IT WAS BOUND to happen. One of Henry Kissinger's former aides has marshalled his ammunition, taken aim and opened fire. The erstwhile wizard of diplomacy is vulnerable to those behind the curtain who saw the methods of his mastery and knew of his abundant secret dealings, double and otherwise.
Morris's book jacket features a plaster bust of Kissinger with a shoulder chipped away, presumably by the force of the author's revelations and argument. The great man's admirers may feel that Morris rather than Kissinger is the one with a prominent chip on his shoulder. In any case there is no doubt that some of the pot shots find their mark.
A foreign service officer on the Walt Rostow/Lyndon Johnson National Security Council staff who was retained by the Nixon Administration, Morris was one of three Kissinger aides to quit the government in a NSC staff shodown over the 1970 U.S. invasion of Cambodia. It was a rare case of resignation due to war policy. Curiously, in view of the many revelations in this book of who said what to whom in the White House basement, Morris tells little of his own travail and cannot bring himself to describe the showdown scene.
Morris admired Kissinger's Kissinger's bold coup in seizing bureaucratic power from the worn-out foreign policy elite, depicted here as provincial, mediocre and gutless. At the same time Morris was appalled by the uses to which Kissinger's legerdemain was put, especially the refusal to end the Vietnam war in 1969 and the bloody, unsuccessful attempts to keep from losing in the years which followed.
The book's tension and contradiction are between the two sets of villains, establishment and antiestablishment. Intellectually Morris prefers Kissinger to the pygmies who preceded him, who surrounded him and who succeeded him in the Carter Administration. But her Kissinger is the main target. Kissinger is depicted as egotistical, cynical, tyrannical, callous - and brilliant. Nixon is depicted as an ugly racist and a drunk who might have set in motion "some ultimate atrocity" by presidential order except for Kissinger's independenc eand his role as a buffer.
Between page proofs and the final published version, morris has toned down some of his specific allegations about Nixon's drinking, especially on the night of the worldwide U.S. military alert in the latter days of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Still, the clear impression is left that Nixon's personality defects contributed to Kissinger's meteoric rise to power. And Morris writes that Kissinger was "de facto president" when Nixon was unavailable.
Morris's tales of policy making, high and low, range over the globe from Burundi to Japan. Some are familiar material, recycled from earlier revelations, but many are new. Of special interest are Morris's accounts of struggles which he witnessed as the NSC expert on Africa, notably the ignorant Cabinet Room jockeying over Southern Africa policy and the bureaucratic indifference about Nigeria's brutal starvation of seccessionist Biafra.
A meaty chapter on Indochina contains some valuable insights into the Kissinger-Nixon mentality about the war and a revealing account of Kissinger's diplomatic doblecross of the Thieu government.According to Morris, Kissinger was undermining Theiu in secret dealings with the North Vietnamese even while shoring him up in public.
This grab bag of a book contains flashes of brilliance and much uninhibited "truth telling," in the vein of a reformed sinner, which illustrates motives and personalities behind the very personal Kissinger diplomacy. Lack of documentation and even the most rudimentary indication of sources is a fault. A clearer division between what Morris knows and what he thinks would have been helpful in view of the acid in which his pen is dipped.
Morris's experiences seem to have left him in a permanent condition of indignation about the makers and substance of United States foreign policy under Democrats and Republicans alike. Given service under Dean Acheson, McGeorge Bundy, Walt Rostow, Henry Kissinger, Walter Mondale and with the Carnegie Endowment, Morris, now a free-lance writer, may be the first fully-credentialed foreign policy dropout.
"As Kissinger retires, his paradoxical role recalls what Winston Churchill once said of Lenin and Russia; that the worst misfortnue was his coming, the next worse - his leaving," writes Morris in an epilogue. For all his shots at the plaster bust, we sense that perhaps Morris believes the reverse to be true. In the end, capping his love/hate view, he calls on Kissinger to redeem a place in history by lambasting his Democratic successors.