Archive for February, 2010

Detente and its Discontents

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

I have alwys believed that Kissinger titled this chapter with full knowledge of its allusion to Sigmund Freud’s famous book of 1930, “Civilization and its Discontents”.  In Freud’s book he wrote that individuals and societies are in inherent conflict.  Individuals have certain desires which orderly society must thwart.  I wonder how Kissinger would explain this vis-a-vis “Detente”.

So what exactly is detente and why don’t people like it?  How does it work and what are some tangible examples that Kissinger offers up?  What goes on in the Middle East, with arms control, eastern europe and the USSR that serve as results of detente and to what end?  Where did this all take us?  One thing to muse over of course is the image in the “Time” magazine article above.  Who do you suppose the little man pulling on Nixon is?  I hope you know who Nixon is shaking hands with!


Kissinger 28 – geopolitics

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

“Richard Milhous Nixon inherited near-civil war conditions”.  That quote has always stuck with me and this time reminded me of the book pictured above, published a few years ago, that I have wanted to read.  I am requesting it from the county library and will read it this week and possibly share some of it with you.  From what I remember of the review its a pretty dramatic, microcosmic look at a just a few stories that may help to underscore, or better understand the full extent of Kissinger’s quote.

“Vietnam and beyond” is the title I gave to this unit years ago and it sticks rather well.  Here we get in to Kissinger’s assessment of how Nixon was different, “complex”, and how he pulled the country away, or tried to, from its Wilsonian moorings.  Once again I find Kissinger’s assessment of Wilson complicated.  He seems to say here, that though Nixon did need, he believes, to start focusing on national interests, and allow the old “invisible-hand” to render stability, he appears to have a respect for what Wilson did in his time and how that ushered us through two world wide wars.  I do think though that he feels it was Wislonianism possibly that took us in to the quagmire of Vietnam, yet Nixon, “shared the great American yearning for a foreign policy devoid of self-interest”.

For all the pundits out there on the conservative right attacking Obama’s offer to “extend a hand if they (Iran, North Korea etc.) wil unclench their fist”, might want to remember that Nixon said much the same in 1969 about the need to talk with China and the Soviet Union, and how those talks helped lead to the final extrication from Vietnam.  Nixon, Kissinger asserted, saw the USSR not as a zero-sum game, but rather as something more complicated.  There is another game he brings into the discussion towards the end.  How does that work?

Kissinger, according to Ambrose

Monday, February 8th, 2010

So before we get into Kissinger’s assessment of these years…  how does Ambrose characterize him?  In “The Trial of Henry Kissinger” the film inspired by the book by Christopher Hutchins, the claim is made that HK drops the ploy just prior to the ’68 election that South Vietnam will get better treatment by the Republicans causing South Vietnam to abruptly pull out.  Ambrose I don’t see making that connection, but he does name the same woman interviewed in the film who delivered the message.

Was 1968 the US’s chance to end things?  What were Nixon’s choices?  Why did he choose the one he did?  How successful does Ambrose say it was?  What was Kissinger’s role in all of this?

Remember the mining of Haiphong Harbor when we get to Kissinger.  Ambrose recognizes that the Soviet Union does nothing even when they lose a ship.  For years it was believed that a mining of the northern harbor would be translated as a serious escalation of the war and might invite more overt Chinese or Soviet intervention.  When the US finally does mine the harbor, seriously jeopardizing North Vietnam’s flow of supplies, the Soviet Union and China do nothing.  Why?  Why does Ambrose say?  What will HK say?