Review Essay

The World According to Henry: From Metternich to Me

In This Review


By Adam Watson
McGraw-Hill New Press, 1982 239 pp. $19.95 Purchase

Henry Kissinger has never written anything less than magna opera, but this 1,000-page blockbuster must certainly qualify as his maximum opus. Its title is modestly deceptive. The term "diplomacy" is normally applied to the techniques and tactics employed in the conduct of international relations, and about these Kissinger is well qualified to write. He is dealing here, however, with a great deal more than techniques and tactics. His topic is the grand strategy, indeed the philosophy, of great power relationships, from the days of Richelieu until our own times.

The proper title of this book would be something like Power Politics, but that is a term that Kissinger seldom allows to pass his pen. Instead he refers frequently, and bewilderingly, to "geopolitics." He does not use this term as did its European inventors, Rudolph Kjellen, Halford Mackinder and Albrecht Haushofer, to mean the influence of spatial environment on political imperatives. For Kissinger "geopolitics" is simply a euphemism for power relationships. His use of it is reminiscent of the term "behavioral sciences," which was coined in the United States a generation ago to describe what had hitherto been known as the social sciences, but sounded to suspicious congressmen too much like socialism to qualify for governmental support. In the same way, power politics is a concept (though not a practice) so blatantly un-American that no foundation is likely to underwrite its study. "Geopolitics," on the other hand, sounds conveniently value-free, though the implementation of some of its theories by German and Japanese statesmen during the first half of this century proves that it is not necessarily anything of the kind. Kissinger would have done better to have come clean and admitted that his subject was neither diplomacy nor geopolitics, as those terms are generally understood, but the subject that he has spent his life studying and much of it practicing: the politics of power.

The subtext of his book, however, explains why he could not do so. Americans do not take kindly

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