I’ll open by saying that, although I always thought he was brilliant and I enjoyed meeting and visiting with him over 30 years ago, I didn’t always agree with Henry Kissinger’s conduct of foreign policy, particularly the notion of detente that he and Richard Nixon practiced in policy with the Soviets. But his new book, World Order, which I just read, is a masterful survey of the evolution of political power in the world, beginning for the West, including Russia, with the Treaty of Westphalia at the end of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648. From there it sweeps through the past three centuries plus and picks up the Eastern counterparts in China, Japan, and India as they become relevant. In the process, he relates this evolution in comparison with the principles established in Westphalia, which he evidently considers foundational, and I thought this to be the unique thread in the book. His analysis is insightful, his range is encyclopedic, and his scholarship is deep. There is a lot to think about here.
I thought it was particularly timely that Kissinger recently appeared along with former Secretaries of State George Schultz and Madeleine Albright before the Senate Armed Services Committee to discuss current conditions and American foreign policy. All agreed that the defense spending sequester must be ended and that “national defense should have a strategy-driven budget, not a budget-driven strategy”, said Kissinger. He added that in the last two wars “withdrawal became the principal definition of strategy; we have to know the objective at the start and develop the strategy to achieve it”. Finally, “foreign policy is not a series of discrete events, it is a question of continuous strategy in the world”. The depth of this thinking is sorely missed. We don’t have his equal on the scene.