by Chidem Kurdas
A man described as both great and evil, Otto von Bismarck-Schönhausen makes a fascinating study, as Jonathan Steinberg’s Bismarck: A Life demonstrates. Henry Kissinger reviewed this biography in the New York Times Book Review, highlighting the diplomatic and political victories the unifier of Germany won through nimble maneuvers.
The review is a bravura tribute from one practitioner of realpolitik to another. Yet a closer look at Bismarck raises doubts as to realpolitik.
While admiring Bismarck’s subtle power games, Mr. Kissinger admits that the result lacked institutional balance and “sowed the seeds of Germany’s 20th century tragedies.” But he takes issue with the connection Mr. Steinberg draws from Bismarck to Hitler. Kissinger points to the contrast between the two characters. “Bismarck was a rationalist, Hitler a romantic nihilist,” he writes. “Hitler left a vacuum. Bismarck left a state strong enough to overcome catastrophic defeats …”
Nevertheless, Bismarck’s actions led to those catastrophes. Continue reading