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George Kennan - History

George Kennan - History

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George Kennan


Political Analysist

George Kennan was born on February 16, 1904 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He went to Princeton, and then applied to the Foreign Service. Political analyst, advisor and diplomat, George Kennan was in charge of long-range planning for the State Department following World War II. He developed the concept of "containment" as a strategy to keep Soviet influence from expanding and maintain the status quo.

Kennan believed that the Soviet Union would eventually have to relinquish its harsh grip on its citizenry and would change its foreign policies if the West could maintain a firm and consistent posture of opposition. He also served as Ambassador to the USSR and to Yugoslavia.

He was also a widely sought-after lecturer on foreign policy issues. At age 85, he received the Medal of Freedom.

George Kennan

As a diplomat and historian, George Kennan was a master of languages and an expert on European countries. He was a prolific writer, an emissary of the United States to many nations, and one of the primary architects of U.S. strategy during the Harry S. Truman administration. The early years Kennan began his education at Saint John`s Military Academy in Delafield, Wisconsin, and graduated in 1921. He then went on to Princeton University, and after graduation in 1925, he joined the Foreign Service. He was the vice counsel in Geneva in 1925 and later transferred to Germany. The role that Kennan played in shaping U.S. post-World War II strategy — along with Dean Acheson, Charles Bohlen, John Paton Davies Jr., Loy Henderson, and George C. Marshall — was significant. The Postwar challenge The arrival of the atomic age had ended World War II, but it introduced never-before-known challenges to policymakers struggling with the manifold complications of postwar planning and peace. Depressed economic conditions in post-World War II Europe and Asia presented a nearly overwhelming challenge. Populations were decimated and displaced, industries lay in dire straits, and the recently formulated International Monetary Fund and World Bank were just starting to function. In Europe, armies had been mostly demobilized, with the exception of the Soviet armed forces. Communist party membership in western Europe was gaining significant numbers, and they were closing in on political control of France and Italy. A policy emerges Before World War II, the U.S. maintained a foreign policy of neutrality. Following the war and in dealing with the collapse of much of Europe, the U.S. found itself facing the Soviet Union, which had installed satellite governments in occupied eastern Europe and seemed to be threatening western Europe, as well. Kennan espoused a strategy of long-term "containment" of the Soviet Union, and the re-establishment of a steadfast balance of power by the reconstruction of Japan and western Europe. As the leader of the State Department`s Policy Planning Staff from 1947 to 1950 under Marshall and Acheson, Kennan was charged with the responsibility for long-term planning. He played a key role in both the Marshall Plan and the reconstruction of Japan, as well as U.S. strategy in its approach to dealing with the Soviet Union. Kennan also played a major role in setting in motion the CIA`s covert operations, which he later regarded as "the greatest mistake I ever made." He didn`t have an opinion about policy toward the Third World, except to say that he thought that the U.S. could not do much to help. As for China, he advanced a strategy of restraint. Kennan’s writings Kennan wrote an important essay in the journal Foreign Affairs (July 1947), spelling out his belief in the necessity of "containing" Communist expansion, which became the hallmark of the Cold War. American Diplomacy, 1900-1950, discusses, among other things, the weaknesses of U.S. policy and how it relates to current diplomatic problems. Other consequential writings include Soviet-American Relations, 1917-1920, Volumes I and II, Realities of American Foreign Policy, and Russia, the Atom, and the West.

George Kennan's diaries reveal just how much he hated America (and held Jews in contempt)

On a hot, dusty Sunday in September 1959, George Frost Kennan welcomed to his Pennsylvania farmhouse a peculiar trio of political intellectuals. Trekking out to see the retired diplomat and renowned Sovietologist on that Labor Day weekend were the German-born psychologist Erich Fromm, the sociologist David Riesman, and Norman Thomas, the perennial Socialist Party nominee for president. Their agenda was the creation of a new socialist party for the United States.

“What a strange quartet we were,” Kennan remarked in wonder. The “brilliant, subtle, and hugely imaginative” Riesman, he rightly observed, had never been enchanted “by the waning power of Marx’s magic spell” but more to the point, Kennan himself “had little sympathy . with the inherent self-pity of the socialist cause.” As Kennan recorded in his diary that day, Burke, Gibbon, and the nineteenth-century Russian novelists shaped his own thinking much more than any left-wing thinkers ever had. “All my Scottish-Protestant antecedents rose in protest against this egalitarianism,” he wrote. “This really wild belief in the general goodness of man, this obliviousness to the existence of original sin . this grievous Marxist oversimplification of the sources of aggressiveness and bad behavior in the individual as in the mass”—it was all too naïve and wooly-minded. Predictably, the attempted meeting of the minds ended in incoherence, thrusting Kennan back into what he called “the organizational isolation where, evidently, I belong.”

