Does America Need a Foreign Policy? toward a Diplomacy for the 21st Century

By Green, Daniel R. | Military Review, January/February 2003 | Go to article overview

Does America Need a Foreign Policy? toward a Diplomacy for the 21st Century


Green, Daniel R., Military Review


DOES AMERICA NEED A FOREIGN POLICY? Toward a Diplomacy for the 21st Century, Henry A. Kissinger, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2001, 318 pages, $30.00.

"Yes" is the answer to the question in the title of Henry A. Kissinger's foreign policy treatise. Ironically, the book's thesis would have been quite different if the title pressed for a "new" American foreign policy, as opposed to a foreign policy at all.

Kissinger's title bolsters his view that for the past decade (during President Bill Clinton's administration) the United States has not had a coherent foreign policy. This lack of strategic vision came at a time of unprecedented uncertainty in the world, a period when many longed for, and others grew resentful of, U.S. leadership. The book proposes that for the United States to excel in its new position of global preeminence, it must adapt its foreign policy to the new realities of the international order, asserting U.S. power and protecting U.S. interests by building consensus in a more humble manner.

Kissinger supports his thesis by balancing the scales of a "strange mixture"-U.S. global preeminence versus the potential of becoming irrelevant. On the one hand, U.S power engenders respect and submission; on the other hand, long-term objectives (or lack thereof) arouse feelings of exasperation and confusion. Kissinger balances these two extremes in chapters devoted to each of the major world regions as well as the politics of globalization, peace (with respect to humanitarian intervention), and justice (in the sense of universal jurisdiction). In short, Kissinger is for constructive engagement with Russia and China; is anti-- intervention; and definitely against any type of international criminal court. In addition to outlining potential pitfalls if the United States stays the current unilateralist path, Kissinger particularly emphasizes the facts around the growing tensions between the United States and transatlantic partners in Europe. …

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