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Description de l’éditeur
A new portrait of Henry Kissinger focusing on the fundamental ideas underlying his policies: Realism, balance of power, and national interest.
Few public officials have provoked such intense controversy as Henry Kissinger. During his time in the Nixon and Ford administrations, he came to be admired and hated in equal measure. Notoriously, he believed that foreign affairs ought to be based primarily on the power relationships of a situation, not simply on ethics. He went so far as to argue that under certain circumstances America had to protect its national interests even if that meant repressing other countries’ attempts at democracy. For this reason, many today on both the right and left dismiss him as a latter-day Machiavelli, ignoring the breadth and complexity of his thought.
With The Inevitability of Tragedy, Barry Gewen corrects this shallow view, presenting the fascinating story of Kissinger’s development as both a strategist and an intellectual and examining his unique role in government through his ideas. It analyzes his contentious policies in Vietnam and Chile, guided by a fresh understanding of his definition of Realism, the belief that world politics is based on an inevitable, tragic competition for power. Crucially, Gewen places Kissinger’s pessimistic thought in a European context. He considers how Kissinger was deeply impacted by his experience as a refugee from Nazi Germany, and explores the links between his notions of power and those of his mentor, Hans Morgenthau—the father of Realism—as well as those of two other German-Jewish émigrés who shared his concerns about the weaknesses of democracy: Leo Strauss and Hannah Arendt. The Inevitability of Tragedy offers a thoughtful perspective on the origins of Kissinger’s sober worldview and argues that a reconsideration of his career is essential at a time when American foreign policy lacks direction.
America's most celebrated and vilified diplomat was a philosopher-statesman shadowed by his experience as a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, according to this trenchant debut. New York Times Book Review editor Gewen assesses Kissinger, national security adviser and secretary of state to Presidents Nixon and Ford, as an intellectual whose foreign-policy "Realism" cold-bloodedly pursued national interests and an international balance of power while eschewing "idealistic" goals of anti-communist crusading, promoting human rights, or spreading democracy abroad. Gewen first offers a fascinating interpretation of Hitler as a popular democratic politician, then delves into the ideas of philosophers Leo Strauss and Hannah Arendt and "Realist" political scientist (and Kissinger friend) Hans Morgenthau, all of them German-Jewish refugees fearful, like Kissinger, that democratic idealism can lose to totalitarianism. Gewen also explores Kissinger's opposition to Chile's socialist president Salvador Allende (in an eye-opening chapter, Gewen paints Allende as a potential dictator and mostly absolves Kissinger and the U.S. of blame for orchestrating the coup that overthrew him) and his d tente with Russia and China. Gewen's defense of some of Kissinger's policies, however, including prolonging the Vietnam War for the sake of American "credibility" and "prestige," isn't always convincing. Still, this is a rich, nuanced, thought-provoking reconsideration of Kissinger's worldview and its impact on history.