Martin Indyk Examines Henry Kissinger’s Deft Middle East Diplomacy, in CFR Book

Martin Indyk Examines Henry Kissinger’s Deft Middle East Diplomacy, in CFR Book

October 29, 2021 3:03 pm (EST)

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To understand the arc of American diplomatic influence in the Middle East, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Distinguished Fellow Martin S. Indyk returns to the origins of the American-led peace process and the statesman who created it—former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. “The art in his Middle East diplomacy lay in his conception and achievement of an American-led regional order in which the pursuit of peace was an essential mechanism.”

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In Master of the Game: Henry Kissinger and the Art of Middle East Diplomacy, Indyk—who formerly served as U.S. ambassador to Israel, assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, and U.S. special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations—offers an up-close analysis of one of the most revered and complicated figures in U.S. foreign policy. “Peace for Kissinger was a problem, not a solution. The desire for it needed to be manipulated to produce something more reliable, a stable order in a highly volatile part of the world.”

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Indyk takes the reader back to the 1970s and into the rooms where Kissinger conducted his negotiations with President of Egypt Anwar Sadat, Israeli Prime Ministers Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin, President of Syria Hafez al-Assad, Jordan’s King Hussein, and Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal to recount in detail the way America’s premier diplomat managed to maneuver these Middle Eastern leaders toward peace. “If diplomacy is the art of moving political leaders to places they are reluctant to go, then Kissinger was the master of the game,” Indyk writes.

Kissinger’s achievements were significant: a cease-fire agreement that ended the 1973 Yom Kippur War, an agreement between Israel and Syria that kept peace on the Golan for forty years, and two agreements that removed Egypt from the conflict with Israel and laid the foundations for a peace treaty between the two countries. At a time of U.S. retrenchment from Southeast Asia and a domestic political crisis brought on by Watergate, Kissinger used deft diplomacy to sideline the Soviet Union in the midst of the Cold War and build an American-led Middle Eastern order that lasted three decades until it was undone by a series of diplomatic missteps and overreach by the United States, according to Indyk.

Master of the Game is based on thousands of declassified documents from American and Israeli archives, and extensive interviews with Kissinger. Indyk—informed by his own firsthand experiences as a peace negotiator—explores the motivations and reasoning behind the decisions Kissinger made. Kissinger’s early life experience fleeing Nazi Germany left him disillusioned with the “Wilsonian idealism that sought a peace to end all wars,” Indyk explains. This led the secretary of state to pursue peacemaking with caution and skepticism.

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At the same time, his risk-averse approach had a downside. If Kissinger “were to make a mistake, it would be to err on the side of caution rather than ambition,” Indyk notes. That led him to miss opportunities to head off the 1973 war and to create a Jordanian framework for resolving the Palestinian problem, Indyk explains, but it also enabled him to shape a Middle Eastern order that resulted in the avoidance of major wars and the possibility of peace.

Recounting Kissinger’s successes and missteps, Indyk highlights critical considerations for U.S. foreign policy and diplomacy in the region going forward. He urges the Joe Biden administration to “resist the siren song of comprehensive peace in favor of a return to Kissingerian gradualism” as part of a broader strategy for building a new American-supported Middle Eastern order.

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Read more about Master of the Game and order your copy at https://www.cfr.org/book/master-game.

To interview the author, please contact CFR Communications at 212.434.9888 or [email protected].

Praise for Master of the Game:

“Indyk paints a vivid portrait of Kissinger as visionary statesman, Machiavellian operator, and occasional bumbler as he cajoles, arm-twists, and haggles over demarcation lines and diplomatic phraseology. This fascinating study illuminates both the cold logic of Kissingerian statecraft and the human factors that muddled it.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“This is an extraordinary work of diplomatic history. It is at once a brilliant analysis of one of the pivotal moments in America’s involvement with the Middle East and at the same time a wise reflection on the art of statecraft. Martin Indyk is a seasoned diplomat and negotiator. In this book he shows himself also to be a great historian. In a crowded field, this book will stand out for a long time.” —Fareed Zakaria

“One of America’s premier diplomats and strategic thinkers, Martin Indyk, brings his decades of experience to this lively, engrossing, and eye-opening account of Kissinger’s Middle East diplomacy. This is narrative and analytical history at its finest, admiring but not uncritical of America’s most famous statesman. Master of the Game is must-reading for anyone interested in the most intractable of international problems.” —Robert Kagan

“This definitive history of Henry Kissinger’s Middle East peace process offers a wealth of lessons for today, not only about the challenges in that region but also about the art of diplomacy. With his deep personal experience and his intimate understanding of the colorful players involved, Indyk conveys the drama, dazzling maneuvers, and grand strategic vision that characterized Kissinger’s virtuoso negotiations.” —Walter Isaacson

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