Tag Archives: Richard Nixon

Kissinger

Kissinger

Kissinger -1923-1968: The Idealist
By Niall Ferguson
Penguin Books – £16.99

If you want to know who has influenced me the most, I’ll answer with the names of two philosophers: Spinoza and Kant. So it’s curious that you choose to associate me with Machiavelli. People rather associate me with the name of Metternich. Which is actually childish. On Metternich I’ve written only one book, which was to be the beginning of a long series of books on the construction and disintegration of the international order of the nineteenth century. It was a series that was to end with the First World War. That’s all. There can be nothing in common between me and Metternich.

                                                                                                          Henry Kissinger

This too famous, too important, too lucky man, whom they call Superman, Superstar, Superkraut, and who stitches together paradoxical alliances, reaches impossible agreements, keeps the world holding its breath as though the world were his students at Harvard. This incredible, inexplicable, unbearable personage, who meets Mao Tse-tung when he likes, enters the Kremlin when he feels like it, wakens the president of the United States and goes into his bedroom when he thinks it appropriate. This absurd character with horn-rimmed glasses beside whom James Bond becomes a flavourless creation. He does not shoot, nor use his fists, nor leap from speeding auto-mobiles like James Bond, but he advises on wars, ends wars, pretends to change our destiny, and does change it.

                                                                                                          Oriana Fallaci

I really cannot remember the last time I read such an all-engrossing, brilliant biography as Kissinger -1923-1968: The Idealist. According to The Independent’s Marcus Tanner, it’s ”definitive” and ”reveals his subject as nothing like the calculating cold fish of legend.”

To be sure, having read these 878 pages (excluding Preface, Acknowledgements, Notes, Sources, Illustration Credits and Index), he known throughout the planet as Henry Kissinger comes across as many things – although ye ”cold fish of legend” most certainly isn’t one of them.

Might this be the case, because this most absorbing and altogether outstanding book, delves into every crevice of the subject’s life? And I really do mean nigh every nuanced area; which, given the fact that this is Volume I and concludes in 1968 – at the height of what many might consider to be the nadir of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War – is quite something.

Quite something, simply because by this book’s end, we’re only half way through what is among other things, clearly, a worldly and politically, uber-jam-packed life. A life that never once, not even for a micro-second, ever teetered on the precipice of perhaps being a tad dull. There again, Niall Ferguson (whose previous books include Paper and Iron, The House of Rothschild, The Pity of War, The Ascent of Money and The Great Degeneration among others) has herein written a biography, that in and of itself, alters the occasionally perplexing parameters of biographical literature.

Reason being, the author has probably delved deeper and researched unto the point that research was no longer possible. Thus, by default, raising the stakes by (perhaps) inadvertently raising the bench mark itself.

An exceedingly good example of this comes in the very first chapter ‘Heimat’ (the German word for homeland), where, apart from researching Kissinger’s family tree, Ferguson also goes some way in researching the Jewish induced history of the subject’s place of birth: ”There had been a Jewish community in Furth since 1528. Thirty years before, Nuremberg had followed the example of many other European cities and states by expelling Jews from its territory. But Furth offered a refuge. Indeed, by the late sixteenth century, Jews were being encouraged to settle there as a way of diverting trade away from Nuremberg. Already by the early 1600s, Furth had its own rabbi, a Talmudic academy, and its first synagogue, built in 1616-17 and modelled on the Pinkas synagogue in Prague.”

With this most informative background in mind, only a few pages later, Ferguson touches on the author, Jakob Wassermann, who, when ”asked by a foreigner, ”what is the reason for the German hatred of the Jews?… What do the Germans want? His reply was striking:

I should have replied: Hate…
I should have answered: They want a scapegoat…””

That these words were published in 1921 – a mere two years before the birth of Henry Kissinger himself – does much to trigger just some of the tonality of what’s to come. The undeniable thread of which is undeniably inter-laced with the idealism of Kissinger’s very own hypotheses of history and philosophy.

Or, an undiluted amalgamation thereof.

