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The Inevitability of Tragedy

Henry Kissinger and His World

Barry Gewen



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25 June 2021
Few public officials have provoked such intense controversy as Henry Kissinger. During his time in the Nixon and Ford administrations, he came to be admired and hated in equal measure. Notoriously, he believed that foreign affairs ought to be based primarily on the power relationships of a situation, not simply on ethics. He went so far as to argue that under certain circumstances America had to protect its national interests even if that meant repressing other countries' attempts at democracy. For this reason, many today on both the right and left dismiss him as a latter-day Machiavelli, ignoring the breadth and complexity of his thought.

With The Inevitability of Tragedy, Barry Gewen corrects this shallow view, presenting the fascinating story of Kissinger's development as both a strategist and an intellectual and examining his unique role in government through his ideas. It analyzes his contentious policies in Vietnam and Chile, guided by a fresh understanding of his definition of Realism, the belief that world politics is based on an inevitable, tragic competition for power. Crucially, Gewen places Kissinger's pessimistic thought in a European context. He considers how Kissinger was deeply impacted by his experience as a refugee from Nazi Germany, and explores the links between his notions of power and those of his mentor, Hans Morgenthau?the father of Realism?as well as those of two other German-Jewish ??migr??s who shared his concerns about the weaknesses of democracy: Leo Strauss and Hannah Arendt. The Inevitability of Tragedy offers a thoughtful perspective on the origins of Kissinger's sober worldview and argues that a reconsideration of his career is essential at a time when American foreign policy lacks direction.
Imprint:   Norton
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 211mm,  Width: 140mm,  Spine: 33mm
Weight:   382g
ISBN:   9780393867565
ISBN 10:   0393867560
Pages:   496
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Barry Gewen, an editor at the New York Times Book Review for thirty years, has written on politics, international affairs, and culture for several publications, including the Times, the New Republic, Dissent, and the National Interest. He lives in New York City.

Reviews for The Inevitability of Tragedy: Henry Kissinger and His World

Gewen's book... is distinctive in that it is, above all, an account of Kissinger's intellectual universe. -- Gideon Rachman - Financial Times Gewen seeks to escape [a] cartoon depiction of Kissinger... He does so successfully with sympathy for his subject, subtlety, good writing and not a little humour... Gewen tells us that Kissinger is more than a figure out of history, and that we dismiss or ignore him at our peril... Where are the 21st-century's Henry Kissingers when we need them? -- Christopher Meyer - The Spectator A timely new book on Henry Kissinger-The Inevitability of Tragedy by Barry Gewen-provides new insight into what might have gone wrong and landed the US in a late imperial funk. -- Iain Martin - The Times [Gewen] remind[s] us of a very interesting and complex personality. -- Roger Boyes - The Times In this magisterial account, Gewen... traces the historical and philosophical roots of Kissinger's famous realism, situating him in the context of Hannah Arendt and a cohort of other Jewish intellectuals who escaped Nazi Germany. -- 100 Notable Books of 2020 - The New York Times Book Review Timely and acute... A thoughtful rumination on human behavior, philosophy and international relations. -- John A. Farrell - The New York Times Book Review Barry Gewen delivered a new biography of Henry Kissinger's life and work. -- 2020 in US politics books - The Guardian

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