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”Diplomacy” by Henry Kissinger, Ch.1-4 Summary

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Kissinger begins his masterpiece with a focus on America and its journey through international politics. He sees America as having two different approaches to foreign policy; One where America acts as a beacon, and the other where America acts as a missionary. This role was not chosen by America, just as the balance-of-power stance of Europe was not chosen by it. The roles were the result of each of their own history. Now there is an emerging new world order that is marked by a contradiction of fragmentation and globalization. Kissinger points out that all the major nations are facing a new world order within a multistate system in which they have had no experience. America for one, must reconcile its differing values and historical experiences to adjust to the new world order. Kissinger concludes this chapter by expressing the differences between the analysts of the international system and the statesmen, saying that the real burden rests on the statesmens shoulders.

In the second chapter, Kissinger studies two American presidents: Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. On the one hand, Roosevelt believed Americas national interest and a global balance of power demanded an international role of America. On the other hand, Wilson justified an international role as an obligation to spread Americas values. Roosevelt was the first president to really go global, ironically by invoking the Monroe Doctrine: the same doctrine that asserted Americas isolationist stance. Roosevelts position of might and self (national) interest failed to convince his people of the need to fight in WWI. Wilson, however, moved his people to war by proclaiming its cause to be none other than spreading American ideals and by his view that freedom for America was no different from freedom for the world.

One of Kissingers most thought provoking lines in this chapter is his statement that Roosevelt was the warrior-statesman; Wilson was the prophet-priest. Statesmenfocus on the world in which they live; to prophets, the real world is the one they want to bring into being. In chapter three, Kissinger takes the reader to the European journey through history. He begins the chapter with Richelieu liberating France from the blindness of the perception of Catholicism as universal. Richelieu sought to put the French national interest above any religious goals, unlike Ferdinand the II, who would not have even dreamt of dealing with opposers of the Catholic faith by any other means besides brute force. But the problem with Richelieus raison detat was that it had no limitations and was an endless effort to push Frances boundaries outward. Equilibrium was gradually established as weaker states cooperated (out of national interest) when one state threatened to dominate. But equilibrium works best when supported by values, as unrestrained states pursuing their national interests becomes quite anarchic.

Kissinger continues the journey through European diplomacy from the Congress of Vienna, the post-Napoleonic Wars assembly that maintained a physical and moral equilibrium. Europe experienced the longest period of peace its ever known following the Congress of Vienna. Many factors may account for the phenomenon, including the fact that they did not deprive the loser, France, of all its conquests. Austrias negotiator, Metternich, played a significant role in managing the new international system and in the Holy Alliance. The security lasted until Napoleon III was granted a role in which Russia played as Protector of the Christians in the Ottoman Empire. Napoleon III sought to destroy the Holy Alliance by weakening Russia and therefore, he brought France out of isolation to fight in the Crimean War. Thus, the moderation of European diplomacy invoked by Metternich, was washed away.

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