“Dazzling and instructive . . . [a] magisterial new book.” —Walter Isaacson, Time
Henry Kissinger offers in World Order a deep meditation on the roots of international harmony and global disorder. Drawing on his experience as one of the foremost statesmen of the modern era—advising presidents, traveling the world, observing and shaping the central foreign policy events of recent decades—Kissinger now reveals his analysis of the ultimate challenge for the twenty-first century: how to build a shared international order in a world of divergent historical perspectives, violent conflict, proliferating technology, and ideological extremism.
There has never been a true “world order,” Kissinger observes. For most of history, civilizations defined their own concepts of order. Each considered itself the center of the world and envisioned its distinct principles as universally relevant. China conceived of a global cultural hierarchy with the emperor at its pinnacle. In Europe, Rome imagined itself surrounded by barbarians; when Rome fragmented, European peoples refined a concept of an equilibrium of sovereign states and sought to export it across the world. Islam, in its early centuries, considered itself the world’s sole legitimate political unit, destined to expand indefinitely until the world was brought into harmony by religious principles. The United States was born of a conviction about the universal applicability of democracy—a conviction that has guided its policies ever since.
Now international affairs take place on a global basis, and these historical concepts of world order are meeting. Every region participates in questions of high policy in every other, often instantaneously. Yet there is no consensus among the major actors about the rules and limits guiding this process or its ultimate destination. The result is mounting tension.
Grounded in Kissinger’s deep study of history and his experience as national security advisor and secretary of state, World Order guides readers through crucial episodes in recent world history. Kissinger offers a unique glimpse into the inner deliberations of the Nixon administration’s negotiations with Hanoi over the end of the Vietnam War, as well as Ronald Reagan’s tense debates with Soviet Premier Gorbachev in Reykjavík. He offers compelling insights into the future of U.S.–China relations and the evolution of the European Union, and he examines lessons of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Taking readers from his analysis of nuclear negotiations with Iran through the West’s response to the Arab Spring and tensions with Russia over Ukraine, World Order anchors Kissinger’s historical analysis in the decisive events of our time.
Provocative and articulate, blending historical insight with geopolitical prognostication, World Order is a unique work that could come only from a lifelong policy maker and diplomat. Kissinger is also the author of On China.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Kissinger elicits strong reactions; the man some call "war criminal" also won the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize. At 91, he is still crafting his own record and place in history. A fixture in international politics since the 1960s, Kissinger argues that, assisted by the U.S., the spread of independent sovereign states, democratic aspirations, and global networks in communications, finance, and health have brought the "enterprise of world ordering... to fruition." Kissinger's guiding principle is what he calls the "global Westphalian system," named for the 17th-century treaty that ended the 30 Years' War. In studying the U.S.'s role in this system, his main theme is the "contest between idealism and realism" in American foreign policy. Kissinger's section on the Middle East focuses on U.S. partner Saudi Arabia and adversary Iran, but sidesteps the elephants-in-the-room of Israel and world oil. While considering the threat posed by the acquisition of nuclear weapons by rogue states, he also discusses the possibility, tenuous as it may be, of rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran. Some readers will feel Kissinger whitewashes the Bush administration's legacy in Iraq and the Middle East. Others will ask if Kissinger's stark title is ironic, given sharply escalating international conflict. Nonetheless, Kissinger's thoughts, grounded in some 50 years of experience, deserve a wide, attentive audience that should include anyone interested in foreign affairs or the global future.
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An Essential Read
World Order is a sequel to Kissinger's masterpiece A World Restored. In some ways it is an update covering the postwar period up to mid-summer 2014.
For any person interested in international relations, diplomatic history and international law, this book is an essential read.
World Order is breathtaking in its historical scope and insight.