The great powers do not often appear to have a strategy. Caught out admitting that his administration had no strategy for Syria, Barack Obama came back a week later with a ‘game plan’. In her memoirs, his former secretary of state Hillary Clinton insisted that ‘great nations need an organising principle’. It wasn’t enough, she added rather archly, to adhere to such slogans as ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’. But when, a few years later, she was campaigning for the presidency, she didn’t put forward a strategy, only a slogan, ‘Stronger Together’, chosen from a list of eighty-three others. A slogan is a very weak substitute for a strategy. In his very last op-ed piece for the New York Times, Zbigniew Brzezinski stressed that ‘Make America Great Again’ and ‘America First’ were all very well as bumper stickers but that the foreign policy of the USA needed to consist of much more than that if world order was to be secured.
Brzezinski did strategy; so did Henry Kissinger. Both men arrived as immigrants in the United States in the same year, 1938; both graduated from Harvard; both reached the White House as national security advisers; and both represented a new breed of foreign-policy expert. In his compelling biography of