This is the second Kissinger book I've read ("Diplomacy" was the first). It's excellent; well-written, thought provoking, insightful, balanced.
The apThis is the second Kissinger book I've read ("Diplomacy" was the first). It's excellent; well-written, thought provoking, insightful, balanced.
The approach follows a similar model to Diplomacy - spend a bit of time up front setting historical context, then deep dive in the years in which Kissinger had personal hands-on experience (which for China, are many). There are extracts from many private and otherwise inaccessible conversations he held with China's most senior leaders, from Mao and Zhou forward, which provide striking insight into the tenor and intent of relationships and overtures over the last fifty years. This is key for such figures as Deng, who most Americans know only for the tragedy of Tiannemen Square, but not for the decades he spent beginning Chinese reform.
Not all on the American side will be pleased with "On China", particularly those with strong ideological bents (on either left or right). Uncompromising human rights advocates (or nationalists) will probably object to his diplomat/statesman's practitioner's position that such needs must be balanced against broader and longer term strategic interests. Kissinger is sympathetic to those voices (and by no means an apologist for past Chinese regimes) but ultimately a pragmatist. He is polite enough not to directly compare and contrast current desires to export Western domestic policies with the early days of international/missionary communism, but certainly tees the question right up to the brink.
However controversial the author might be, this book was outstanding. Another review called it "breezy" and as amazing as that might sound for a tomeHowever controversial the author might be, this book was outstanding. Another review called it "breezy" and as amazing as that might sound for a tome covering the history of Western diplomacy from 1600-1995, it is true - the book is eminently readable while simultaneously very thought provoking. Some central themes recur frequently - the tension (or alternation) between old European balance of power politics and grander, Wilsonian idealistic approaches - but are elaborated very effectively in decade after decade of situational application. Kissinger's depth as a scholar of history is clearly shown. Unsurprisingly, the chapters covering eras in which he had direct personal involvement on the international stage, from the 1950s to 1970s, provide some of the deepest insight, and offer a perspective not readily available on the complexities and nuances of politics during that period, and especially not found in the simplistic and somewhat shallow reductions/synopses of that period's history which have survived to today. "Diplomacy" has earned its way to my 'top 5' list of books on the shelf....more
Readers will find little new in "The Man Who Ran the Moon", although its focus on an often-overlooked but central figure in the Apollo program - NASAReaders will find little new in "The Man Who Ran the Moon", although its focus on an often-overlooked but central figure in the Apollo program - NASA Administrator James Webb - is a welcome supplement to the popular histories of the era. Webb's views on the organization and management of the newborn agency are almost as interesting as his political dealings through the 1960s. The complex interplay between aerospace contractors and the Federal government is also given more exposure than conventional in popular texts.
A quick and easy read, "The Man Who Ran the Moon" is a worthwhile diversion for anyone interested in the history of NASA as an organization or the Apollo program itself, as well as public administration in general and Cold War-era beliefs about technocracies and their role in society....more