This vignette is one of many gems in Kennan’s fascinating and damaging journals, now edited by Frank Costigliola, a skilled historian of American foreign relations, and it highlights a riddle of Kennan’s life: his policy ideas were utterly central to the foreign relations of the United States in the twentieth century, but he had no real home in its political system. Normally a supporter of Democrats—in the diaries, he voices support for the presidential bids of Adlai Stevenson, John F. Kennedy, Eugene McCarthy, Frank Church (“promptly regretted it deeply”), and Bill Clinton (“without enthusiasm”)—Kennan was nonetheless profoundly conservative in his worldview. This conservatism was neither the belligerent cultural populism bequeathed to today’s Republicans by Richard Nixon nor the happy hawkishness championed by Ronald Reagan (both of whom Kennan abhorred). It partook, rather, of Burke’s chastened view of human nature, and of the declinism of Gibbon, and of the Social Darwinism of Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner—often manifested, in Kennan’s case, in casual and appalling prejudices. Above all, it echoed the brooding anti-modernism and civilizational despair of Henry Adams, to whom, fittingly, Kennan likened himself in the winter of his life. The architect of the policy of containment, it turns out, crafted the policy in defense of a country he never much liked, filled with citizens he by and large despised.

or the student of American foreign policy, Kennan’s accounts of dealing with his Russian counterparts, his arguments about strategy in the Korean War, and other such material all add up to a tremendous historical resource. But in the latter half of Kennan’s life, when his interactions with power were fleeting and usually ceremonial, what dominated the journals were heavy ruminations about life, career, and humankind. Sometimes these are provocative, sometimes petty, and over seven hundred pages they grow wearisome. Curiously, Kennan himself had a similar impression. “I have been reading over the diary entries from 1964-1984, and have derived little pride or satisfaction from the effort,” he writes in 1987. “Where they were not personally plaintive, they tended to be repetitive.”

What spoils the tedium, what compels fascination despite the monotony, are the astonishing outbursts of bigotry and misanthropy. Apparently, the value of these splendid rants against all manner of ethnic groups was lost on William Shawn, who by then had left The New Yorker and was an editor at what Kennan calls “the very Jewish firm of Straus & Farrar.”

Having been shown the diaries for possible publication, Shawn told Kennan’s (very Jewish) agent Harriet Wasserman that Kennan’s “German problem”—something of a cryptic phrase—was too toxic. Shawn appears to have been bothered that the journals were littered with disparaging comments about Jews and the Jewish people, although Kennan seems not to have noticed those asides in his own re-readings. “I have never been anti-Semitic,” he insists in response, with a breathtaking lack of self-awareness, “but I must admit that this episode brought me as close as I have ever been to becoming one.” (Ten years later he is still seeing Jewishness as only an anti-Semite would. “The scandal of Mr. Clinton’s relationship to his Jewish girl intern . ” one entry begins.) There is poetic justice in the likelihood that the publication of these diaries will do more to tarnish their author’s reputation than the publication of any collection of private writings since H. L. Mencken’s.

The diaries establish beyond any doubt that Kennan was given to gross and derogatory generalizations about virtually all foreign peoples. (Historians have known about Kennan’s ugly qualities, but the diaries lay it bare for any reader.) His belief in national character was strong, and if it led him to important insights about Russian behavior, much more often it led to repulsive and ill-informed slurs. The shockers start early. During his junior year at Princeton, he writes about a conversation with a friend called Army. “He half-converted me to his ‘extermination of the lower races’ idea,” Kennan writes. “I cannot see why it is wrong in principle.” As a twenty-eight-year-old Foreign Service officer, he remains convinced that the world’s problems are “essentially biological” in that “We have a group of more or less inferior races. No amount of education and discipline can effectively improve conditions as long as we allow the unfit to breed copiously and to preserve their young.” Nor does Kennan learn, in his long globe-trotting career, to see this rubbish for what it is. At the age of eighty, he is still confiding to his diary his enthusiasm for eugenics. “If I had my way. ” he muses, “Men having spawned more than 2 children will be compulsively sterilized. Planned Parenthood and voluntary sterilization will be in every way encouraged.” Policy planning indeed. (Immigration, too, “will be effectively terminated.”).

More Comments:

Rhya Turovsky - 12/21/2003

Unfortunately, now that Sadam Hussein has been captured which is good but bad for us democrats because the president holds it up as his achievement, it's hard to refute a victory over evil.

I know it's far from over, and we don't know what the outcome will be, but this war has taken on new momentum. Bush can now say: "See this dictator is in our hands and others will most likely follow." I can just see the Saudi Arabian dynasty follow, and they are the prime dictators.

Jim Hassinger - 3/28/2003

I think you simply have to see Kennan as a man of an historical moment. Truman was faced with two extremes: one, continue being allied with the Soviets -- not a viable alternative -- or pre-emptively bomb them into oblivion, as the conservatives of the era, and MacArthur and LeMay had in mind. Containment was a moderate, middle course. We would not be party to any further expansion of this particular slavery, nor would be inflict a nuclear nightmare on the world in order to liberate it.