To be sure, Kissinger’s wartime mentor, Fritz Kraemer, once described his protege as being: ”musically attuned to history. This is not something you can learn, no matter how intelligent you are. It is a gift from God.”

Suffice to say, the manifestation of what said protege chose to do, and how to implement (t)his ”gift from God,” remains wide open to debate. A debate, that if nothing else, can and will no doubt, be further enhanced (if not exasperated) by what has been exceedingly well written within these twenty-two chapters.

That’s twenty-two chapters of the most readable and realistic, realpolitik. A literal quality, which in the final analysis, accounts for Kissinger – 1923-1968: The Idealist, being a veritable tour-de-force to be reckoned with.

David Marx

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From The War On Poverty to the War on Crime

poverty

From The War On Poverty to the War on Crime – The Making of Mass Incarceration in America
By Elizabeth Hinton
Harvard University Press – £22.95

One cannot help but wonder how America’s new president, Donald of Trump Towers, would react to this book. A thought, to which all intents and perpetual purposes of incarceration, is a mode of impossible and inexorable practice, set in place some fifty years ago by President Lyndon Johnson.

Known as the ”War on Crime,” lest it be said that prison cells, unlawful arrest and law enforcement agencies have, for said time period, functioned as the ”central engine of American inequality.” Inequality, being the key word here, as one need look no further than what is happening in the United States right now. In 2017.

A country where one in every thirty-one adults is under some form of penal control, including one in eleven African American men.

It does indeed make one wonder how the supposed land of the free can boast of being the world’s largest prison system; especially when one takes into account that it has more wealth, more oil, more cars, more food-stocks, indeed, more of everything than anywhere else in the world.

Including more guns. And THEREIN lies the fundamental answer to a problem that is clearly out of control.

Out of control, because many would also agree with regards the trajectorial caveat, that America has more than its fair share of stupid people – many of whom buy the guns. Yet, perhaps more importantly still: the country is inundated with greed.

More greed than anywhere you care to name. Not to mention division, whereby most white people automatically receive a far, far bigger share of the pie when compared to their African American compatriots. So it’s hardly surprising the country has more people locked up than any other nation; less surprising still that there are more African Americans in jail than any other racial group. A social breakdown upon which From The War On Poverty to the War on Crime – The Making of Mass Incarceration in America sheds an abundance of clear and refreshing light.

For instance, in the chapter ‘The War On Black Poverty,’ Elizabeth Hinton writes: ”Declining job prospects for African Americans during the second half of the twentieth century exacerbated segregation and poverty in the neighbourhoods where displaced southern agricultural workers congregated. As 2 million white residents left cities for suburban areas, 1.5 million black Americans migrated to industrial centres in the North and West, joined by Latinos and white Appalachians, and moved into the neighbourhoods previously occupied by European immigrants and their children. By the early 1960s, 31 percent of African Americans lived in twelve northern cities, their living conditions characterized by the isolation, marginalization, and exclusion that stemmed from segregation.”

Segregation: a social stasis that throughout these nine chapters, is comprehensively addressed time again as being the most fundamental problem in American society today.
As well as yesterday.
A problem it would seem, that has, and continues to be shamefully exacerbated by society at large and Washington’s domestic policy: ”Under Richard Nixon and his successors, welfare programmes fell by the wayside while investment in policing and punishment expanded. Anticipating future crime, policymakers urged states to build new prisons and introduced law enforcement measures into urban schools and public housing, turning neighbourhoods into targets of police surveillance.

By the 1980s, crime control and incarceration dominated national responses to poverty and inequality. The initiatives of that decade were less a sharp departure than the full realisation of the punitive transformation of urban policy implemented by Republicans and Democrats alike since the 1960s.”

These 340 pages (excluding comprehensive Notes, Acknowledgements and Index), alert us to a problem that has been going on for far too long. So long in fact, it may well end up destroying America. Although it does seem as if Donald Trump is already doing quite well on that score – without any outside assistance whatsoever.

