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Kissinger's Shadow

The Long Reach of America's Most Controversial Statesman

Greg Grandin


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ISBN10: 1250097177
ISBN13: 9781250097170

Trade Paperback

288 Pages



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In this fascinating book Kissinger's Shadow, acclaimed historian Greg Grandin argues that to understand the crisis of contemporary America—its never-ending wars abroad and political polarization at home—we have to understand Henry Kissinger.

Examining Kissinger’s own writings, as well as a wealth of secret recordings and government documents, many of them recently declassified, Grandin reveals how Nixon’s top foreign-policy adviser helped to revive a militarized version of American exceptionalism centered on an imperial presidency—even as he was presiding over defeat in Vietnam and a disastrous, secret, and illegal war in Cambodia. Believing that reality could be bent to his will, insisting that intuition is more important in determining policy than hard facts, and vowing that past mistakes should never hinder bold action in the future, Kissinger anticipated, even enabled, the ascendance of the neoconservative idealists who took America into crippling wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Going beyond accounts focusing on either Kissinger’s crimes or accomplishments, Kissinger's Shadow by Greg Grandin offers a compelling new interpretation of the diplomat’s continuing influence on how the United States views its role in the world.


Praise for Kissinger's Shadow

"A professor of history at New York University and an eloquent voice of the political left, Grandin hits all the topics that one might expect to see in a sharp indictment of Kissinger’s work as national security adviser and secretary of state in the Nixon and Ford administrations. Drawing on bits of new evidence but mostly synthesizing long-available sources, Grandin revisits, for example, Kissinger’s tolerance of Pakistan’s brutalization of civilians during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war, his support for Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s murderous regime in Chile and his endorsement of Indonesia’s 1975 invasion of East Timor and the bloody occupation that ensued. Grandin delves most deeply into Cambodia’s tortured history, accusing Kissinger of waging an illegal war on the country between 1969 and 1973 and, by wreaking havoc on it through a huge bombing campaign, creating conditions that helped bring the genocidal Khmer Rouge to power. Especially disturbing are passages detailing Kissinger’s efforts to keep the bombing secret by, among other things, conniving with military officers to falsify records.But to Grandin’s credit, he aims to do much more than merely rehash these and other depressing episodes that journalists and scholars have been working over for years . . . Grandin writes with engaging passion—a tone well suited to what is clearly intended as an extended essay rather than a definitive reworking of Kissinger’s life and times—and an admirable desire to view Kissinger within the broad sweep of history."—Mark Atwood Lawrence, The New York Times Book Review

“Stirring . . . With an unassailable command of the factsis it possible that he's read every word ever written about his subject?—Grandin explains how Kissinger's more baleful tactics have imprinted themselves on presidents and policymakers from both parties . . . this is the sort of book that will always be timely, because it asks us to consider the link between today's politics and tomorrow's unanticipated consequences.”San Francisco Chronicle

“An important book and an unsparing portrait of Kissinger's legacy.”The Star-Tribune (Minneapolis)

“This lucid, insightful analysis of the foreign policy legacy of Henry Kissinger [and] the shadow he casts on the world scene today is a must-read for politicos, students of history, and Americans of all political persuasions.”The Christian Science Monitor

“A tour de force. Greg Grandin exposes Kissinger's vaunted approach to statecraft as little more than compulsive activism, typically relying on the threat or use of force, ignorant of history, devoid of any moral or ethical component, and discounting serious analysis in favor of intuition. Some realism. The field of Kissinger studies begins here, with this book.”—Andrew J. Bacevich, author of Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War

“Nearly forty years after leaving government Henry Kissinger still casts an improbably vast shadow: puppet master of détente, shuttle diplomatist as canny magician, statesman as superstar. But as Greg Grandin shows, Kissinger casts a much more immediate—and malign—shadow over the country's foreign policy, one in which acts of overwhelming violence are deemed vital to American 'leadership' and 'credibility'. Hovering over the Iraq War, no less than over Vietnam, is the spirit of Henry Kissinger. Grandin, with scrupulous research and impassioned prose, lets us see it. An essential and most timely book.”—Mark Danner, author of Stripping Bare the Body

“Greg Grandin's brilliant account of Kissinger strips Kissinger's vaunted realism to the bone, revealing a skeleton of romantic American exceptionalism and a loving embrace of the will to power for power's sake. Kissinger's Shadow reveals the inbuilt denial mechanism of our all-pervasive national security state, which will never let past catastrophe get in the way of bold action in the future.”—Marilyn Young, author of The Vietnam Wars

“Grandin's brilliant, original, carefully researched, and wide-ranging book will change the way we understand the United States' role in the world during the past half century.”Ben Kiernan, author of Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur

“Grandin takes in the full sweep of American foreign policy under Kissinger's "shadow" through the present-day quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan . . . A trenchant and succinct depiction of the ongoing artful dodging of the nonagenarian statesman.”Kirkus Reviews

“Grandin is unsparing in his criticism of Kissinger and his theories, but his aims go beyond polemic . . . Ever the marvelous thinker, Grandin will have even the most ardent Kissinger foe enthralled.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


An Obituary Foretold

Henry Kissinger has been accused of many bad things. And when he dies, his critics will get a chance to rehearse the charges. Christopher Hitchens, who made the case that the former...

About the author

Greg Grandin

Greg Grandin is the author of The Empire of Necessity; Fordlandia, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award; as well as Empire's Workshop and The Blood of Guatemala. A professor of history at New York University and a recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the New York Public Library, Grandin has served on the UN Truth Commission investigating the Guatemalan Civil War and has written for the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, & The New York Times.

Don Usner

Greg Grandin

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Read Articles by the Author at the Nation