Volume 1, 1923-1968 : the IdealistBook - 2015
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A very detailed evaluation of Kissinger's life from boyhood to accepting the position of National Security Adviser in the Nixon Administration. Obvously a controversial figure. I think this book pretty much addresses all the major myths/rumors regarding Kissinger prior to Jan 1969, when he became National Security Advisor. The author uses his access both to Kissinger's personal papers and to numerous outside sources to address these. His conclusions seem to be that, while Kissinger was subject to typical human failing, the more sensational accusations during this period do not hold up to serious scrutiny.
What I found particularly intriguing is the insight provided in the development of US security policy during the 1950's and 1960's. The author uses Kissinger's proximity to the many events to describe what was going on leading to things like development of nuclear weapons policy and the build-up to the Vietnam War. Neither of these emerged spontaneously, and the book traces their tortuous development. The book also gives a view of the many personalities, presidents and otherwise, that Kissinger interacted with.
At times, particularly in the latter half of the book, it reads like a spy novel, describing the byzantine undertakings that Kissinger was going through as an ad hoc US Government representative to initiate negotiations with the North Vietnamese.
Despite its length, it is well written, uses exquisite language, and some of the very dry, British (or should I say Scottish?) humor of the author leaks through! A long read: this is an academic book, exquisitely researched and referenced. In my view, well worth it. Can't wait to read the follow-on book, where Kissinger steps into the position of National Security Advisor.
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