jamiebowen0306 (jamiebowen0306) wrote,

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I finished "Nixon and Kissenger" by Robert Dallek.

If you ask people to describe Richard Nixon, they'd probably mention Watergate and Foreign Policy and use phrases like cunning, paranoia, bunker mentality and his desperate need to be number one. If they knew him better, they might even describe him as anti-semitic, for while he wasn't a Klan style racist, there was an element of anti-semitism to his character (as I learned from this book).

If you asked those same people to describe Henry Kissinger, they might mention his shuttle diplomacy and Nobel Peace Prize (for his work on Vietnam of all places) and use terms like ego, intellectual snobbery, and desperate need to be considered a leader. If they knew him better, they might mention his Jewishness.

This book examines the strange relationship between Nixon and Kissinger as they try to use foreign policy to deflect criticism of their personality and policies in other areas (inflation was 15% while they were in office).

It's a sad and rather depressing book. Both Nixon and Kissinger are presented as people who have some policy successes (the recognition of Red China, detente with Russia and the SALT I negotiations), but who have too many personality and policy faults (their over stated egos, along with Watergate and the failure in Vietnam) to be considered to true top draw political figures (in my humble opinion).

Overall, the book is interesting, but it leaves some interesting holes. Firstly, the intricacies formal replacement of Taiwan as the "true representatives of the Chinese people" in the UN isn't really covered (despite much of the book being about developing a relationship between America and China). This might be because Taiwan was treated shabbily (as suggested in the Doro Bush Koch book about George Bush Senior, who was the US Ambassador to the UN at the time) or because they were outwitted by Mao on the issue (as has been suggested by Jon Halliday and Jung Chang in their biography of Mao), but whatever the reasoning, its implementation isn't covered in the detail I'd like.

Secondly, Dallek's claims that Nixon's drinking, drug abuse and mental instability should have been used to unseat him under Article 25 of the Constitution aren't proved to my satisfaction. Especially given that the son of Nixon's doctor wouldn't release his medical records.

Finally, Nixon's anti-semetism is pretty much glazed over, as is Kissinger's willingness to let Nixon's call him anti-semitic names. Blandly stating that Nixon's lower middle class upbringing (and Kissinger's pathological need to be Secretary of State) is the cause of his respective point of view is a gross oversimplification, in my view.
Tags: book, review

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