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Does America Need a Foreign Policy? : Toward a Diplomacy for the 21st Century Hardcover – Unabridged, June 14, 2001
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Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger asks a question in the title of his book Does America Need a Foreign Policy?--but there's really no doubt about the answer. That's not to say it shouldn't be asked: "The last presidential election was the third in a row in which foreign policy was not seriously discussed by the candidates," writes Kissinger. "In the face of perhaps the most profound and widespread upheavals the world has ever seen, [the United States] has failed to develop concepts relevant to the emerging realities." Kissinger tours the world in this book, describing how the United States should relate to various regions and countries. This is not a gripping book, but it is sober, accessible, brief, and comprehensive--and an excellent introduction to international relations and diplomacy.
Kissinger has opinions on just about every topic he raises, from globalization (for it) to international courts (against them, for the most part). He supports a vigorous missile-defense system: "The United States cannot condemn its population to permanent vulnerability." He opines on peace in the Middle East: "Israel should abandon its opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state except as part of a final status agreement." His claims are often eye-opening: "There are few nations in the world with which the United States has less reason to quarrel or more compatible interests than Iran." He is especially critical of domestic politics interfering with America's international relations: "Whatever the merit of the individual legislative actions, their cumulative effect drives American foreign policy toward unilateral and seemingly bullying conduct." The media has been a special problem in this regard, as it zips around the world in search of exciting but ephemeral stories, which are "generally presented as a morality play between good and evil having a specific outcome and rarely in terms of the long-range challenges of history." Does America need a foreign policy? Of course it does, and Henry Kissinger has done readers a service by outlining what a good one might be. --John J. Miller
From Publishers Weekly
Former Secretary of State Kissinger ambitiously undertakes herein the total revamping of U.S. foreign policy. This is necessary, he contends, because even though the U.S. is enjoying an unprecedented preeminence, it lacks "a long-range approach to a world in transition." Recent U.S. foreign policy, he says, has become dangerously ad hoc, a case-by-case response to challenges as they occur. Needed instead is "ideological subtlety and long-range strategy," which Kissinger provides. Chapter by chapter, he analyzes the broad challenges facing the U.S. and the world, from globalization and its attendant promises and disruptions (he warns that globalization has enriched many and impoverished and dislocated many others) to humanitarian intervention from Somalia to Kosovo. In other chapters he offers recommendations on how the U.S. should proceed in various areas of the world: Europe, the Western Hemisphere, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Kissinger's point is that each region is unique and thus so should be U.S. foreign policy toward them. Our alliance with Europe, for example, is the bedrock of Kissinger's U.S. foreign policy; we must make sure, he warns, that the European Community remains a political partner, not a competitor. While not all will agree with his findings he is, for instance, quite skeptical about humanitarian intervention it is a pleasure to experience a first-class mind subtly explaining in an accessible way the immense intricacies of modern U.S. foreign policy. 6 maps. Agent, Marvin Josephson, ICM. (June 14)Forecast: Given the author's prominence, this is bound to get major media attention and to spark debate, fueled by national advertising and publicity and a four-city author tour. This title is a BOMC and History Book Club alternate.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
The book is entertaining and put in a very organized sequence. It highlights the cross Atlantic world leading American-European alliance and offers fresh perspective on how these relations should develop as the European Union gains shape and witnesses a surge in its economic, demographic and geographic might.
Kissinger also talks about other regions in the world including the Middle East and Africa. The book has a much needed historical background about all of the events that it discusses making it easier for readers who are not familiar with overseas issues to get a grasp of what the author is talking about. Kissinger then gives his recommendations on how America should handle its world affairs in the coming century.
He debates the United States role in a growingly globalized world and offers suggestions on how America should deal with global organizations such as the World Trade Organization and the World Bank.
Kissinger sounds more often than not a traditionalist in his foreign policy perspective in that he doesn't view fighting terrorism as the world's top priority. He rather maintains a tone of what America should do to maintain its "assets" and "strategic interests" around the world and how this would define America's role making or breaking of world affairs.
