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Remembering the legacy of Henry Kissinger [reading list]

As a key architect of US foreign policy during the Nixon and Ford administrations, Henry Kissinger left an indelible mark on international relations. His realpolitik approach, emphasizing power dynamics and pragmatic statecraft, shaped the geopolitical landscape during the Cold War and beyond. Below is a small roundup of studies of his life, policies, and legacy.

book cover for Fire and Rain: Nixon, Kissinger, and the Wars in Southeast Asia

1. Fire and Rain: Nixon, Kissinger, and the Wars in Southeast Asia

By Carolyn Woods Eisenberg

This gripping account interweaves Nixon and Kissinger’s pursuit of the war in Southeast Asia with on-the-ground military events and US domestic reactions to the war conducted in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Drawing upon a vast collection of declassified documents, Fire and Rain presents an important reinterpretation of the Nixon administration’s relations with the Soviet Union and China in light of the war.

2. The Flawed Architect: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy

book cover for The Flawed Architect

By Jussi M. Hanhimäki

Henry Kissinger dominated American foreign relations like no other figure in recent history. He negotiated an end to American involvement in the Vietnam War, opened relations with Communist China, and orchestrated détente with the Soviet Union. Yet he is also the man behind the secret bombing of Cambodia and policies leading to the overthrow of Chile’s President Salvador Allende. In The Flawed Architect historian Jussi Hanhimaki paints a subtle, carefully composed portrait of America’s most famous and infamous statesman.

3. Nixon, Kissinger, and the Shah: The United States and Iran in the Cold War

the book cover of Nixon, Kissinger, and the Shah

By Roham Alvandi

Nixon, Kissinger, and the Shah offers a detailed account of the Nixon-Kissinger-Pahlavi partnership that shaped the global Cold War far beyond Iran’s borders. Drawing on American, British, and Iranian sources, this study restores agency to the shah as an autonomous international actor and suggests that Iran evolved from a client to a partner of the United States under the Nixon Doctrine. Alvandi deftly explores how the US’s relationship with Shah changed after Nixon and Kissinger’s historic 1972 visit to the country, mapping the rise and fall of Iran’s Cold War partnership with the United States.

Nixon in the World: American Foreign Relations

4. Nixon in the World: American Foreign Relations, 1969-1977

Edited by Fredrik Logevall and Andrew Preston

In the 1970s, the United States faced challenges on a number of fronts. By nearly every measure, American power was no longer unrivalled. The task of managing America’s relative decline fell to President Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, and Gerald Ford. Edited by Pulitzer Prize winner Fredrik Logevall and Andrew Preston, this volume provides authoritative and compelling analyses from seventeen leading historians on issues such as Vietnam, détente, arms control, and the US-China rapprochement, creating a comprehensive volume on American foreign policy in this pivotal era.

5. A Superpower Transformed: The Remaking of American Foreign Relations in the 1970s

book cover of A Superpower Transformed: The Remaking of American Foreign Relations in the 1970s

By Daniel J. Sargent

In A Superpower Transformed, Daniel J. Sargent chronicles how policymakers across three administrations worked to manage complex international changes in the 1970s. Drawing on many newly released archival documents and interviews with key figures, including President Jimmy Carter and Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Sargent explores the collision of geopolitics and globalization that defined the decade. Focusing on Kissinger, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Brzezinski, A Superpower Transformed shows how decision-makers responded to the dilemmas of this tumultuous era.

6. Rethinking American Grand Strategy

book cover of Rethinking American Grand Strategy

Edited by Elizabeth Borgwardt, Christopher McKnight Nichols, and Andrew Preston

Kissinger made significant contributions to American grand strategy during his time as both National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. His approach was characterized by a combination of realism, balance of power, and a focus on diplomacy. Rethinking American Grand Strategy assembles a roster of leading historians to examine America’s place in the world and how strategists such as Kissinger worked to get it there.

Featured image by Robert Linder on Unsplash (public domain).

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