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Kissinger: The Uses of Power

270 pp Houghton Miffun $5.95

By Arthur H. Lubow

ANYONE NEAR A TELEVISION set could see and hear Henry Kissinger this summer Apparently the White House decided that Kissinger is more frightening unseen than seen, for after three camerashy years, first the plump form and then the Germanic accent appeared in the American living room. If the Administration had extended its logic it might have welcomed David Landau's book. Kissinger The Uses of Power, but of course, the government wants not to illuminate Kissinger but merely to spotlight his more attractive points.

So instead of heralding the first Kissinger book, the Administration defused it by announcing Landau's major disclosure four months before publication. Through his interviews Landau last years managing editor of the Crimson) found that in 1967." Kissinger acted as the American conduit for peace feelers from the North Vietnamese Two Frenchmen who visited Hanoi returned to Kissinger with the message that negotiations could begin if the bombing of North Vietnam ceased. The Harvard professor brought that offer back to Washington but President Johnson rejected it only after the bloody Tet offensive of 1965 did the United states out back the bombing.

By releasing a documented history of these communication last June, the Administration dried the juice out of Landau's best tidbit. Indeed, the the Administration has not been very cooperative. It is not Landau's fault that the careful research in his best chapter has become largely superfluous. Nor is he to blame for Kissingers refusal to grant him an interview Kissingers official bashfulness, however does put a heavy strain on the book. The effects are most severe in the biographical segment.

Since he could not interview Kissinger, Landau was forced to rely on those who had. The biographical portion of the first chapter is clearly indebted to such unacknowledged sources as Joseph Kraft who said very similar things in the January 1971 issue of Harper's Although Landau does not include Kraft in his bibliography and gives the syndicated columnist only two secondary footnotes on one he sets up a Kraft quote as a straw many the Harpers article like Landau's book, stressed the significance of Fritz Kraemer, an Army acquaintance and William Yandell Elliott, a Harvard professor in Kissinger's life. The Kraft article also discussed the impact of Metternich on Kissinger policy views.

Despite such debts, Landau has done a great deal of research and interviewed dozens of people to present the most 6. tended view of Kissinger in print. The story of the 1967 peace feelers is now public knowledge but Landau supplements it with accounts from the French Faison and National Liberation Front officials. By quoting frequently from Kissinger's not-for-attribution press briefings, he supplies an exclusive look at the policy maker in action. Landau also examined Kissinger's position papers, his books and articles, and the recollections of his friends and colleagues. Landan writes that Kissinger wanted President Kennedy to invade the Eastern Sector of Germany after the construction of the Berlin Wall. He surveys Kissinger's contributions as an adviser to Nelson Rockefeller, and highlights the scholar's support for family bomb shelters and a visible American presence in underdeveloped countries. For those who still had doubts. Landau justly concludes that the "differences in (Nixon's and Kissinger's) rhetoric did not reflect a disparity of opinion so much as they concealed a joint purpose.

UNFORTUNATELY, LANDAU has the habit of slapping down slick generalizations. Such flaws pock the early chapters which are the most overwritten and least organized part of the book Glancing over two hundred years of American history and indulging rhetoric reminiscent of Nixon, Landau maintains that Kissingers is one of the most attractive voices ever to bold forth in Washington." Shifting to sociology he flatly and wrongly states that America does not look at all like Weimar. In a statement so oversimplified that it is blatantly false, he writes that Kissinger sees Nguven Van Thieu as a convenient ally not because he is reasonable but merely because he is compliant." Without supporting his view, he refutes Kissingers "linkage" theory with the equivalent of a Papal Bull. And it is even less reasonable to suppose that America's steadfastness in Southeast Asia measurably affects Washington's credibility in the European theater with the Soviet Union, or even with the West European allies from Europes vantage point the war is an exercise not in credibility but in irrational and absurd theatricality.

