Why you must read Henry Kissinger’s “World Order”?

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A Citi Foundation Lecture in New York City with The Honorable Dr. Henry Kissinger, 56th U.S. Secretary of State, and The Honrable Paul H. O'Neill, 72nd U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. This event is part of the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy's yearlong celebration of President Ford's 2013 centennial. June 19, 2013. Learn more: www.fordschool.umich.edu/fordlegacy

Moeed Pirzada | FB Blog |

Why you must read Henry Kissinger’s “World Order”? – Unlike many books these days that read like a Master student’s exam passing thesis with the help of quotes stolen from internet, this book, World Order, is a magisterial work from someone who combines academic insights with his own experiences of helping shape a global order as an actor on the stage. Many novels have been written about love by those who had never fallen head down in love and you feel the triviality and shallowness at every page. This happens with most books on world of politics by those who don’t know the world and politics. But this is a book by someone who knows what he is talking off; he will help you see the difference between those who phony characters who express wishes (we should do this and that and bla bla; this should not be happening etc) and those “real men and women” who have the challenge of shaping outcomes and delivering results.

Once you have gone through this book, you will come to understand what is “World Order” and why it is needed and why there is so much conflict. Kissinger gives you a bird eye view of the evolution of “political orders” across mankind’s history; this involves Islam’s World Order and you get to understand why ancient Persians relied more upon “Shiaism” to maintain their uniqueness in a political order initially created by Arab revolutionary spirit and conquests. His main focus however remains on the world order created by treaty of Westphalia in 1648, and how this was based on a non-ideological balance of power and how this was gradually changed by the American insistence on their “American Exceptionalism” from 1st world war on wards and then imposed on a grand level after the world fell to the American power at the end of the Second world war.

Ironically though Kissinger never compares “Islamic World Order” of “world of peace and world of war” with the American “Exceptional-ism” by the time you reach end you can see that Muslim’s demand that world should conform to their unique values of a just society and salvation are little different from the American (and now broadly western) insistence on liberal democracy which has assumed the form of a post-Christian western religion based on the political experiences of American democracy. Like the initial Muslims, Americans are telling the world including Muslims and Chinese: We will tell you how to run your little world and societies. But this is not what Kissinger writes; this is what he knows, understands but cannot write, but this is what you nevertheless understand. Similarly he tells you without saying in words that how he thinks that American President, Woodrow Wilson was a “confused prophet of change” and how Barack Obama has mastered the art of winning the elections without having a grand vision for the American power. Kissinger does not say this, but you know that he is telling you.

What is the relation between “power” and “legitimacy”. Suddenly it will stand out to you that elections for instance are a political exercise to impart legitimacy to a political order and when there credibility is at doubt then political order becomes weak; Is not this what happened in Pakistan after the May 2013 Elections? And why Nawaz govt had to agree to Judicial Commission to restore legitimacy to their system of control and so on.

By the time you will come to finish the book, you will feel the difference between “Information and Knowledge” and Knowledge and Wisdom. I for instance tried reading a book by a former Pakistani Ambassador and could instantaneously see that he has collected quotes like a college student to prove himself instead of understanding the issues; and that it was not about his understanding of issues but his desire to please his American readers. I put it down because I realized that this is not worth my time and effort.

Ghalib had said about his own Indian world of 19th century: “Bazicha e Itfal hay yeh dunya meray agay” – Kissinger, writing at 91, makes you feel the same about the world we all share. Is he biased? Yes! he is; all political theorists are; but you know you are reading an American point of view and you discount and you react at several points but those moments of disagreement and discord give you more insights and learning. Get hold of this, magisterial work: “World Order” by Henry Kissinger. Its available in paper back in Pakistan and all those who have kindles this is a click away.

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