Hen­ry Kissinger and the Amer­i­can Century

Jere­mi Suri
  • Review
By – November 11, 2011

Few fig­ures loom as large, or as con­tro­ver­sial, on the land­scape of late 20th cen­tu­ry geopol­i­tics as Hen­ry Kissinger. While unques­tion­ably bril­liant, his moral stand­ing has always been prob­lem­at­ic. He is gen­er­al­ly seen as a sin­gle-mind­ed mas­ter of Realpoli­tik who nev­er allowed ques­tions of right and wrong to inter­fere with the pur­suit of nation­al inter­est, lead­ing crit­ics to brand him as a war crim­i­nal for his role in such adven­tures as the secret war in Cam­bo­dia and the over­throw of the Allende regime in Chile. 

Jere­mi Suri’s polit­i­cal biog­ra­phy aims to reha­bil­i­tate Kissinger’s rep­u­ta­tion in this regard by show­ing how his cen­tral tenets were inevitable out­growths of his unique— and unique­ly valu­able — life expe­ri­ence. Suri is espe­cial­ly good at trac­ing how Kissinger’s wari­ness of pop­u­lar democ­ra­cy, and con­comi­tant sense that polit­i­cal lead­ers have an oblig­a­tion to save their peo­ple from their own basest impuls­es, grew out of his expe­ri­ence grow­ing up in Ger­many dur­ing the rise of Nazism. If Suri’s attempts to exon­er­ate Kissinger ulti­mate­ly fall short, his well-researched and clear­ly writ­ten study still pro­vides a stim­u­lat­ing cor­rec­tive for any­one seek­ing a bet­ter under­stand­ing of Kissinger and how he came to shape America’s place in the world, for good and for ill.

Bill Bren­nan is an inde­pen­dent schol­ar and enter­tain­er based in Las Vegas. Bren­nan has taught lit­er­a­ture and the human­i­ties at Prince­ton and The Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go. He holds degrees from Yale, Prince­ton, and Northwestern.

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