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March 18, 2005

Kaddish for Kennan

Centenarian George F. Kennan has died. Historically astute readers will know his as the author of the "containment" doctrine, which essentially guided our foreign policy through the Cold War. What most won't know, what I didn't know, is that Kennan felt his strategy significantly overapplied. As he conceived of it, containment was meant to protect a few spots of great national interest, not become a global policy to plug socialism wherever it uncorked. If we'd followed him, then, there would have been no Vietnam, no Bay of Pigs, fewer national embarrassments. It's all quite interesting. So read the LA Times' excellent obituary, it's a history lesson unto itself.

March 18, 2005 | Permalink

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» Cold warrior from Miniver Cheevy
I'd been thinking just the other day about finding something good about him and linking it here --- you may recall that I was kvetching about Republicans repeatedly claiming that Reagan won the Cold War. It wasn't Reagan. It was Kennan. [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 18, 2005 6:12:34 PM

Comments

"I am startled to note the bleakness of the impressions of my own country…. I view the United States of these last years of the 20th century as essentially a tragic country, endowed with magnificent natural resources which it is rapidly wasting and exhausting, and with an intellectual and artistic intelligentsia of great talent and originality of which the dominant political forces of the country have little understanding or regard. Its voice is normally silenced or outshouted by the commercial media. It is probably condemned to remain indefinitely, like the Russian intelligentsia in the 19th century, a helpless spectator of the disturbing course of a nation's life."

Amen, bro.

Posted by: sprocket | Mar 18, 2005 4:54:11 PM

Sprocket

That passage you have copied ranks high in the list of most self-important things I have ever read.

Now I'm sure everyone here will disagree but I don't think "containment" defeated Soviet communism (which reached it's high point in the late 70s). I would suggest that it was The Sainted One (that is Mr Reagan to the rest of you) who should have a slice of the credit.

My first witness.....N Sharansky, former Soviet dissident and present Israeli politican.

Posted by: Boethius | Mar 18, 2005 8:30:48 PM

Look at this passage: "Kennan argued that the Soviets dismissed and held in contempt the idea that international agreements must be respected or given the stature of law. Josef Stalin and his negotiators, he believed, would invariably seek to turn all negotiations and treaties to their advantage and were unlikely to honor past agreements if they felt such treaties were not in their best interests."

who else do we know who holds the idea of international agreements in contempt? We are truly becoming our enemies.

Posted by: Jeromy | Mar 19, 2005 8:48:17 AM

Jeromy

That's a good issue raised.

I'm sure your referring to GWB but forgive me for not answering your point directly as I'm not sure of the details either for or against but I do think you've picked up on something historically important:

Stalin, and other communists, never felt any obligation to respect treaties.
Hitler - I have no further demands.....
Kaiser Bill - Scrap of paper (German guarantee of Belgian independence).

Of course in the Western World we tend to uphold treaties, perhaps because we've brought in a legalistic environment. Maybe lawyers have some use after all.....

Posted by: Boethius | Mar 19, 2005 5:06:57 PM

the blogger roger ailes also posted the ny times' obit on kennan. very good.

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