Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger asks a question in the title of his book Does America Need a Foreign Policy?--but there's really no doubt about the answer. That's not to say it shouldn't be asked: "The last presidential election was the third in a row in which foreign policy was not seriously discussed by the candidates," writes Kissinger. "In the face of perhaps the most profound and widespread upheavals the world has ever seen, [the United States] has failed to develop concepts relevant to the emerging realities." Kissinger tours the world in this book, describing how the United States should relate to various regions and countries. This is not a gripping book, but it is sober, accessible, brief, and comprehensive--and an excellent introduction to international relations and diplomacy.
Kissinger has opinions on just about every topic he raises, from globalization (for it) to international courts (against them, for the most part). He supports a vigorous missile-defense system: "The United States cannot condemn its population to permanent vulnerability." He opines on peace in the Middle East: "Israel should abandon its opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state except as part of a final status agreement." His claims are often eye-opening: "There are few nations in the world with which the United States has less reason to quarrel or more compatible interests than Iran." He is especially critical of domestic politics interfering with America's international relations: "Whatever the merit of the individual legislative actions, their cumulative effect drives American foreign policy toward unilateral and seemingly bullying conduct." The media has been a special problem in this regard, as it zips around the world in search of exciting but ephemeral stories, which are "generally presented as a morality play between good and evil having a specific outcome and rarely in terms of the long-range challenges of history." Does America need a foreign policy? Of course it does, and Henry Kissinger has done readers a service by outlining what a good one might be. --John J. Miller