In many ways, it was much like Lincoln's position on the slave states the underlying idea was to avoid the apocalypse by sitting down to a long siege of communism. Of course, there are those who insist that it would have been better had we followed MacArthur's advice, bombed China and unleashed Chiang-Kai Shek. Thank God for Kennan. We need another man like him to rescue us this time from the madness of the Perles and Wolfowitzes.

What is particularly wince-making in the modern conservative view of Kennan is that this was supposedly a losing, compromising strategy. It was compromise, but it won. In fact, St. Reagan, though he threatened to come up with a new policy, never did.

James Steidle - 3/14/2003

The comments made above don't seem to give Kennan credit. He has had good ideas, and many more of them than simple reading would suggest. Sure his ideas may have been inconsistent over the years, and tinged with utopianism. But is this a charge that one should be ashamed of? And besides, if we all appreciated nuclear weapons for what they are, and that is that they are no better than anthrax, the eradication of the weapons would not seem so utopian. What about kennan's observations of american society and the american city? These are highly relevant today, something he was onto long ago. As for the charge of him being a friend of authoritarianism, well this is just slightly a misstatement. Perhaps he values hierarchy, and the notion that a given set of rules and laws should exist to correct the flaws of humanity and the market, but that he is a friend of authoritarianism disrespects the fact that he abhored the authoritarianism of Stalin and the USSR. The one weakness with Kennan's ideas is that he is too committed to the national entity, when it is a global entity or community that is necessary to solve the worlds problems and rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Alec Lloyd - 9/30/2002

“If we had stopped testing, the greater part of the nuclear weaponry of all the countries who had signed the test ban treaty would have become inoperable in 20 or 30 years.”

Right. But what about the countries that DIDN’T sign the treaty? Or, what about countries that signed the treaty but then violated it? This smells strongly of either pie-in-the-sky utopianism or the old Soviet canard: "unilateral disarmament."

Kennan’s policy prescriptions are erratic at best. He wants us to consult Israel (because they know so much) but downplays the danger of Iraq developing atomic weapons because they’d be aimed at Israel.

Of course, Israel also has its own nukes, which may or may not act as a deterrent. If they did, why would Iraq bust its budget and bankrupt its people to develop a weapon deterrent theorists posit it cannot logically use?

Furthermore, why is it that the same people who carried “no nuke” bumper stickers on their VW busses are now not bothered in the least about a rabid dictator developing nuclear capability? Okay, maybe they are bothered, but not enough to do much more than send inspectors over to play a game of hide-the-pea until Saddam gets bored and kicks them out (again).

Kennan may have had a good idea 50 years ago, but he is sadly irrelevant.

Mark safranski - 9/30/2002

While we are nitpicking, who is " Keenan " ?

Mark safranski - 9/30/2002

Character assassination ? Try reading firsthand for yourself Kennan's memoirs. Or his articles on the Soviets. To say someone who expressed admiration in print for Germany of that time is somewhat of an admirer of authoritarianism is to my mind, rather mild. But then again for modern liberals, it is the party line of the moment that matters, not consistency. If Kennan had come out for the war I'm sure your position on him would be 180 degrees in the other direction.

It should have been " obliterate " - my mistake.

Alec Lloyd - 9/30/2002

Maybe the Soviet body count would have hit the hundred million mark? Maybe the Soviet Union might even still be around? Wouldn’t that be great!

Jerry West - 9/28/2002

The fact remains, it was his ideological support of Truman's violations of President Roosevelt's polcies of frienship with the Soviet Union that has lead to the militarization of our society.

Good point, though not related to the issue of Iraq. To take the point about US/USSR relations further than Keenan we can go all the way back to the Western/Japanese intervention in the USSR against the Red Army circa 1918-1925.

Who knows how history would have progressed had the rest of the world stayed out of their internal affairs instead of attacking them from day one.

Ephraim Schulman - 9/28/2002

September 28, 2002
It is nice to see that Kennan in his later years has shown signs of reasoning. Too bad it was not in evidence during his tenure while serving as an State Department apparatchik. The fact remains, it was his ideological support of Truman's violations of President Roosevelt's polcies of frienship with the Soviet Union that has lead to the militarization of our society. Sincerely,

Gus Moner - 9/27/2002

Well, after the 100 + word character assassination (why is that so imperatively a part of all conservative commentary?) I’ll anyway agree with your conclusion that Mr. Keenan at his advanced age has finally had “One high point of clarity”.

I cannot say more as I cannot locate ‘obliviate’ in any dictionary.

