Kissinger’s Apologia

Kissinger’s Apologia

In the first pages of the first volume of his memoirs, Henry Kissinger remarks with some bitterness about the way he was treated by McGeorge Bundy, his dean at Harvard and a predecessor as National Security Adviser to the President. It was “with a combination of politeness and subconscious condescension that upper-class Bostonians reserve for people of, by New England standards, exotic backgrounds and excessively personal style.” By any standards, Kissinger’s book is also exotic and excessively, if understandably, personal. It is numbingly long and stupefyingly detailed. It runs on and on for almost 1,500 pages; it needs over 400 pages to get through the first year of his service in 1969 alone. It is largely a chronicle of events, with set pieces on famous and infamous people whom he met or worked with, bits and pieces of potted history, and scatterings of familiar reflections and ruminations to leaven the lump. The main narrative pushes on relentlessly, often week by week or day by day and sometimes even hour by hour. Since this volume ends in 1972, we must be resigned to another volume and about 3,000 pages before Kissinger tells all. Dean Acheson, who served longer and participated in much greater history-shaking
events, needed only one volume and a quarter as many pages to tell his entire story.

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