It is a difficult book to plod through, but for you folks that think political dealings, (especially those with international interactions), are or should be black or white, right or wrong, I highly recommend Henry Kissinger's White House Years,
Putting aside judgements of whether Nixon was a good or bad president, or whether the Vietnam war was right or wrong, Kissinger's narrative of our government's workings show the reality that, as much as we would like the world to deal in absolutes, the reality is that gray is the predominate color of human actions.
For instance; at one point the North Vietnamese Army established major supply bases just across the border in non-populated Cambodian areas, from which they attacked South Vietnam. Nixon bombed these bases, (secretly at first), and the Cambodian Prime Minister was fine with this, (even welcomed it), as long as it was not public - because since Cambodia was a neutral country if it became public he would have to make a statement about it. (which he was forced to do later - and he still said he was OK with it.)
Again, putting aside the black and white of agreeing or disagreeing, the gray was that it was an action that in its grayness was a logical action.
Here is another one; The President is the Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces. Yet Nixon could not get a new strategic plan for an alternative to conventional warfare because he asked for it during a time when the Defense budget was hot news, and any new plan would require additional monies, and all the services were already fighting to protect their budgets. So everyone that would be involved in such a new plan procrastinated in order to protect their budgets. So much for the black and white that a President commands the armed forces.
It is a tough read, but very enlightening for those that think they know how domestic and international relations work, (or should work). ( for those in Rio Linda - that is the Koombaya Campfire folks)
I have not read Kissingers' book but have it on my list. If you go back farther to LBJ there is an award winning documentary called "The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara". It highlights the Vietnam years and lessons learned from the former Secretary of Defense under JFK and LBJ. There are conversations that LBJ had with McNamara that will blow your mind about deception and the war. The Gulf of Tonkin incident is especially interesting.
Kissinger is fairly diplomatic about his predecessors in the book, but he does allude to both LBJ's and McNamara's decisions and actions prior to Nixon taking office.
Discussing Nixon and/or the Vietnam war usually amounts to a battle of entrenched positions, (similar to pro-choice/pro-life discussions), so that's why my point was to the gray world of how government and international relations actually work - and not to the right or wrong of either position. But still, the book is amazingly informative about the processes involved in governmental actions.
That's why I am still struggling to get through it, and recommended it for folks that like to discuss the politics of government.
Thanks for the tip, and Kissinger being among the handful of surviving movers and shakers of the period, I will check out the synopsis and get a gist of whats inside.
I have not read this book However , Henry Kissinger is probably the brightest political mind of this last century . I admire his knowledge , expert strategizing ability and his universal bargaining ability . I often thought he should have run for president , and yet I know that would have destroyed his reputation . He also has a stellar military combat record .
I almost agree. But I think he was in the right place for his talents. I think he would have been a lousy president. He was very good at what he did, but he was also a not-so-good motivator.
And yet , I also have probably never heard a voice as commanding as his . I often wonder if that wasn't his best tool , and the president's all knew that too. Maybe that's why the whole world listened to him , he sure made his mark in HIS middle east years . They [the middle east ]seemed to be more at peace then !
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