Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Kaplan reviews Kissinger’s China book

One of the privileges of having Robert Kaplan as my officemate at CNAS is that I can ask him to review books. One of his privileges is that he can send along said review accompanied by a note stating, "leave it just as it is." So I did. By the way, the current reading of ...

amazon.com
amazon.com
amazon.com

One of the privileges of having Robert Kaplan as my officemate at CNAS is that I can ask him to review books. One of his privileges is that he can send along said review accompanied by a note stating, "leave it just as it is." So I did.

By the way, the current reading of General Dempsey, the current Army chief of staff and future chairman of the Joint Chiefs, includes Kaplan's latest book, according to an article that ran awhile back in the New York Times:

One was "Managing the Unexpected: Resilient Performance in an Age of Uncertainty," by Karl E. Weick and Kathleen M. Sutcliffe. Another was "The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations," by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom. And the third was "Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power," by Robert D. Kaplan."

One of the privileges of having Robert Kaplan as my officemate at CNAS is that I can ask him to review books. One of his privileges is that he can send along said review accompanied by a note stating, "leave it just as it is." So I did.

By the way, the current reading of General Dempsey, the current Army chief of staff and future chairman of the Joint Chiefs, includes Kaplan’s latest book, according to an article that ran awhile back in the New York Times:

One was "Managing the Unexpected: Resilient Performance in an Age of Uncertainty," by Karl E. Weick and Kathleen M. Sutcliffe. Another was "The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations," by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom. And the third was "Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power," by Robert D. Kaplan."

Stephen Walt also reports that he plans to read Monsoon this summer.

While I’m on the subject, here’s another piece on Kissinger and China. And I also am hearing good things about this book.

And now, heeeeeere’s Bob:

By Robert Kaplan
Best Defense officemate

Henry Kissinger’s On China really gets rolling on page 90, when we get to the Communist period in Chinese history. Then, for the next 440 pages, the reader is riveted. Kissinger, it is often forgotten, has always been adroit at drawing historical portraits, whether of Metternich and Castlereagh in his graduate school days, or of Chinese communist leaders in his most recent book, written in his mid- to late-’80s. Kissinger has made over 50 trips to China, and this book sparkles precisely because it is in large part a memoir. Here is just a taste of what’s in store for the reader:

"Having grown accustomed to Mao’s philosophical disquisitions and indirect allusions and to Zhou’s elegant professionalism, I needed some time to adjust to Deng’s acerbic, no-nonsense style, his occasional sarcastic interjections, and his disdain of the philosophical in favor of the eminently practical. Compact and wiry, he entered a room as if propelled by some invisible force, ready for business. Deng [Xiaoping] rarely wasted time on pleasantries, nor did he feel it necessary to soften his remarks by swaddling them in parables as Mao [Zedong] was wont to do. He did not envelope one with solicitude as Zhou [Enlai] did…" 

Just as you gain some familiarity with the various Chinese dynasties after reading say, English historian John Keay’s very fine China: A History, you likewise gain some familiarity with all of the leaders of China’s latest dynasty – from Mao to Hu Jintao – after reading this book. Kissinger, with all the controversy that surrounds him, will be recalled as a formidable historical figure in part because he writes so much better than any other secretary of state of his era.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1
Tag: China

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