Kissinger himself. Nevertheless, we must evaluate the massive data provided by Mr. And here questions and objections are in order. Hersh tends to place everything on the same level: decisions that had important human and political costs, like Mr. Nixon's support of the Greek junta or the intervention in Chile, and petty bureaucratic affairs.
Much of what he tells us has been told before in the flood of studies and reports following Watergate.
Hersh's witnesses provide more detail and color but little that changes the main outlines of the picture. The most sensational new charge -that Mr.
Kissinger offered his services to both sides in the election - will come as no surprise to those who knew, for instance, that in the spring of that year Mr. Kissinger, while a Rockefeller man, also had shown great sympathy for Robert Kennedy. The file on Mr. Nixon he is said to have offered the Humphrey people seems, on the basis of subsequent reporting, to have consisted not of dirt but of data, and it was never delivered. Hersh does not prove that it was Mr. Kissinger who gave the secrets of the Paris negotiations to the Nixon camp: Mr.
Nixon, while acknowledging that Mr. Kissinger provided information, said that the most important insider's report came from ''someone in Johnson's innermost circle. Hersh's informants.
While many of them chose to remain anonymonus particularly, Mr. Hersh says, those involved in Middle Eastern affairs , a large number are named. They are, on the whole, losers of bureaucratic battles or men who resigned from the N. Many of these informants are honorable men, but it would be surprising if what emerged from their anecdotes and complaints amounted to the whole story.
Kissinger and many of his former associates refused to talk to Mr. Hersh, so it is not entirely Mr. Hersh's fault if his book is primarily an assault on Mr. Indeed, since memoirs are inevitably advertisements for oneself, countermemoirs by the disappointed and the disgruntled help restore a sense of balance. Such accounts have already been published by two of Mr.
But the onslaught is even more relentless than the target's selfdefense. It is a bit difficult to use such men as Charles Colson, even though he may be born again, and Mr. Ehrlichman as entirely trustworthy witnesses.
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In other words, the credibility of the witnesses varies greatly, and the reader has no way of seeparrating what is undoubtedly true from what is dubious, exaggerated or false. When Mr. Hersh goes beyond reporting what his informants told him and presents his own interpretation, he is not always convincing.
Nobody would doubt that ambition played an important role in Mr. Kissinger's career. But it is hard to believe that ambition and vanity were his only drives, that even such decisions as the opening to China and such policies as detente were motivated exclusively by domestic concerns and Mr. Nixon's need to be re-elected in Kissinger's behavior in '72 - his insistence on going to Moscow in April to try to get Soviet help in ending the Vietnam War, his treatment of President Thieu during the negotiations with Hanoi in the summer and fall, his determination to reach an agreement with Hanoi before the American election - is explained here primariy by his personal insecurity, his desire to succeed William Rogers as Secretary of State and his fear for his own position.
When writing about statesmen with powerful egos, is it ever sensible to try to separate personal considerations from wider concerns?
Is it wise to write as if only the former or the latter existed? In Mr. Kissinger's case, I suspect, the relation between the two is particularly complicated and hard to penetrate. Hersh accuses Mr. Kissinger again and again of deception. But, for example, when Mr.
Kissinger asked critics of the Vietnam War to give him six months, was it deliberate deception, as Mr. Hersch maintains, or might it have been self-deception? Throughout this dreadful war there was a pattern of self-delusion, about coming breakthroughs with Hanoi and Mr. Kissinger's ability to persuade President Thieu that the deal he had obtained was the best possible one for Saigon. I'M not suggesting that one can dismiss Mr.
Hersh's indictment as trivial. Clearly the style of operation of the Nixon Administration mattered, not only because of the crash to which it inevitably led but also because style and substance were intimately linked. However, it is on the level of substance not of office politics and personal antagonisms that the more serious debate ought to take place. And Mr. Hersh does indeed provide a trenchant critique of Mr. Kissinger's foreign policy. He discusses the huge costs of destabilizing Cambodia, first by the secret bombings, later by the events following Prince Norodom Sihanouk's overthrow.
Hersh's account of relations with Hanoi emphasizes Mr. Nixon's and Mr. Kissinger's fondness for threats that were sometimes carried out and sometimes not this was the so-called ''madman theory'' aimed at provoking enemy fear of the President's unpredictability.
He also dwells on the missed opportunity of using the South Vietnamese Presidential election in October as a way of replacing Thieu with a leader better able to end the war. Hersh is sharply critical of Mr. Kissinger's tendency to analyze local crises - between Egypt and Israel, in Jordan in September , between India and Pakistan in - almost exclusively in terms of the Soviet-American rivalry and to exaggerate greatly both the role and the pugnacity of the Soviet Union. He cites America's ugly involvement in Chilean affairs and Mr. Kissinger's opposition to Secretary of State Rogers's attempts to find solutions for the Egyptian-Israeli conflict.
Kissinger, include the growing threat posed by Soviet heavy missiles to America's land-based missile force and several concessions made too the Soviets in the final phases of the negotiations. Many of these charges are, in my opinion, valid. The concentration on triangular diplomacy - Washington, Moscow and Peking - and the obsession with real or imaginary Soviet challenges frequently led to misreadings of local circumstances.
It led to a paralysis in the Middle East that inevitably resulted in war in October and to dreadfully wrongheaded policies in the Bangladesh affair. The attempt to square the circle in Vietnam, by ending direct American involvement yet ''winning'' by keeping the Saigon regime in power, could not but prolong the war. It produced an agreement that was signed only after both of the Vietnamese parties felt betrayed and brutalized by the United States and that neither side observed.
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Most of these criticisms have been presented before, and Mr. Only rarely is any credit given to the Nixon Administration for its initiatives.