Mark safranski - 9/27/2002

Kennan, as is accurately pointed out in _The Fifty Year Wound_ , was in intellectual retreat from Containment almost from the moment of publication of his X article. One gets the impression,when reviewing his advice in the 1970's regarding the Soviets that he was in awe of the USSR and counseled accomodation to an unstoppable behemoth. Kennan also once very much admired the Prussian hierarchical-militarist values of pre-Nazi Germany. He's not much of a democrat personally nor particularly in tune with American as opposed to European ethos. One high point of clarity does not obliviate decades of bad advice.

George Kennan: the ‘Long Telegram’ (1946)

In February 1946, American diplomat George Kennan sent the State Department what later became known as the ‘Long Telegram’. In it he gave advise on the post-war Soviet Union and how the United States should formulate its foreign policy to Soviet actions in Europe:

“In summary, we have here a political force committed fanatically to the belief that with US there can be no permanent modus vivendi [way of coexisting] that it is desirable and necessary that the internal harmony of our society be disrupted, our traditional way of life be destroyed, the international authority of our state be broken, if Soviet power is to be secure.

This political force has complete power of disposition over energies of one of world’s greatest peoples and resources of world’s richest national territory, and is borne along by deep and powerful currents of Russian nationalism. In addition, it has an elaborate and far-flung apparatus for exertion of its influence in other countries, an apparatus of amazing flexibility and versatility, managed by people whose experience and skill in underground methods are presumably without parallel in history…

[The] problem of how to cope with this force in [is] undoubtedly greatest task our diplomacy has ever faced and probably greatest it will ever have to face. It should be point of departure from which our political general staff work at present juncture should proceed. It should be approached with same thoroughness and care as [a] solution of major strategic problem in war, and if necessary, with no smaller outlay in planning effort. I cannot attempt to suggest all answers here. But I would like to record my conviction that [the] problem is within our power to solve – and that without recourse to any general military conflict. And in support of this conviction there are certain observations of a more encouraging nature I should like to make:

1. Soviet power, unlike that of Hitlerite Germany, is neither schematic nor adventuristic. It does not work by fixed plans. It does not take unnecessary risks. Impervious to logic of reason, and it is highly sensitive to logic of force. For this reason it can easily withdraw – and usually does when strong resistance is encountered at any point. Thus if the adversary has sufficient force and makes clear his readiness to use it, he rarely has to do so. If situations are properly handled there need be no prestige-engaging showdowns.

2. Gauged against Western World as a whole, Soviets are still by far the weaker force. Thus their success will really depend on [the] degree of cohesion, firmness and vigour which [the] Western World can muster. And this is [the] factor which it is within our power to influence.

3. [The] success of Soviet system, as a form of internal power, is not yet finally proven. It has yet to be demonstrated that it can survive supreme test of successive transfer of power from one individual or group to another. Lenin’s death was [the] first such transfer, and its effects wracked Soviet state for 15 years. After Stalin’s death or retirement will be [the] second. But even this will not be final test…

4. All Soviet propaganda beyond Soviet security sphere is basically negative and destructive. It should therefore be relatively easy to combat it by any intelligent and really constructive program.

For those reasons, I think we may approach calmly and with good heart problem of how to deal with Russia. As to how this approach should be made, I only wish to advance, by way of conclusion, following comments:

1. Our first step must be to apprehend, and recognise for what it is, the nature of the movement with which we are dealing. We must study it with same courage, detachment, objectivity, and same determination not to be emotionally provoked or unseated by it, with which doctor studies unruly and unreasonable individual.

2. We must see that our public is educated to realities of Russian situation. I cannot over-emphasise [the] importance of this. [The] press cannot do this alone. It must be done mainly by [the] government, which is necessarily more experienced and better informed on practical problems involved. In this, we need not be deterred by [ugliness?] of picture. I am convinced that there would be far less hysterical anti-Sovietism in our country today if [the] realities of this situation were better understood by our people.

There is nothing as dangerous or as terrifying as the unknown. It may also be argued that to reveal more information on our difficulties with Russia would reflect unfavourably on Russian-American relations. I feel that if there is any real risk here involved, it is one which we should have courage to face, and sooner the better. But I cannot see what we would be risking. Our stake in this country, even coming on heels of tremendous demonstrations of our friendship for Russian people, is remarkably small. We have here no investments to guard, no actual trade to lose, virtually no citizens to protect, few cultural contacts to preserve. Our only stake lies in what we hope rather than what we have and I am convinced we have better chance of realising those hopes if our public is enlightened and if our dealings with Russians are placed entirely on realistic and matter-of-fact basis.

3. Much depends on [the] health and vigour of our own society. World communism is like [a] malignant parasite which feeds only on diseased tissue. This is point at which domestic and foreign policies meets every courageous and incisive measure to solve internal problems of our own society, to improve self-confidence, discipline, morale and community spirit of our own people, is a diplomatic victory over Moscow worth a thousand diplomatic notes and joint communiqués…

4. We must formulate and put forward for other nations a much more positive and constructive picture of sort of world we would like to see than we have put forward in [the] past. It is not enough to urge people to develop political processes similar to our own. Many foreign peoples, in Europe at least, are tired and frightened by experiences of past, and are less interested in abstract freedom than in security. They are seeking guidance rather than responsibilities. We should be better able than Russians to give them this. And unless we do, Russians certainly will.