As author of The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South, Matthew Lassiter has said, this is: ”an outstanding book – clear, compelling, and essential. Hinton excavates the deep roots of police militarisation, surveillance of minority communities, and the punitive shift in urban policy. Her argument that liberals were key architects of the war on crime is a necessary and even urgent corrective to conventional thinking about mass incarceration.”

So take note Messrs. Trump and Pence, and add this very fine book to your ever increasing stack of necessary, bedtime reading.

David Marx

Lobbying America

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Lobbying America –
The Politics of Business from Nixon to NAFTA
By Benjamin C. Waterhouse
Princeton University Press – £27.95

Whilst living in America, I remember reading an article in Time Magazine wherein former President, Richard Nixon, spoke out about how necessary it was to have consciously reached the nadir in one’s life, in order to appreciate having scaled the heights. To a certain degree, he was obviously talking about his time in office; but it should go without saying that his impeachment from said highest office in the USA – if not the world – triggered an introspective re-assessment of his personal, as well as that of his political life.

That his marraige to Pat Nixon remained rock solid throughout the so-called ‘dark years,’ undoubtadly remains a beacon of inspiration with regards the actual institution of marriage. But so far as America’s political and business standing in the world was concerned, his tenure as President ended in well documented, dire disaster.

Without explicitely re-tracing and trudging up the disaster from an erstwhile economic perspective at least, Lobbying America -The Politics of Business from Nixon to NAFTA, endeavours to touch upon the issue form the very word go. At the very outset of the first chapter ‘From Consensus to a Crisis of Confidence’ for instance, Benjamin C. Waterhouse writes: ”Businesspeople should have been happy. The American economy soared during the 1960s, and in 1969 a Republican named Richard Nixon assumed the presidency, promising peace, prosperity, and a retreat from his predecessors’ ”big governemnt” policies. Yet despite that apparently sunny forecast, a collective sense of woe descended across the American business community as the 1970s dawned. Subdued in nervous whispers at first, the ominous refrain grew louder, echoing through boardrooms and conference centers, across golf courses and country clubs. By the middle of the decade, the once-low grumbling reached a fevered pitch, and despondent business leaders let loose a cacophonous scream:

”The American economic system is under broad attack,” cried a jurist/”The American capitalist system is confronting its darkest hour,” bemoaned an executive/”The existence of free institutions which together make up the very fabric of the free society is in jeopardy,” proclaimed a think-tank director/”Yet those institutions are under attack, and the captains of industry stand helplessly by,” complained a senator.”

Within the eight chapters and 264 pages of this comprehensive and more than compellingly well written book, Waterhouse has delved into a relatively uncomfortable period of American business and economics – and not a moment to soon. Especially given the (fundamentally American made) economic disasters of last few years.

So as a late night read, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but given the subject matter, it’s as intrinsically current as it is volatile in persuasion.

Edward Balleisen of Duke University nigh substantiates as much when, on the back cover, he’s quoted as saying: ”Lobbying America explores the fractious history of business influence over American politics and brilliantly charts the business establishment’s post-1970 counteroffensive against what its leaders saw as oppresive taxation, regulatory overreach, and an arrogant union movement. Attuned to the political successes and failures of organized business, Waterhouse has produced a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand the United States’ late twentieth-century embrace of free market ideology.”

At the beginning of each and every chapter, the author utilises something a thought provoking quote. Unsurprisingly – given the prime subject matter – there’s a reference to John Maynard Keynes at the beginning of the seventh, who, in his 1936 publication The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, proclaimed: ”Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”

Food for thought? Food for doubt?

With such chapter titles as: ‘Every Man His Own Lobbyist,’ A New Life for Old Lobbies’ and ‘The Producer verses the Consumer,’ along with their respective sub-titles as: ‘A Response to Postindustrialization: The Revitalization Campaign,’ ‘The Chamber Gets The Memo’ and ‘A New Front: The Battle For Public Opinion,’ there is indeed oodles of room for many a vexed preponderance.

For other than telling the story of the political mobilization of American buiness in the 1970s and 1980s, Lobbying America quintessentially traverses the yays and the nays of what makes America economically tick.

David Marx