Monday, December 08, 2014

Book Review: Years of Renewal by Henry Kissinger


Years of Renewal
Years of Renewal by Henry Kissinger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A lengthy memoir book by Henry Kissinger, a well-known and, to many, controversial Secretary of State of the USA. It mostly covers his tenure in the last days of Nixon's presidency and focuses on work with the president Gerald Ford in the 1970s.

Kissinger's style struck me as highly articulate and intelligent. His knowledge and understanding of history as well as interconnections between various events are very revealing. Above all, I enjoyed reading about Kissinger's clear goals and strategy in the foreign affairs - while all the rest were simply tactics to achieve that. To maximise national security and to win the Cold War over the Communist block - these were two main objectives - and all Kissinger's actions methodically followed these (and eventually, those have been achieved). It reminded me that if one has clear objectives and strategy which shows the seeds of success, good team around and reliable allies, it is worthwhile to stick to this strategy, however difficult it might be at times.

Kissinger impressed me with his understanding of human psychology as well - which he displayed in describing the process of diplomatic negotiations with the leaders of China, the Soviet Union, Western European allies, African states, Egypt, Israel, and so on. One can learn a lot about the recent history and internal dynamics of many states all across the world (since Kissinger as a Minister of Foreign Affairs of the influential state had to deal with all of them). In particular, it was interesting to read about the impressive wisdom of the Chinese leaders in the 1970s - who started the turn-around of the Chinese economy and society.

The only parts which did not interest me that much were lengthy descriptions of internal dynamics in the American national politics. At times, these seemed somewhat apologetic too ("I was good, but not the others!").

All in all, it is not an easy piece of cake to chew (above 1100 pages), but one can learn quite a lot about strategy-based leadership and the recent world history.

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