Kissinger: The Idealist, 1923–1968

Niall Ferguson. Penguin Press, $36 (656p) ISBN 978-1-59420-653-5
In the first of a planned two-volume Henry Kissinger biography, Harvard historian Ferguson (Civilization: The West and the Rest) traces Kissinger’s life from his birth in Germany in 1923 through his service in WWII and growing career as a foreign policy expert, culminating in his 1968 appointment as national security advisor to newly elected President Richard Nixon. To readers’ benefit, this is as much a history of post-WWII and Cold War foreign policy as a biography of Kissinger. Jumping off from Kissinger’s high-level involvement in the 1961 Berlin Crisis and his role as an advisor in the early years of the Vietnam War, Ferguson offers a detailed and provocative examination of how foreign policy is developed in the midst of theoretical and political crosscurrents. Kissinger’s views on Vietnam and his involvement in several failed Johnson administration Vietnam peace initiatives provide a deeper dimension to the complexities of American Vietnam policy. Ferguson also takes ample time to describe the Machiavellian jockeying for influence and power among high-end government officials. There is little discussion of Kissinger’s personal life, and readers looking for such detail or psychological speculations will be disappointed. Some may see this complicated, generally admiring view of Kissinger as overly generous, but Ferguson endeavors to provide nuance around Kissinger’s approaches to the challenges of Cold War foreign policy. Agency: Wylie Agency. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/10/2015
Release date: 09/29/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 1008 pages - 978-0-14-310975-4
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