Kissinger's Realpolitik and American Exceptionalism | Wilson Center

Kissinger's Realpolitik and American Exceptionalism

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On 28 March 2011, Vanderbilt University Professor of History Thomas A. Schwartz will lead a discussion entitled Kissinger's Realpolitik and American Exceptionalism.

Henry Kissinger is perhaps the most famous and most controversial American diplomat of the twentieth century. Much of the literature about him emphasizes his geopolitical approach to international relations, his European background, and his advocacy of Realpolitik. But to a large extent of his foreign policy was fundamentally shaped and conditioned by domestic politics. Kissinger ultimately failed to bring about a different approach to foreign policy, one moving beyond American exceptionalism and toward an understanding of the limits of power.

Thomas A. Schwartz is a historian of the foreign relations of the United States, with related interests in Modern European history and the history of international relations. Currently, Schwartz is professor of history at Vanderbilt University and is working on two book projects: one is a short history of the Cold War entitled The Long Twilight Struggle, and the other is a biography Henry Kissinger entitled Henry Kissinger and the Dilemmas of American Power.

Schwartz has written extensively on America's relations with Europe, especially Germany, and is the author of numerous books including Lyndon Johnson and Europe: In the Shadow of Vietnam; The Strained Alliance: U.S.-European Relations from Nixon to Carter; and America's Germany: John J. McCloy and the Federal Republic of Germany which was awarded the Stuart Bernath Book Prize from the Society of American Foreign Relations, as well as the Harry S. Truman Book Award.

Schwartz has held fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson Center, Social Science Research Council, the German Historical Society, the Norwegian Nobel Institute, and the Center for the Study of European Integration. Formerly, he has served as president of the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations and on the United States Department of State's Historical Advisory Committee.


  • Thomas Schwartz

    Public Policy Scholar
    Professor of History, Vanderbilt University
  • Christian F. Ostermann

    Director, History and Public Policy Program; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
    Woodrow Wilson Center