“Kissinger … was above all a revolutionary.” … [T]his may come as something of a surprise. Kissinger a revolutionary? The man who told the Argentine junta’s Foreign Minister, Cesar Guzzetti: “We wish [your] government well”? The man who promised his South African counterpart to “curb any missionary zeal of my officers in the State Department to harass you”? The man who told the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet: “We are sympathetic with what you are trying to do here”? Yet Suri has a case to make, even if he does not make it more than obliquely. An integral part of Kissinger’s grand strategy was always to establish priorities. In order to check Soviet ambitions in the Third World – the full extent of which we have only recently come to appreciate – some unpleasant regimes had to be tolerated, and indeed supported. Besides the various Latin American caudillos, the Saudi royal family, the Shah of Iran and the Pakistani military, these unpleasant regimes also included (though the Left seldom acknowledged it) the Maoist regime in Beijing, which was already guilty of many more violations of human rights than all the right-wing dictators put together when Kissinger flew there for the first time in July 1971.
The book sounds good. The review is worth reading.
The Cold War was a bad time. It was a dangerous time. Victory was not assured. When Kissinger was in office, defeat seemed possible. When Nixon came to power in 1969, the country was in terrible shape, with only 1933 and 1861 being worse for a new president. American leaders made decisions under what they considered to be desperate conditions which we now question, or challenge, or repudiate. America allied itself with regimes which behaved very badly. Opposing and defeating the Soviet Union had many costs. We are too close to fully assess them.
Of the many books I have read about the Cold War, or events during the Cold War, the single best book covering the whole period which I have read is Norman Friedman, The Fifty-Year War: Conflict and Strategy in the Cold War.
Suggested favorite books about the Cold War would be appreciated, in the comments.
UPDATE: Good Zenpundit post about, inter alia, the Nixon White House. Zen suggests some Nixonian literature in the comments.
UPDATE II: Zen provides a Cold War reading list, in the comments. Check it out.