5. Finally, we must have courage and self-confidence to cling to our own methods and conceptions of human society. After all, the greatest danger that can befall us in coping with this problem of Soviet communism, is that we shall allow ourselves to become like those with whom we are coping.”

The Creation of NATO

Acting deliberately (and at times aggressively) to involve itself in the border states of the world and prevent them from turning communist, the United States spearheaded a movement that would eventually lead to the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The group alliance represented a multi-national commitment to halting the spread of communism. In response, the Soviet Union signed an agreement called the Warsaw Pact with Poland, Hungary, Romania, East Germany, and several other nations.

George Kennan’s Containment Doctrine History Sample Essay



How did George Kennan’s containment doctrine change during the Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations? Which president was the most successful in containing Communism?

Containment was an official policy of the United States throughout the Cold War with the Soviet Union that was formulated by U.S. diplomat George F. Kennan in 1946. Containment was meant at halting the spread of communism in addition to ensuring that communism does not take hold of certain countries. The idea was the basis of U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War, with many presidents employing the policy for purposes of justifying various intervention of the United States across the world (Frazier 3). George Kennan’s Containment Doctrine History Sample Essay

How Kennan’s containment doctrine changed during the Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations

During the Truman administration, Kennan’s containment doctrine did not change a lot. In fact, it is like Truman believed in Kennan’s opinions. Truman worked hard to ensure that the Soviet Union was not expanding fast. In 1946 for instance, the Soviets tried extending their influence into Turkey and Iran, a move that was halted by the U.S. through diplomacy and a show of military might (Hirsch 158).

During the Eisenhower administration, the U.S. had begun consolidating the policy of containment by ratifying a series multilateral and bilateral treaties aimed at encircling the Soviet Union and its allies. The U.S. was now advocating for the liberation of states under external control (Frazier 7).

The Kennedy administration saw interesting shifts on Kennan’s containment ideas. By then, the U.S. was determined to fend off the interests of the Soviet Union in several countries by arming certain groups to fight with Soviet backed groups. Proxy wars were methods the U.S. used to assert its control (David 65). George Kennan’s Containment Doctrine History Sample Essay

The most successful president in containing communism

Truman is undoubtedly the most successful president, especially on grounds of containing communism. At the end of World War II, Truman announced that the U.S. would adopt containment as an official U.S. policy, and subsequently used it to prevent communism from spreading by authorizing financial aid to anti-communist forces in Turkey and Greece in addition to rebuilding a number of Western European economies destroyed in World War 11 (Dallek 78).

Containment was a U.S. policy aimed at halting the spread of communism. A number of presidents used the policy but none realized more success from using the policy than Harry Truman. George Kennan’s Containment Doctrine History Sample Essay

Dallek, Robert. “The Tyranny of Metaphor.” Foreign Policy, no. 182, Nov. 2010, pp. 78-85.

David, Andrew and Michael Holm. “The Kennedy Administration and the Battle over Foreign Aid: The Untold Story of the Clay Committee.” Diplomacy & Statecraft, vol. 27, no. 1, Mar. 2016, pp. 65-92.

Frazier, Robert. “Kennan, “Universalism,” and the Truman Doctrine.” Journal of Cold War Studies, vol. 11, no. 2, Spring2009, pp. 3-34.

Hirsch, Arnold R. “`Containment’ on the Home Front.” Journal of Urban History, vol. 26, no. 2, Jan. 2000, p. 158. George Kennan’s Containment Doctrine History Sample Essay

75 years ago, George Kennan, an American diplomat living in Moscow, sent an 8,000-word telegram to President Truman’s State Department. Today, “The Long Telegram” is regarded as a foundational U.S. document, right up there with the Declaration of Independence, The Federalist Papers and George Washington’s Farewell Address. As a sign of its enduring significance, the telegram’s 75th anniversary appears on top-ten lists of historic moments to note in 2021.

In his telegram to Washington, Kennan provided U.S. policy recommendations based on his analysis of the cultural and historical forces that shaped the motives of Soviet leaders and influenced Soviet conduct around the globe. Kennan asserted that the “problem of how to cope with [the Soviet] force in [is] undoubtedly greatest task our diplomacy has ever faced and probably greatest it will ever have to face. It should be point of departure from which our political general staff work at present juncture should proceed.” He was correct. Kennan’s Long Telegram spurred intellectual policy debate that formed the basis of American policy towards the Soviet Union for the next 25 years, including the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan.

Kennan’s original February 22, 1946 telegram is part of the historic holdings at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.

