Global Dialogue Special Edition | Prof. Thomas Schwartz, author of “Henry Kissinger and American Power: A Political Biography”
Join us as we talk with Prof. Thomas Schwartz, Distinguished Professor of History and Politics at Vanderbilt University
ABOUT THE BOOK
The definitive biography of Henry Kissinger―at least for those who neither revere nor revile him
Over the past six decades, Henry Kissinger has been America’s most consistently praised―and reviled―public figure. He was hailed as a “miracle worker” for his peacemaking in the Middle East, pursuit of détente with the Soviet Union, negotiation of an end to the Vietnam War, and secret plan to open the United States to China. He was assailed from the left and from the right for his indifference to human rights, complicity in the pointless sacrifice of American and Vietnamese lives, and reliance on deception and intrigue. Was he a brilliant master strategist―“the 20th century’s greatest 19th century statesman”―or a cold-blooded monster who eroded America’s moral standing for the sake of self-promotion?
In this masterfully researched biography, the renowned diplomatic historian Thomas Schwartz offers an authoritative, and fair-minded, answer to this question. While other biographers have engaged in hagiography or demonology, Schwartz takes a measured view of his subject. He recognizes Kissinger’s successes and acknowledges that Kissinger thought seriously and with great insight about the foreign policy issues of his time, while also recognizing his failures, his penchant for backbiting, and his reliance on ingratiating and fawning praise of the president as a source of power. Throughout, Schwartz stresses Kissinger’s artful invention of himself as a celebrity diplomat and his domination of the medium of television news. He also notes Kissinger’s sensitivity to domestic and partisan politics, complicating―and undermining―the image of the far-seeing statesman who stands above the squabbles of popular strife.
Rounded and textured, and rich with new insights into key dilemmas of American power, Henry Kissinger and American Power stands as an essential guide to a man whose legacy is as complex as the last sixty years of US history itself.
ABOUT PROFESSOR THOMAS SCHWARTZ, PHD
Thomas Alan Schwartz is a historian of the foreign relations of the United States, with related interests in American politics, the history of international relations, Modern European history, and biography. His most recent book is Henry Kissinger and American Power: A Political Biography (Hill and Wang, 2020). The book has received considerable notice and acclaim. Harvard’s University’s Charles Maier has written: “Thomas Schwartz’s superbly researched political biography reveals the brilliance, self-serving ego, and vulnerability of America’s most remarkable diplomat in the twentieth century, even as it provides a history of U.S. engagement in global politics as it moved beyond bipolarity.” Earlier in his career, Schwartz was the author of America’s Germany: John J. McCloy and the Federal Republic of Germany (Harvard, 1991), which was translated into German, Die Atlantik Brücke (Ullstein, 1992). This book received the Stuart Bernath Book Prize of the Society of American Foreign Relations, and the Harry S. Truman Book Award, given by the Truman Presidential Library. He is also the author of Lyndon Johnson and Europe: In the Shadow of Vietnam (Harvard, 2003), which examined the Johnson Administration’s policy toward Europe and assessed the impact of the war in Vietnam on its other foreign policy objectives. He is the co-editor with Matthias Schulz of The Strained Alliance: U.S.-European Relations from Nixon to Carter, (Cambridge University Press, 2009).
Professor Schwartz has held fellowships from the Social Science Research Council, the German Historical Society, the Norwegian Nobel Institute, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the Center for the Study of European Integration. He has served as President of the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations. He served on the United States Department of State’s Historical Advisory Committee as the representative of the Organization of American Historians from 2005-2008. Professor Schwartz received The Madison Sarratt Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching on April 3, 2013 at the Spring Faculty Assembly, Vanderbilt University. In 2008 Professor Schwartz received the Annual Alumni Education Award from the Vanderbilt Alumni Association. Schwartz is the recipient of the 2008 Book Award by Chi Chapter of the Kappa Alpha Order. This award is given to a faculty member who has been particularly influential in the lives and education of members of KAO. Professor Schwartz presented, “The Arab Spring: Revolution in the Middle East,” on April 19, 2011, as part of the Samuel L. Shannon Distinguished Lecture Series at Tennessee State University. Professor Schwartz has also presented lectures for the OAH Distinguished Lecturers Program.