At other times, Landau contradicts his own insights Forgetting his description of Kissinger's revulsion of ideology," and "deep horror of in ternal upheavals writes one hundred pages later that the cause of the Vietnamese liberation movement national unification--is one which Kissinger reared in the European tradition of nationalism, can only have accepted as legitimate." (Curiously enough, this statement is contradicted by still another specious assertion, which states that Kissinger favors a divided Germans because Germans had historically been a land and a nation divided," and because the native of Furth remembered "the horror that Bismarck's artificial creation, a strong and unified Germans had imposed on the rest of the Continent in the two World Wars.")

Despite his clear belief that revolutionary movements are changing the shape of world politics. Landau mouths the old cliches out "bipolar world" Regarding developments since the nineteenth century, he writes uncategorically. Where multipolarity existed before, bipolarity between the Soviet Union and the United States is the central feature of current international relations." Landau is similarly two-faced in his distinctions between Kennedy and Nixon foreign policy. In a cogent passage, he recalls the "chauvinism" of the Kennedy Administration which pledged "it would fight anywhere and at any time to achieve its goals." The Nixon Administration is less idealistic: it will fight only if necessary to further the overall policy of world stability. But in the next chapter, Landau blurs the distinction by writing that "the all-embracing obligations spelled out in the (Nixon) Doctrine demand that the role of the United States in every confrontation be particularly 'tough' or convincing." Although he correctly observes that Vietnamization "was adopted in response to the political threat which American war critics posed to the chances for compromise negotiation with the other side." Landau earlier states that "the most dangerous flaw in Kissinger's line of thinking is the belief that domestic opinion should pose no obstacles to the conduct of foreign policy."

DEVELOPING THE METTERNICH analogy. Landau is so eager to prove that Kissinger is living in the past that he ignores the real similarities between the worlds of the two diplomats. In perhaps his most fatuous statement. Landau writes that in the early nineteenth century, "the movements for popular sovereignty and self-determination had not yet reared their threatening heads." But of course, without such movements, there would have been no Metternich as we know him. The Austrian diplomat was fighting to contain just those "movements for popular sovereignty and self-determination" which the French Revolution had ignited. And interestingly enough. Metternich fought so hard because he knew that his own country, the polyethnic Austrian Empire, could not survive if legitimate monarchy was defeated and national self-determination won out.

Landau muddles the Metternich analogy (which Joseph Kraft first presented in the unacknowledged article) because he recognizes the importance of the historical example to Kissinger but fails to realize its actual relevance to the current situation. Landau is usually very good when he discusses the motivation behind Kissinger's policy directives. His knowledge of Vietnamese history helps him illuminate such ironies as a proposed American peace plan which reiterates the treacherous 1946 and 1954 agreements with the French that the Vietnamese accepted to their later regret. He appreciates the paradox of Kissinger's urge for personal, Congress of Vienna style, diplomacy that twentieth-century communications have made obsolete. Yet he fails to see the greater irony behind the historical comparison.

Like Metternich's Austria, Kissinger's America is attempting to squash national liberation movements in less powerful lands. Like Metternich's Austria Kissinger's America depends for different reasons on the success of its foreign policy to insure its own domestic stability. Austria feared rightfully that Hungarians, Slavs and other national groups would rise up at home if nationalist movements were not stopped abroad. America recognizes that its domestic stability and standard of living depend on a peaceful system of world domination. The irony, of course, is that Metternich failed, and that with historical hindsight, we can see that his failure was inevitable. Social and economic conditions had outdated the political structures of the Old Regime aristocracy. An unusually intelligent man. Metternich apparently realized the foregone failure of his enterprise. Yet he continued crafting his policies and killing his opponents as a stalling device, knowing that once he had failed, there would be nothing remaining for him in the world. Remembering Kissinger, with his fierce hatred of ideology and revolution, it is easy to imagine the final irony: future historians recording the bittersweet saga of a brilliant man who fought the progress of history and sanctioned the murder of innocents to preserve the obsolete ideals so precious to him.

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