Still haven't finished this, Kissinger writes with such weight - but his writing style is inimitable. I would recommend this for anyone who wants to know about the history of Europe in particular. If you want a lighter read (this book is enormous), I suggest you read kissiingers 'World Order' book. It bascially goes over the same things but with lighter analysis.
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on 29 May 1999
But be aware that opinion does not equal truth. It is obvious that Kissinger (or anybody else for that matter) is not going to speak against his country and its Foreign Service. In his book, Kissinger expresses his viewpoints (which are necessarily biased) on diplomacy from Richelieu's time to the post cold-war world. If you filter the constant references to the high moral values of the United States (which at times border pure propaganda), the book is extremely interesting and insightful, especially when describing the viewpoints of other parties (nonUS). However, don't be fooled to think that the US (or any other country) conducts foreign policy on the basis of moral principles (see US-sponsored dictatorships in Latin America and Asia as an example). I rate it 4 stars because it is a really valuable book, but I withhold one star because Kissinger should either have spoken about the not-so-moral endeavours of the US or not have spoken so much about its alleged moralism.
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on 24 April 2012
Kissinger's Diplomacy is a very insightful book and one that is hard to put down. The book is theoretically split into two distinct sections. The first one focuses on diplomacy in early modern history from Richelieu through Metternich, Disraeli and Bismarck to the Second World War. It details how diplomacy worked in the European Theatre through the use of balance of power and the impact of President Wilson on post-war Europe. The second section looks at diplomatic efforts from 1945, most of which Kissinger was heavily involved with and considers the balance between practical diplomacy and how the people, specifically the American public, viewed the actions of the main players. Recommended to any political historian and those of us who are just interested in how the political world came to be.
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on 19 April 2016
This book explains a lot about how the political game is managed.
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on 21 December 2002
A casual reader would be advised to consult the likes of E.H. Carr for an introduction to realist foreign policy before reading 'Diplomacy', as Kissinger assumes a lot of prior knowledge on the reader's part. Nevertheless, this is a commanding account of what Kissinger perceives to be the virtues of realism and the failures of liberalism since the Treaty of Westphalia. The focus on Vietnam is welcome given the author's direct involvement as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, but he predictably overstates the success of the policies pursued by himself and Nixon.
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on 8 May 2015
Everything as expected, Excellent choice, great purchase.
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on 25 August 1997
In this book, the US Secretary of State clearly reveals how international relations work and help us to undertand why is the world in such a way nowadays.
This book is a reading that all international relations student must read. It is the perfect manual to understand international relations since 17th. century through the post Cold War World.
Sincere congratulations to Mr. Kissinger.
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