The Coming Ordeal

This latest book by the former secretary of state illustrates the difficulty of separating a piece of writing from its creator (Alan Greenspan on macroeconomics, Bill Gates on information technology, Steven Spielberg on cinematography. Would a similar, slim volume attract national attention if came from an assistant professor at a Midwestern college? Would it be considered "important," a "tour de force," even "profound" by so many reviewers? Would it be deemed worthy of a Chronicles review?

The answers are yes, no, and yes. There are many books on foreign policy around, few that recognize the forest rather than just a few individual trees. Kissinger's stature and debonair arrogance combining the roles of a one-man think tank and a prophet are arresting, but even published under a lesser name, Does America Need a Foreign Policy? would have been noticed for its boldness and readability. Though Kissinger steps with gusto on many liberal toes, the dominant bien-pensants are obliged to be smilingly polite to him, even when it hurts.

The reason this book deserves scrutiny from those of us who advocate a "realistic" foreign policy—one based on American national interests, pragmatically defined—is its deeply deceptive nature. In the opening chapter, Kissinger advances a set of guiding principles with which we can have little quarrel—and proceeds...

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