The book also lacks accurate research and is kind of a blown up opinion. For example, Kissinger mentions a ruling Sunni majority in Iraq and an opposing two minority blocs, the Shiites and Kurds. It is a known fact, however, that the Shiites are the Iraqi majority.
This book is an easy read, very understandable. I read this book because the USA is always criticized for having no foreign policy every time World events hit us broadside.
Revisitation: We've always known Kissinger is brilliant, and there is no reason to revise that view. However, in light of what is now known about Viet-Nam, we must find Kissinger guilty as a war criminal (first link below).
The book begins with a lamentation that foreign policy has been neglected in the last three Presidential campaigns; that the American public is terribly apathetic about foreign affairs; and that Congress is overly interventionist--he refrains from adding the obvious caveat regarding most Members lack of knowledge of the world. In brief, we have a long way to go as a Nation before we can devise and sustain a credible foreign policy.
The core point in this entire work is that both economics and technologies, including Internet and communications technologies, have so out-paced politics that the world is at risk. Globalization, terrorism, and other threats cannot be addressed with our existing international, regional, and national political constructs, and new means must be found--new political solutions must be found--if we are to foster security and prosperity in the age of complexity, discontinuity, and fragmentation.
There are some useful sub-themes:
1) Each region must be understood in its full complexity, with special attention to both emerging powers and to the subtleties of relations between regional actors--we should not confine ourselves to simply addressing each actor's relationship to the United States.
2) We must take great care to never interpose ourself or allow ourselves to become a substitute for a regional power, e.g. in the dialog between North and South Korea, or India and Pakistan.
3) We must strive at all times to ensure that the historic context is clearly appreciated and underlying every policy formulation, at the same time that we must recognize and define the vast cultural differences between US approaches to foreign policy, and the approaches of others, such as China.
4) Military compromise, whether in the Gulf War, Bosnia, or Kosovo, leaves a strategic vacuum that will inevitably require attention.
5) Africa is the true test for whether a world community can be devised and new solutions found for addressing the severe conditions in Africa that ultimately threaten the well-being of the rest of the world.
6) Our foreign service officers and the political leaders they serve must have history and philosophy restored to their diets, or they will fail to devise long-range concepts, global strategies, and sustainable policies.
Dr. Kissinger ends with what some might overlook and what I found to be absolutely core: no economic system can be sustained without a political basis. However much major multinational corporations may care to buy their comforts and their arrangements of convenience, at root, they prosper only because some set of political arrangements among great nations is providing a safety net, including the financial system with one major node in New York.
The books ends with an appeal for American humility and discretion as it makes it way forward--we must act as if we are one of many co-equal nation-states, while recognizing that our pre-eminence demands more of us than might be expected from others.
There is one major gap in this book, and I suspect it was deliberate: there is no discussion at all of the means by which American foreign policy is to be devised. As America moves into the early months of the "war on terrorism", it would have been helpful to have a really well-qualified rant on how it is impossible for this great Nation to have a foreign policy when we have gutted almost into extinction what passes for a Department of State today. Our Foreign Service, our Embassies, our foreign assistance programs, our Peace Corps, our external research, our sponsorship of international conferences on topics of vital importance to the US, have all faded into decrepitude. If ever there was a time when Kissinger, Brzezinski, and Powell should come together and champion a major restoration--at least a $10 billion a year increase--in Program 150 (our soft power), this is that time. That they have all failed to do so troubles me--that Senator Biden was castigated publicly for speaking the plain truth about how the world perceives us--troubles me. The attacks of 11 September represent, primarily, a failure of our ability to monitor and understand the world. That failure must lie heavily--and equally--on the shoulders of the foreign service (State), the clandestine service (CIA), and the counterintelligence service (FBI).
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The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
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Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush
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Most recent customer reviews
This book has both weaknesses and strengths, as all books do, but the weaknesses vastly...Read more