World order is probably the best book I have read by Kissinger and one of the most interesting from a "politician" when it comes to global governance. It is not very helpful when it comes to actual solutions, or inspiration for solutions and as that is what I tend to look for it took some time for me to appreciate the book. I would say that it is interesting in two very different ways.
First, during the most of the book Kissinger comes across as a wise old man (although too sloppy, as too many of the references are not correct) interested in the long-term historic perspective. We are taken on a journey where a lot of time is spent in the 17th-century and the time leading up to and following The Peace of Westphalia. The process and outcome related to The Peace of Westphalia is the center of the universe that Kissinger sketches.
The focus is on the balancing act required in a multipolar system. Something that result in a focus status quo at the center is used to contrast alternative approached, all more “totalitarian” in their approach. The logic behind this system is never analyzed.
James Traub captured it perfect in his review of the book in WSJ: “The villains of Mr. Kissinger's account are the totalizers, like Napoleon and Bismarck; the heroes are the deft manipulators of an ever-shifting equilibrium among states— Talleyrand and Metternich.”
The very special situation that has allowed the nation state to emerge with governments accountable in some ways to the population is very interesting. For anyone interested in global governance I would argue that this book is mandatory reading.
Second, in the last part of the book, something interesting happens. Here Kissinger turns into something very unpleasant. Instead of using this book, that might be his last, for some actual reflection, it turns into a very strange and almost pathetic excuse for his less pleasant choses in life. I’m no expert on Kissinger, but it was easy to see when it was time to google some information about actions described in the book that he is ashamed of as the style of writing changed. The change of tone, arrogant and cold, is really unpleasant. I was not expecting a true and deep introspection from Kissinger, but perhaps something along the lines that Robert McNamara did in Fog of War. Not admitting to being wrong, but at least open up to the possibility that everything might not have been as good as it seemed back then (or hopefully not even back then).
The way he celebrate Bush and Reagan is as if he is a fundamentalist refusing to see any other possibilities. It would have been interesting to hear him discuss how things could have developed in different ways.
Overall, the long-term perspective and reflection of the fragility of our current international system makes the book well-worth reading.