In This Review

Master of the Game: Henry Kissinger and the Art of Middle East Diplomacy
Master of the Game: Henry Kissinger and the Art of Middle East Diplomacy
By Martin Indyk
Knopf, 2021, 688 pp.

After his own decades-long effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including during the Clinton and Obama administrations, came to naught, the veteran U.S. diplomat and policy analyst Indyk asks, “Has the United States lost the art of peacemaking in the Middle East?” He returns to the earliest and, in his view, most successful iteration of this art: Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Although Indyk is lavish in his praise of Kissinger’s wisdom and wiliness, the story he tells exposes Kissinger’s responsibility for many of the subsequent flaws of U.S. diplomacy in the region. As Indyk documents, Kissinger was not really interested in securing peace so much as stabilizing a regional order in which the United States would remain indispensable. The peace process was about the process, not the peace, and judged by this standard, the United States neither aspired to nor failed at “the art of peacemaking.” Moreover, in his enthusiasm for the role of the great figures in history, Kissinger conflated the vision and skills of rulers with the interests and capabilities of their states, creating a reliance on personal diplomacy that has debilitated U.S. policy in the region ever since. Indyk tells this story with style and intelligence, but it is a darker tale than he acknowledges.