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Does America need a foreign policy? Toward a diplomacy for the 21th century

by Henry A. Kissinger, 2001, 318 pages
Published by Simon & Schuster

I must admit I merely have a vague idea of who Henry A. Kissinger is. I do know that he is a german immigrant who dropped a lot of bombs on Vietnam and Cambodia while serving as State Secretary. Of course there is more to him but this isn't the Henry Kissinger node. Today I understand he heads Kissinger Associates Inc., a consultancy firm, and has at least once been a guest in Jay Leno's Tonight Show. This book is a pragmatic overview of the contemporary world as seen by a seasoned American diplomat. Take note that it is written before the September 11th terrorist attack and the ensuing war on terrorism.

Each chapter is dedicated to a country/region/continent that holds a special place in the international hierarchy. Being conservative, Kissinger's insights although knowledgable usually seem to hint at what might help solve the problem rather than the solution. He urges careful consideration and warns against rash decisions. He for instance thinks it preferable that the Taiwan-China conflict of sovereignty remain status quo and does not deem it profitable to intervene unless China uses military force. Which might happen if Taiwan declares independence. To take another example he rightly recognises the impending development of a European Defense Force (EU army) as a possible threat to U.S. interests. Not that it would attack America, no, that's pretty absurd. But the fact being that NATO has been obsolete since the fall of USSR and a European Defense Force is the next logical step for EU nations.

Diplomacy is rather ill-defined, there is no absolute set of words that describe it's scope. Different countries need different considerations. Diplomats need to prioritize, in doing so they should be able to take into account ethics, religion, history, economic issues, public international opinion pertaining to a given nation state. Well of course foreign policy depends on which country you are talking about.

I recommend this book to those who in general are interested in knowing more about the world.

Update, 10. june 2005

It's the worst title I have heard for a non-fictional book yet (how about Rambo 78?)

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