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Kissinger: 1973, the Crucial Year Hardcover – June 16, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Oxford University historian Horne (Harold Macmillan) presents a busy snapshot of AmericaÖs controversial superdiplomat in this admiring biographical study. The year 1973 ran Henry Kissinger, Richard NixonÖs chief foreign policy adviser, ragged with such watersheds as the Paris Peace Treaty with North Vietnam, the ChileansÖ overthrow of president Salvador Allende and the Yom Kippur War; he also won the Nobel Peace Prize, was appointed secretary of state and launched détente with the Soviets. HorneÖs chummyportrait, heavily informed by its ever-accessible subject, dubs Kissinger the single most powerful man in the world as his epic negotiations, intricately recounted here, resolved crisis after crisis while a paralyzed Nixon White House dithered over Watergate. Horne defends Kissinger from leftists who accuse him of war crimes and right-wingers who claim he was soft on Russia; he absolves Kissinger of responsibility for the Chilean coup, and blames congressional doves and a fifth column of antiwar activists for handing Indochina over to communism. The authorÖs own Cold War conservatism heightens the bookÖs dated tone; he doesnÖt question the continuing relevance of KissingerÖs static, Metternichian balance-of-superpowers vision. His is a simplistic, unreflective account of KissingerÖs place in history. (June)
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“A riveting story about one of the country’s most powerful secretaries of state”
--Jonathan Karl, The Wall Street Journal
"[Sir Alistair] tells the story racily and well"
"The book bustles with Kissinger’s peripatetic diplomacy and management of a series of crises."
--Gilbert Taylor, Booklist
"Horne grippingly recounts those tense days of international negotiation, all the more dramatic due to the psychological withdrawal of the president. The dynamic between Nixon and Kissinger, so different in personality and background, propels the narrative. The author writes perceptively of the strange bond between the two men"
--Kirkus Reviews --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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According to Horne's introduction, he was approached to write a full length biography on Henry Kissinger. After assessing the task, including Kissinger's own memoirs and literally the tons of raw data, i.e. the Kissinger papers, Horne declined the offer. Then after second thoughts Horne approached his publisher and Kissinger and requested this project - "a year in the life" of Kissinger volume - which sounded like a sound plan, providing a focus on the subject's turbulent times.
Unfortunately the plan soon goes awry with the reading. First, for anyone familiar with Kissinger and the Nixon administration, there is very little if anything new here. Second, the author bounces back and forth in chronological time with anecdotes and observations while filling in the back-story of Kissinger's actions, trips, failures and accomplishments, as he dealt with the end of the Vietnam War, the Yom Kippur War, (the best section of the book), and détente. Lurking in the background is Watergate, which is mentioned repeatedly although never fully developed.
What this reader found most disconcerting though was the author's insertion into the narrative of both himself - including dinners, lunches, banquets and private meetings with the subject and others over the last 30+ years - and inexplicably, the titles of just about every book he has written. At times it was unclear if this book was a dry run at an autobiography or at the very least least an attempt by Horne to be "coaxed" into writing one.
Much like Robert Dallek's book of 2007, Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power, although for different reasons, I was disappointed after finishing this book. Walter Issacson's 1992 biography is still by far the best on this subject.