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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Henry Kissinger and American Power

Henry Kissinger and American Power

A Political Biography

Thomas A. Schwartz

Hill and Wang

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The definitive biography of Henry Kissinger—at least for those who neither revere nor revile him

Over the past six decades, Henry Kissinger has been America’s most consistently praised—and reviled—public figure. He was hailed as a “miracle worker” for his peacemaking in the Middle East, pursuit of détente with the Soviet Union, negotiation of an end to the Vietnam War, and secret plan to open the United States to China. He was assailed from the left and from the right for his indifference to human rights, complicity in the pointless sacrifice of American and Vietnamese lives, and reliance on deception and intrigue. Was he a brilliant master strategist—“the 20th century’s greatest 19th century statesman”—or a cold-blooded monster who eroded America’s moral standing for the sake of self-promotion?

In this masterfully researched biography, the renowned diplomatic historian Thomas Schwartz offers an authoritative, and fair-minded, answer to this question. While other biographers have engaged in hagiography or demonology, Schwartz takes a measured view of his subject. He recognizes Kissinger’s successes and acknowledges that Kissinger thought seriously and with great insight about the foreign policy issues of his time, while also recognizing his failures, his penchant for backbiting, and his reliance on ingratiating and fawning praise of the president as a source of power. Throughout, Schwartz stresses Kissinger’s artful invention of himself as a celebrity diplomat and his dominatio… More…

The definitive biography of Henry Kissinger—at least for those who neither revere nor revile him

Over the past six decades, Henry Kissinger has been America’s most consistently praised—and reviled—public figure. He was hailed as a “miracle worker” for his peacemaking in the Middle East, pursuit of détente with the Soviet Union, negotiation of an end to the Vietnam War, and secret plan to open the United States to China. He was assailed from the left and from the right for his indifference to human rights, complicity in the pointless sacrifice of American and Vietnamese lives, and reliance on deception and intrigue. Was he a brilliant master strategist—“the 20th century’s greatest 19th century statesman”—or a cold-blooded monster who eroded America’s moral standing for the sake of self-promotion?

In this masterfully researched biography, the renowned diplomatic historian Thomas Schwartz offers an authoritative, and fair-minded, answer to this question. While other biographers have engaged in hagiography or demonology, Schwartz takes a measured view of his subject. He recognizes Kissinger’s successes and acknowledges that Kissinger thought seriously and with great insight about the foreign policy issues of his time, while also recognizing his failures, his penchant for backbiting, and his reliance on ingratiating and fawning praise of the president as a source of power. Throughout, Schwartz stresses Kissinger’s artful invention of himself as a celebrity diplomat and his domination of the medium of television news. He also notes Kissinger’s sensitivity to domestic and partisan politics, complicating—and undermining—the image of the far-seeing statesman who stands above the squabbles of popular strife.

Rounded and textured, and rich with new insights into key dilemmas of American power, Henry Kissinger and American Power stands as an essential guide to a man whose legacy is as complex as the last sixty years of US history itself.

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Praise for Henry Kissinger and American Power

"To re-examine Henry Kissinger requires balance and perspective, and these Thomas Schwartz supplies in his masterful account. Balance between a focus on the man and an understanding of the domestic and international constraints and opportunities; perspective in using our current knowledge without being blinded by hindsight. Both those coming to the story for the first time and experts will learn from Schwartz’s treatment." Robert Jervis, author of How Statesmen Think

"Henry Kissinger has been deified and demonized but rarely understood. With a shrewd eye worthy of his subject, Thomas A. Schwartz has given us a fair-minded, savvy, highly readable portrait of the most fascinating statesman in American history." Evan Thomas, author of Being Nixon and coauthor with Walter Isaacson of The Wise Men

"Henry Kissinger and American Power is impeccably researched and elegantly written. Thomas Schwartz sheds fresh light and understanding on the life of one of the most influential figures in recent American history and on an era that spans the Cold War to Covid-19." H.R. McMaster, author of Dereliction of Duty and Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World

"In this superb biographical study, Thomas Schwartz achieves two paramount aims. He gives an account of Kissinger’s life and career for a younger generation and others who may know little or nothing about him; and for connoisseurs of Kissinger as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State, he… More…

"To re-examine Henry Kissinger requires balance and perspective, and these Thomas Schwartz supplies in his masterful account. Balance between a focus on the man and an understanding of the domestic and international constraints and opportunities; perspective in using our current knowledge without being blinded by hindsight. Both those coming to the story for the first time and experts will learn from Schwartz’s treatment." Robert Jervis, author of How Statesmen Think

"Henry Kissinger has been deified and demonized but rarely understood. With a shrewd eye worthy of his subject, Thomas A. Schwartz has given us a fair-minded, savvy, highly readable portrait of the most fascinating statesman in American history." Evan Thomas, author of Being Nixon and coauthor with Walter Isaacson of The Wise Men

"Henry Kissinger and American Power is impeccably researched and elegantly written. Thomas Schwartz sheds fresh light and understanding on the life of one of the most influential figures in recent American history and on an era that spans the Cold War to Covid-19." H.R. McMaster, author of Dereliction of Duty and Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World

"In this superb biographical study, Thomas Schwartz achieves two paramount aims. He gives an account of Kissinger’s life and career for a younger generation and others who may know little or nothing about him; and for connoisseurs of Kissinger as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State, he provides candid insight and unexpected revelations into one of the remarkable figures of our time. This is a balanced and fair-minded book—readable and reliable, ideal for the general reader and scholars alike." —Wm. Roger Louis, Kerr Chair in English History and Culture at the University of Texas and former President of the American Historical Association

"When it comes to Henry Kissinger, we’ve had more than our fill of hagiographies and hatchet jobs. Now, at last, Thomas A. Schwartz gives us real history: a subtle, shaded, eye-opening portrait of a 'personality in power.' Henry Kissinger and American Power captures one of America’s most controversial and important diplomats in all his dimensions—as a serious geopolitical thinker, a skilled bureaucratic infighter, a relentless courtier of power, and a virtuoso of self-promotion. This book is a major contribution to the historical literature." —David Greenberg, professor of history at Rutgers University and author of Republic of Spin and In Nixon's Shadow

“This magnificent book accomplishes the impossible. It is a beautifully written and exhaustively researched biography of Henry Kissinger, one of the most influential and controversial diplomats in American history. Thomas A. Schwartz’s account will appeal to an academic audience as well as a more general one and will disappoint neither. Schwartz expertly illuminates Kissinger’s career, succumbing neither to partisan praise nor polemics, enabling readers to reach their own conclusions about this formidable statesman.” —Diane B. Kunz, author of Butter and Guns: America’s Cold War Economic Diplomacy

"A successful foreign policy in America’s messy democracy requires savvy, often manipulative, maneuvers at home. Thomas Schwartz’s compelling biography unravels the many political threads that Henry Kissinger spun to weave a new and enduring relationship between the United States and countries in South America and the Middle East as well as Russia and China. Anyone interested in how American foreign policy is actually made must read this book." —Jeremi Suri, author of Henry Kissinger and the American Century

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