Sunday, November 9, 2014

The latest from Doctor K

[First section initially posted  14 September 2014.  Re-posted with extension, in honor of The Blindman's seventieth birthday.  Demonstrating that he and I are still whippersnappers next to old Dr K.] 

In the Book Review of this morning’s New York Times,  John Micklethwaite has a punchy, perceptive review of Henry Kissinger’s new book, World Order.    Both reviewer and author  champion Realpolitik (which we ourselves have advocated here):

Might a little realism have been useful in Iraq, rather than the “stuff happens” amateurism of the Bush years? Would a statesman who read Winston Churchill on Afghanistan (“except at harvest time . . . the Pathan [Pashtun] tribes are always engaged in private or public war”) have committed America to establishing a “gender sensitive . . . and fully representative” government in Kabul?

Reckon I’ll read it.   I was none too fond of Kissinger during Vietnam (having myself  at the time  been one of the scruffy ones screaming in the streets, of whom Dr Kissinger was presumably not fond),

The enigmatic Doktor, back in the day

but now I have breasted the tape of what, back in those days, was known as “retirement age” (back when it was economically feasible, actually to retire), and can only admire his Sitzfleisch and continued industry:  I may be a senior, but that guy’s (I say admiringly) a geezer!  (“Nonagenarian” is the polite word.)

Another favorable review, from someone in a position to know -- like Henry the K., a former Secretary of State:


[resumed, 9 Nov 2014]

Finally have time to settle in, with a pot of fresh-brewed French-roast, and a sunny silent Sunday morning.   It turns out to be a very good read.

Some epigrams are worth the price of the book.
As, writing of medieval European maps, which showed Jerusalem in the center:

This was not a map for travelers, but a stage  divinely ordained  for the drama of human redemption.

Kissinger’s hero is Cardinal Richelieu, a principal inventor of Realpolitik.   Surprisingly, he set aside his Catholic allegiances to support the Protestants of central Europe against the might of the House of Austria, reasoning thus:

Salvation might be his personal objective, but as a statesman  he was responsible for a political entity that did not have an eternal soul to be redeemed.

Cardinal Richelieu’s stunt double

Samuel Huntington, following a coinage by Bernard Lewis, popularized the term “Clash of Civilizations”.  Kissinger calls it rather “a war of world orders” (p. 138), which sounds steelier, and more on-the-mark.


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