The Flawed Architect: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy

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The Flawed Architect: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy

By Jussi M. Hanhimäki
Oxford University Press, 2004
576 pp. $35.00
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Hundreds of thousands of words have been written about Henry Kissinger, including many by the great man himself, so what is the justification for yet another volume? Hanhimäki's case is that the existing literature is polarized between celebrants and detractors, and that a large amount of new archive material makes possible a more balanced and informed analysis of Kissinger's performance as national security adviser and then secretary of state during the 1970s. This is a useful if at times dense analysis of the available material, which is now considerable, on this critical period in international history, covering détente and arms control, China and Vietnam, the Middle East and Chile. It is to Hanhimäki's credit that, although critical, he has avoided an overheated polemic. The "flawed architect" title comes from Hanhimäki's view that Kissinger's basic failure was his inability "to build a sustainable foreign policy structure." But however distasteful Kissinger's realpolitik and his bureaucratic methods could be, this charge may underestimate the lasting impact, for better or for worse, of this period in American diplomacy.