George Kennan’s Love of Russia Inspired His Legendary “Containment” Strategy

The enduring irony of George F. Kennan’s life was just how much the architect of America’s Cold War “containment” strategy—aimed at stopping Soviet expansionism—loved Russia. 

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Kennan arguably played a larger role in shaping the U.S.’s view of a major foreign power, and thus our relations with that power, than any other American in modern history. That the power in question was the Soviet Union, and the time in question the crucial period after World War II, made his outsized influence all the more remarkable.

He brought an authoritative blend of scholarship and experience to posts as diplomat, ambassador, State Department policy adviser, and Princeton-based professor—exerting his influence on American strategy from both inside and outside the government. For an entire generation of U.S. officials who guided the nation’s foreign policy in the Cold War, Kennan became the preeminent guide of all things Russia. His main legacy: Advising Americans how best to restrain the Soviet threat.

Yet despite the key role he played on the U.S. side of the adversarial relationship, Kennan was deeply enamoured with Russia. In diplomatic postings across Europe in the 1920s and 󈥾s, he mastered the language – “No American spoke Russian the way George did,” according to one colleague. Over the course of his long life (Kennan died in 2005, aged 101), he read and re-read the great works of 19th-century Russian literature and travelled the country as frequently and extensively as he could. While in London in May 1958, he went to see a performance of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and recorded a powerful reaction in his diary:

Seeing The Cherry Orchard stirred all the rusty, untuned strings of the past and of my own youth: Riga, and the Russian landscape, and the staggering, unexpected familiarity and convincingness of the Chekhovian world—it stirred up, in other words, my Russian self, which is entirely a Chekhovian one and much more genuine than the American one—and having all this prodded to the surface in me, I sat there blubbering like a child and trying desperately to keep the rest of the company from noticing it.

His Russian self and American self would make for uneasy Cold War companions. And although Kennan profoundly admired the nation, his heart ached for how Lenin and Stalin had so brutally altered its path.

Kennan’s warm feelings toward Russia were even known by Mikhail Gorbachev, who met Kennan in 1987 in Washington, D.C. and told him, “We in our country believe that a man may be the friend of another country and remain, at the same time, a loyal and devoted citizen of his own and that is the way we view you.” This recognition by an adversary made for a moment of profound personal satisfaction for the former diplomat.

Worldmaking: The Art and Science of American Diplomacy

Worldmaking is a compelling new take on the history of American diplomacy. Rather than retelling the story of realism versus idealism, David Milne suggests that U.S. foreign policy has also been crucially divided between those who view statecraft as an art and those who believe it can aspire to the certainty of science.

Kennan was best known to most Americans as the Cold War’s Paul Revere who sounded the alarm in 1946 that the Soviets were coming (into Central and Western Europe). Frustrated by the Truman administration’s inability to appreciate the magnitude of the threat posed by Stalin’s Soviet Union, the then American charge d’affaires in Moscow cabled Washington in what was to become the most famous communication in the history of the State Department. In his nearly 6,000-word “long telegram,” the diplomat emphasized that the Soviet Union saw no path to permanent peaceful coexistence with the capitalist world. Stalin—fuelled by nationalism, deep-set fears of external attack, and Marxist-Leninist ideology—was determined to expand his nation’s power. But, Kennan explained, the Soviets were weak, and if the Western World made it clear they would put up a strong resistance at any incursion, the opportunistic menace could be contained.

The telegram’s impact was profound. Circulated quickly and widely, it was read by the secretaries of War and the Navy, and later by President Truman himself. It became required reading for senior members of the armed forces and was also cabled to America’s embassies and missions abroad. The sheer force of the argument persuaded many in power in part, as one Truman aide remarked, because “Kennan tied everything together, wrapped it in a neat package, and put a red bow around it.”

Kennan was recalled to Washington in May 1946 and made Deputy Commandant for Foreign Affairs at the National War College. Ten months later, writing anonymously under the letter “X,” Kennan published an essay in Foreign Affairs titled “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” that elaborated on his long telegram’s diagnoses and recommendations, this time for a public audience. Mr. X, as the author became known, compared the Soviet Union to a wind-up toy that would move relentlessly in a particular direction unless a barrier was placed in its way. He pulled from his extensive knowledge of Russian history to create a psychological profile of a totalitarian regime where truth was fluid and worldviews were informed by “centuries of obscure battles between nomadic forces over the stretches of a vast fortified plain” and assaults over the centuries from Mongol hordes from the East and Napoleon’s and Hitler’s formidable armies from the West. These memories of death and destruction melded with an expansionist communist worldview. The result was a state determined, no matter how long it took, to amass a powerful empire that would protect the motherland from any enemy.  In other words, there was to be no meaningful engagement with this Russia for a long time to come.

