Throughout a long and sometimes turbulent career, Dr. Kissinger has maintained a calm and consistent view of foreign policy. His views on the world around us are informed by a wide-ranging background, comprehensive study and deep and insightful thought about relations between and among nations. His 2011 volume On china was, in my view, the best single précis of Chinese history and policy every written. His most recent book, World Order, is a masterly overview of the history and practice of international relations. His past writings and career and his current advisory activities have prepared him well to describe the background of most current crises and the potential futures of most of the actors on the world stage.
World Order begins with a thorough overview of the concepts of balance of power and European equilibrium developed through the Peace of Westphalia, the Congress of Vienna and the Treaty of Versailles and leads into the modern foreign policy issues facing the European Union. As one who began his published career with a masterpiece description of the European balance of power system in the 19th century, he is well-equipped to distill the lessons of European history in his comments. His verse is equally strong in describing the challenges facing the world from radical Islam as well as the internal struggles in the Islamic world. As might be expected, his views on China are simply without peer. While he struggles in the latter part of the book to present a coherent and convincing overview of Japan, India, and other Asian politiques, when he turns to U.S. foreign policy, his analysis is cogent compelling.
Anyone interested in the foreign policy of the United States and the challenges facing the world needs to read this volume. It may be Dr. Kissinger's master work.
There are two underlying premises that interweave Thomas Piketty's well-titled book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. First, capitalism is an evil system that should ultimately be done away with, and, second, inequality in wealth (and, to a lesser extent, income) is bad. I put these premises so baldly because he accepts them unthinkingly. The major fault in this almost endless tome is the failure to attempt to prove either premise. Piketty piles Ossa on Pelion in demonstrating statistically that wealth and income are unequal from country to country and within countries, and shows that the current level of inequality is roughly equivalent to that existing immediately prior to World War I. And, based on his two premises, he postulates a number of solutions to eliminate inequality, starting with a world-wide automatic information system that would inform all governments of what assets their citizens hold and where (imagine what some of the kleptocracies of South America and Africa could do with that information), and leading to a global tax on wealth (a mere 15% every year would eliminate public debt in only five or six years - presuming, of course, that legislatures would spend the proceeds only on debt elimination. Piketty's political naiveté is breath-taking, and his knowledge of economic incentives virtually non-existent.
His title is well-chosen since it mimics that of his hero, Karl Marx (quoted almost as often as all other economists he quotes put together), CAPITAL (the English translation of Das Kapital). When I was in England last month, one of the big news stories was that virtually every politician had chosen this book for his summer reading list, but none could actually get through it. Thank goodness.
It is unfortunate that Bill O'Reilly and Mertin Dugard decided to popularize the death of Jesus. Operating without benefit of the past two hundred years of biblical scholarship that has helped us understand the historical, political, economic and religious situation in Judea and Galillee in the first century of the modern era, they have presented a rehash of Catholic grammar school stories and grossly oversimplified gospel sayings as a masquerade of truth. Reporting some statements as fact that are barely whispered myths (""It is a fact that the disciples of Jesus traveled as far as India, Britain, and even into Africa...."), they wrench the history of Christianity into a shape that would have been recognized by none of its engineers. In addition, writers known for their wit and interest have produced a book that is boring.
The story of Jesus is, in fact, enormously fascinating and challenging, and the continued existence of Christianity as the world's largest religion deserves careful inquiry. Read almost anything written by Garry Wills to see how it can be done accurately and with enormous literary skill. This book does neither.
David Downing has written a series of mysteries set in Berlin with a fictional hero journalist - John Russell - who alternatively spies for the Russians, Nazis, British and Americans. His latest, Each is named after a pre-World War II Berlin railway station and in each the morality has gotten murkier. The latest, Lehrter Station, returns Russell to Berlin in the aftermath of the World War. Sadly Mr. Downing's amoralism and anti-Americanism have sunk to the point that he makes the bombing of Hiroshima the moral equivalent of the Nazi war crimes tried at Nuremberg. My father, after flying 50 missions as rear gunner in a B-17 over Germany, was being cross-trained on B-29s when the war ended, making him one of those estimated 100,000 Americans whose lives were saved by the bombing of Hiroshima. Since Mr. Downing is plainly intelligent, he clearly is counting on the historical ignorance of his readers to make a cheap and blatantly unhistorical comment. His storytelling is decent, but not sufficiently compelling to overcome his prejudicial point of view.
Harrison Salisbury wrote the definitive popular history of the siege of Leningrad, The 900 Days. City of Thieves may be the definitive novelistic treatment of the siege in English. Covering only 30 days or so relatively early in the siege, the novel relates the experiences of the narrator's grandfather discovering his right to live through the siege through an errand he runs for an NKVD (predecessor of the KGB) colonel in need of a dozen eggs for his daughter's wedding cake. The grandfather, suffering under the double handicap of being a city boy and a Jew, accompanies a Rabelaisian army deserter on a grim, winter odyssey 50 kilometers into the countryside, through both Soviet and German lines, under attack by their own soldiers, by partisans, by peasants, by the regular German army and by the Special Action Groups scouring the country for the untermenschen not deserving of life. True to the feel of the time, to the geography and culture of the land and to the Russian soul, the novel captures a virtually perfect microcosm of one of the most brutal sieges against one of the most brutal regimes in world history. Its images are haunting, its language enveloping and its characters terrifically and fallibly human. It deserves its place on the Community book list.