Saturday, March 05, 2016

Review: Diplomacy

Diplomacy Diplomacy by Henry Kissinger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A second book by Henry Kissinger I read. As the first one, "Diplomacy" presents a deep and brilliant analysis of international relations, this time in particular diplomacy as practised by the leaders and negotiators of various Western states. It was especially enlightening to read background of and strategy behind the genius acts of Cardinal Richelieu (17th century's France), Metternich (19th centrury's Austria), Bismarck (19th century Prussia).

The main learning from the book: as in business or personal relations, one needs to understand intrinsic posture of people that you are in any form of dialogue with. Are they being guided by a well-thought strategy (realpolitik, balance of power, evangelism) - or by immediate events impacting their behaviour (external and internal pressures, temporal urgency)? Are they in the real position of power - or miscalculating their options?

Another learning: (again, as in business or personal relations) what distinguishes successful leaders and states in the long run is the ability to build and sustain alliances based on shared values (be it conservatism, democracy, belief in free-market, urge for stability or anything else). If an alliance is built on tactical calculations only (it is useful at this moment of time), one needs to be a brilliant tactician and manipulator such as Richelieu or Bismarck to sustain it - but as history (and Kissinger for that matter) shows, there is very rarely another Richelieu or Bismarck taking over from incumbents...

The last 1/3 of the book (events after WWII) was weaker in my view: lacking impartiality (Kissinger as an active diplomat in the 1960s-1970s and later counsellor), too focused on U.S. internal and external policies as well as repetitive at times