To restrain Moscow, Kennan advised that “the main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.” This sentence was to become his policy legacy. Finally, here was a compromise between an all-out war of superpowers and a passive peace strategy that would invite opportunistic Soviet aggression. Be patient. Show strength. Wait for the inevitable fall. In addition to then President Truman, who put this strategy into full force as the Cold War began, eight more presidents would go on to subscribe to variations of this seminal policy.

Although he continues to be best known for his advocacy of containment, it is important to note that Kennan largely intended it to keep communist incursions out of Western Europe and Japan via non-military means: economic aid, propaganda, political warfare. This vision was played out in policies such as the Marshall Plan, which he played a key role in designing as the first-ever head of the State Department’s Office of Policy Planning. His narrowly tailored vision of containment, as we now know, didn’t last. From the end of the Korean War to the fall of the Berlin Wall, Kennan consistently criticized the ways in which his policy was hijacked—from justifying militarized containment of low-stakes countries like Vietnam to defending the anti-Russian flames fanned by demagogic McCarthyites to being used to rabble-rouse ordinary Americans into supporting the nuclear arms build-up under Reagan. Though he continued to weigh in on major foreign policy debates from posts as U.S. ambassador and as a scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study, he lost most of these battles.

Even after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kennan continued bemoaning what he considered the misappropriation of his views. In an op-ed for The New York Times in 1997, for example, Kennan prophetically warned that Bill Clinton’s eastward expansion of NATO would be a fateful error. The move to include Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic in the Cold War-era military alliance, he wrote, would only serve “to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion.”

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Austin Frerick, who launched a bid for Iowa’s third congressional district on an antimonopoly platform, dropped out when party leaders made it clear that they preferred his better-funded opponents. Photo courtesy of Austin Frerick.

Early voting locations in the Indianapolis metro area in 2016, via IndyStar.

An Eritrean refugee in Khartoum. Photo by John Power.

Khartoum as seen from the river Nile. Photo by John Power.

Common migration routes from East Africa to Europe. Route information adapted from the International Organization for Migration, August 2015, by Colin Kinniburgh. Countries party to the Khartoum process are shaded in orange (note: not all shown on this map).

At the 1936 International Conference of Business Cycle Institutes, sponsored by the Austrian Institute for Business Cycle Research, Vienna. Ludwig von Mises is seated in the center with mustache and cigarette. Gottfried Haberler also pictured, at right. (Source)

In 1896, William Jennings Bryan, a Democrat from Nebraska, ran for president on a fusion ticket with the Populist Party. This cartoonist from a Republican magazine thought the “Popocratic” ticket was too ideologically mismatched to win. Bryan did lose, but his campaign, the first of three he waged for the White House, transformed the Democrats into an anti-corporate, pro-labor party. Cartoon from Judge (1896) via Library of Congress

Sketch for a 1976 poster by the New York Wages for Housework Committee (MayDay Rooms / Creative Commons)

Keith Vaughan, “Drawing of a seated male nude,” 1949. Courtesy the estate of Keith Vaughan / Creative Commons.

Political strategist Jessica Byrd. Courtesy of Three Points Strategies.

Stacey Abrams, Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives and Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia. Photo courtesy of David Kidd/Governing.

A drawing made for the author by a five-year-old girl in detention at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas (Courtesy of Nara Milanich)

A drawing made for the author by a five-year-old girl in detention at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas (Courtesy of Nara Milanich)

A drawing made for the author by a five-year-old girl in detention at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas (Courtesy of Nara Milanich)

Mayor Bill de Blasio inaugurates a new bus line in the Bronx, September 2017 (New York City Department of Transportation / Flickr)

Luxury condominium towers under construction in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 2013 (Michael Tapp / Flickr)

Hydrocarbons from the Williams Central compressor, photographed with a FLIR thermal imaging camera and a normal digital camera, Brooklyn Township, Pennsylvania, 2014. © Nina Berman/Marcellus Shale Documentary Project 2014.

Composite of drilling rig image from Rome, Pennsylvania and hundreds of images taken by a Hop Bottom, Pennsylvania resident of the volume of truck traffic passing in front of a neighbor’s home over four days of the operation of a nearby shale gas well pad. © Nina Berman/Marcellus Shale Documentary Project 2015.

The nightmare situations preppers imagine are already happening—to people whose wealth and status don’t protect them. Above, Hurricane Maria relief efforts in Puerto Rico, October 2017 (Agustín Montañez / National Guard)

From the music video for “Unforgettable,” by French Montana, featuring Swae Lee (FrenchMontanaVEVO / Youtube)

Wizkid performing at Royal Albert Hall, London, September 2017 (Michael Tubi / Alamy Live News)

The cover of L’antinorm, published by the Homosexual Front for Revolutionary Action (FHAR), February 1973. The subtitle reads “Workers of the world, stroke yourselves!”

Jair Bolsonaro, at a debate about violence against women in Brazil’s chamber of deputies, September 2016. Photo by Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil.

