Michael Mandelbaum is Christian A. Herter Professor of American Foreign Policy at the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University and Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the author of the forthcoming book From War to Markets: The World of the Twenty-first Century and How It Came To Be.
In the 1890s the young George Bernard Shaw earned his living as a music and theater critic. Convinced that he could do as well as the dramatists whose work he was reviewing, he turned his hand to writing plays, and the rest is literary history. The career of Shaw's fellow Nobel laureate Henry Kissinger followed a similar trajectory. During most of the 1950s and 1960s he was an academic who produced, in a series of books and articles, a sustained critique of American foreign policy. Then, in 1969, he got the chance to conduct that foreign policy himself, and the rest is diplomatic history.
Whereas writing plays can be a lifetime's occupation, however, conducting American foreign policy cannot. And so, twenty-five years after he left government and in the wake of three monumental volumes of memoirs of his time in office, Kissinger has returned to his first career. Does America Need a Foreign Policy? is an assessment of, and a set of prescriptions for, the foreign policy of the United States in the wake of the Cold War.
During his first tour of duty as a critic, almost everything Kissinger wrote addressed the great global conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. The present volume, written for a more complicated era, consists of essays on six different subjects: relations between the United States and Europe, U.S. policy in the western hemisphere, the American role in Asia, the turbulent politics of the Middle East, the promises and perils of globalization, and the effort to put considerations of justice rather than the search for peace at the heart of Washington's approach to the rest of the world. Disparate though these subjects are, the author's views on them share a common feature.
George Bernard Shaw was a radical. In his writings and his public activities he attacked what he saw as the archaic customs and arbitrary restrictions that obstructed progress, impeded human happiness, and generally made things worse than they could and
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