Viewing the Worldthrough an Elderstatesman's eyes,Away from the trenches,Clause by clause,In the Pipeline

By Wallace, Alan | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 21, 2014 | Go to article overview

Viewing the Worldthrough an Elderstatesman's eyes,Away from the trenches,Clause by clause,In the Pipeline


Wallace, Alan, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


At age 91, Henry Kissinger shows in his new book, "World Order" (The Penguin Press), that his realpolitik outlook is as firm and free of illusion as ever.

The former national security adviser and secretary of State maintains that "international community" is a rather meaningless term. In his view, there's no universal concept of world order, only different civilizations' self-created, largely self-centered notions of how the world should be.

Romantic ideas about international relations too often have led U.S. foreign policy astray, per Kissinger. He praises the world- order notion that prizes a balance of power among nation-states, a la Europe's "Westphalian" model that emerged from treaties that ended the Thirty Years' War. But such balance is tougher to achieve with rising nation-states that don't subscribe to that model and the non-state threat of Islamist terrorism in the mix.

Examining events and leaders past and current while also looking to the future, Kissinger's ardent advocacy of his worldview touches on China, Russia/the Soviet Union, Persia/Iran and America's 20th- century wars from World War I to Iraq and Afghanistan, putting his argument in historical and cultural context.

Kissinger's fundamental outlook remains constant, even amid change that others consider fundamental. He's skeptical that the world will somehow be more orderly just because technology is increasing transparency and interconnectedness -- because that technology complicates the global picture by making distant events seem close and immediate and injects those events into domestic politics.

Kissinger worries that America doesn't focus enough on foreign policy and didn't succeed fully in its Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan ventures. He also thinks that America is too enamored of the idea that its cherished principles of democracy and freedom apply to other peoples and nations with vastly different backgrounds, histories and cultures -- a common failing of early 20th-century Wilsonian progressives and latter-day neoconservatives.

If America is to lead the way toward true world order, Kissinger says it needs to clearly define exactly what it wants to achieve -- and exactly what it wants to avoid in getting there.

Alan Wallace is a Trib Total Media editorial page writer (412- 320-7983 or awallace@ tribweb.com).,Alan Wallace,"Behind the Front: British Soldiers and French Civilians, 1914-1918" by Craig Gibson (Cambridge University Press) -- Hellish trench warfare was only one part of World War I soldiers' experiences. This book by a Canadian historian highlights another aspect, often overlooked: what life was like for British Empire soldiers during rotations away from Western Front trenches for rest among French and Belgian civilians. Though technically on allies' land and therefore not an army of occupation, these British soldiers created plenty of tensions with the locals, many of whom resented their presence yet profited handsomely from exhausted fighters with back pay to spare and nowhere else to spend it. …

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