cover image Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman

Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman

Greg Grandin. Metropolitan, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-1-62779-449-7

Assessing Henry Kissinger’s impact on American foreign policy, Grandin (The Empire of Necessity) returns to the source of the man’s political thought: his Harvard undergraduate thesis, “The Meaning of History.” Within Kissinger’s earliest writing Grandin finds the basis for his “imperial existentialism,” a Spenglerian realpolitik that endorses action in order to resist decline and assert a nation’s purpose. Beholden to no moral or ethical code and armed with a tragic sense of human history, Kissinger left academia to formulate a doctrine that prioritized instinct and will over empirical data and causality. Though his tactics proved ill-suited to winning either wars or allies, they did prove effective in winning elections, cementing Kissinger’s position within the national security state. Grandin is unsparing in his criticism of Kissinger and his theories, but his aims go beyond polemic and towards resolving the contradiction of Kissinger’s two legacies: one as the man who opened China, improved relations with the Soviets, and ended the 1973 Arab-Israeli War through shrewd shuttle diplomacy; the other as the architect of the illegal bombing campaigns in Cambodia, the invasion of Laos, and a series of destabilizing coups and assassinations. Reaganites criticized Kissinger, yet benefited from the national security state he formed. Grandin pinpoints that legitimization of interventionism as Kissinger’s true bipartisan contribution to American politics. Ever the marvelous thinker, Grandin will have even the most ardent Kissinger foe enthralled. [em](Sept.) [/em]