Jair Bolsonaro, at a debate about violence against women in Brazil’s chamber of deputies, September 2016. Photo by Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil.

The front page of the Canard, February 28, 2018. Courtesy of Le Canard enchaîné.

Selling drugs in the shadow of an abandoned factory, North Philadelphia. Photo by George Karandinos.

Bundle of $10 bags of heroin. Photo by Fernando Montero Castrillo.

On a dilapidated Havana street, an elderly man searches through the garbage. February 2018, Havana, Cuba. Photo by David Himbert / Hans Lucas Studio.

A state employee reads the newspaper at the reception of the Defense Committee of the Revolution (CDR). March 2016, Havana, Cuba. Photo by David Himbert / Hans Lucas Studio.

A street vendor selling tropical fruits in front of a Benetton shop in Old Havana. May 2017, Havana, Cuba. Photo by David Himbert / Hans Lucas Studio.

At the University of Bristol, February 28 (Bristol UCU / Facebook)

Students rally in support of the lecturers’ strike, February 23 (Bristol UCU / Facebook)

AMLO mural in Mexico City, 2007 (Randal Sheppard / Flickr)

MORENA supporters at a rally in Itzapalapa, Mexico City, April 2015 (Eneas De Troya / Flickr)

Audience members waiting for the program to begin at a MORENA rally, March 2016 (Eneas De Troya / Flickr)

MORENA supporter leafletting against energy reforms, 2013 (Eneas De Troya / Flickr)

Andrés Manuel López Obrador on the campaign trail during his previous presidential run, May 2012 (Arturo Alfaro Galán)

Courtesy of Robert Greene

At a protest against the alleged Pizzagate conspiracy, Washington, D.C., March 25, 2017 (Blink O’fanaye / Flickr)

The Kurds

[W]hen we refer to all Kurdish fighters synonymously, we simply blur the fact that they have very different politics. . . right now, yes, the people are facing the Islamic State threat, so it&rsquos very important to have a unified focus. But the truth is, ideologically and politically these are very, very different systems. Actually almost opposite to each other. —Dilar Dirik, &ldquoRojava vs. the World,&rdquo February 2015

The Kurds, who share ethnic and cultural similarities with Iranians and are mostly Muslim by religion (largely Sunni but with many minorities), have long struggled for self-determination. After World War I, their lands were divided up between Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. In Iran, though there have been small separatist movements, Kurds are mostly subjected to the same repressive treatment as everyone else (though they also face Persian and Shi&rsquoite chauvinism, and a number of Kurdish political prisoners were recently executed). The situation is worse in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, where the Kurds are a minority people subjected to ethnically targeted violations of human rights.

Iraq: In 1986–89, Saddam Hussein conducted a genocidal campaign in which tens of thousands were murdered and thousands of Kurdish villages destroyed, including by bombing and chemical warfare. After the first Gulf War, the UN sought to establish a safe haven in parts of Kurdistan, and the United States and UK set up a no-fly zone. In 2003, the Kurdish peshmerga sided with the U.S.-led coalition against Saddam Hussein. In 2005, after a long struggle with Baghdad, the Iraqi Kurds won constitutional recognition of their autonomous region, and the Kurdistan Regional Government has since signed oil contracts with a number of Western oil companies as well as with Turkey. Iraqi Kurdistan has two main political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), both clan-based and patriarchal.

Turkey: For much of its modern history, Turkey has pursued a policy of forced assimilation towards its minority peoples this policy is particularly stringent in the case of the Kurds—until recently referred to as the &ldquomountain Turks&rdquo—who make up 20 percent of the total population. The policy has included forced population transfers a ban on use of the Kurdish language, costume, music, festivals, and names and extreme repression of any attempt at resistance. Large revolts were suppressed in 1925, 1930, and 1938, and the repression escalated with the formation of the PKK as a national liberation party, resulting in civil war in the Kurdish region from 1984 to 1999.

Syria: Kurds make up perhaps 15 percent of the population and live mostly in the northeastern part of Syria. In 1962, after Syria was declared an Arab republic, a large number of Kurds were stripped of their citizenship and declared aliens, which made it impossible for them to get an education, jobs, or any public benefits. Their land was given to Arabs. The PYD was founded in 2003 and immediately banned its members were jailed and murdered, and a Kurdish uprising in Qamishli was met with severe military violence by the regime. When the uprising against Bashar al Assad began as part of the Arab Spring, Kurds participated, but after 2012, when they captured Kobani from the Syrian army, they withdrew most of their energy from the war against Assad in order to set up a liberated area. For this reason, some other parts of the Syrian resistance consider them Assad&rsquos allies. The Kurds in turn cite examples of discrimination against them within the opposition.

Watch the video: Henry Kissinger: how Biden should handle China. The Economist (July 2022).


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  3. Shai

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  4. Crosly

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  5. Devine

    This idea is outdated

  6. Dogor

    Is completely in vain.

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