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World Order by Henry Kissinger

I picked up this book to learn about Diplomacy and Foreign Relations. It was a fascinating read, and it provided me with many interesting insights into the world of Global Politics. I have read Deterring Democracy by Noam Chomsky, and in many ways, this book is the polar opposite of that book. This book elucidates the American Establishment’s position on American Foreign Policy as opposed to Noam Chomsky’s views that are expressly anti-establishment.

The most distinct difference I found between both the books is that Henry Kissinger discusses Foreign Policy mainly based on strategy while Noam Chomsky discusses Foreign Policy based on ethics. Many issues such as the Iran nuclear program and Vietnam War, are viewed through a strategic prism rather than from an ethical point of view. In the case of Iran, the central issue is that fewer Nuclear States create a more stable world order which is different from the ethical issue that all countries should be free to develop nuclear weapons, which is also different from the ethical issue of Nuclear disarmament. Similarly, the Vietnam War is justified on the principle of stemming the rise of Communism and is not viewed from the ethical standpoint of the cost of war on the country of Vietnam. Strategy is used to accomplish Democratic, free-market ideals, although many American foreign interventions have ultimately failed.

Henry Kissinger deep dives into the history of civilisations and the world order conceptualised by such civilisations. This history is used to discover the strength and weaknesses of various regional orders and explain present-day conflicts. The book’s insight helps provide in-depth analysis to the reader and helps characterise the challenges faced in different parts of the world. It also helps provide historical context, which is very important to understanding the origins of an issue.

 Most of Henry Kissinger’s analysis avoids criticism of a nation’s foreign policy. For instance, the book avoids criticising China’s Cultural Revolution and attempts to break down the ruthless rationale behind such policies. Similarly, he doesn’t criticise the American interventions, especially the failures such as Vietnam, Iran or Afghanistan. He writes about American commitment to universal adult rights since colonial times but does not mention the Colonial history of the USA, which includes the colony of the Philippines. Closer to home, Henry Kissinger writes about India’s non-aligned policy in glowing terms, but many Indians are skeptical of India’s non-aligned posture in the Cold War world, which failed to put India first and left her without friends. A stark demonstration of this was experienced when India lost to China in the 1962 Indo-China war.

However, these are finer details, and the book provides a solid background to the world of geopolitics. It provides the intentions behind the policies even if such policies were not outright successes. It provides a vision for the future and the likely challenges the world community will face. The book also explores the impact Nuclear weapons have on Geopolitics. The unique strategic challenges of the digital era are discussed and are quite thought-provoking. World Order was a compelling read, and anyone who wants to learn about International relations can read this book.

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