Joseph Taglieri

Quicklet on Walter Isaacson's Kissinger: A Biography (CliffsNotes-like Book Summary)

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Kissinger: A Biography by Walter Isaacson is arguably the most thoroughly researched account of this both highly influential and also much maligned American statesman. The mere mention of the name Kissinger in political or academic circles is bound to elicit quite possibly very intense, even venomous debate among a wide range of those who are extremely or passingly familiar with the history of United States foreign policy during the Cold War and U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Depending on the source of a given spoken-word rant or prose diatribe, the name Kissinger could be synonymous with amoral imperialist hubris or the epitome of resolve and realist sensibility in the face of irrationally misguided public opinion.

For this reason, Isaacson’s primary motivation for this book was to present Kissinger in the most objective light he could. “Though I leave it to the reader to decide whether I have succeeded, my goal was to produce an unbiased biography that portrayed Kissinger in all of his complexity,” Isaacson wrote. And while the complex character of this particular biographical subject certainly makes for an interesting read, for a researcher/writer, this most definitely poses a significant challenge.


Joe Taglieri is a professional journalist and musician (drum set and Latin percussion instruments) in Los Angeles. He has written on a range of subjects for a variety of publications since the 1990s. Taglieri's forte is writing about governmental and economic issues, and he has a keen interest in sports and the arts, most notably music, television and film. He holds a degree in print journalism from the University of Southern California and has studied, taught and performed via the drum set for nearly 25 years and has done the same with Latin percussion instruments such as conga and bongo drums, cajón and timbales for more than 15 years.


Kissinger came of age and into his own professionally during the most tumultuous period in recent history. It is at least fair to acknowledge that Kissinger’s world view guiding his actions as the world’s most influential policymaker were formulated during very stressful times. Early on, from his teenage German exodus to the many nail-biting moments that accompanied his life during World War II and the beginning stages of the Cold War, Kissinger and his colleagues were involved in the study and practice of international relations. He faced having to provide answers to difficult questions never before faced by his predecessors.

One such telling example is the emergence of nuclear weapons as a major factor affecting power balances and diplomatic relationships between the nuclear powers of the Soviet Union and China. Additionally, nations in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East such as Angola and Palestine/Israel were in their early generational adjustment to post-colonial existence, which for many resulted in revolutionary violence. To many, U.S. foreign policy heavily influenced by Kissinger appeared to be assuming the role formerly occupied by British and other former European colonial masters…

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