[extropy-chat] George F. Kennan (politics)

Amara Graps amara at amara.com
Tue Aug 24 17:59:50 UTC 2004

Recommended to me from an old JPL friend at our Cassini VIMS
meeting in Denver last week. Here is some interesting reading
that has a lot of relevance to the political situation today.

"Mr. X Speaks: An Interview with George Kennan" (PDF)

George F. Kennan on the Web


Portrait of Kennan by Ned Seidler Russil Wvong / History, politics,
and the future / George F. Kennan

{begin quote}
George F. Kennan (b. 1904), a distinguished US diplomat and historian,
was one of the primary architects of US strategy during the Truman
Administration. He's Professor Emeritus at the Institute for Advanced
Study in Princeton, New Jersey.

Kennan is one of the most thoughtful and eloquent writers I've ever
come across, not just on history, international politics, and
US-Russian relations, but on American society, questions of personal
and political philosophy, and contemporary problems such as nuclear
weapons, the environment, population growth, and urbanization. For
such a distinguished man, he's also remarkably humble.

The role that Kennan played in shaping US postwar strategy-along with
his colleagues, including George Marshall, Dean Acheson, Charles
Bohlen, Loy Henderson, and John Paton Davies Jr.-makes his writings
particularly fascinating. Before World War II, the US had the foreign
policy of a "small, neutral nation." After World War II, with the
collapse of the European powers, the US found itself confronting the
Soviet Union, which set up puppet governments in occupied Eastern
Europe and appeared to be threatening a shattered Western Europe as
well. Kennan articulated the strategy of patient, long-term
"containment" of the Soviet Union, and in particular, the
re-establishing of a stable balance of power by rebuilding Western
Europe and Japan. As first director of the State Department's Policy
Planning Staff from 1947 to 1950, under Marshall and Acheson, Kennan
was responsible for long-term planning. He played a major role in both
the Marshall Plan and the rebuilding of Japan, as well as overall US
strategy towards the Soviet Union. Less laudably, Kennan also played a
significant role in launching the CIA's covert operations, which he
later described as "the greatest mistake I ever made." He didn't have
much to say about policy towards the Third World, where he thought
that in any case, the US could not do much to help; he advocated
restraint, particularly in the case of China. (Wilson Miscamble's
George F. Kennan and the Making of American Foreign Policy, 1947-1950
provides a detailed analysis of Kennan's influence on US policy

Over time, Kennan became increasingly pessimistic about the ability of
the US to follow a realistic, sensitive, and discriminating foreign
policy, and to maintain the basic health of US society. In Kennan's
view, US foreign policy suffers to a deplorable degree from confusion,
ignorance, narcissism, escapism, and irresponsibility. He left the
State Department in the early 1950s and joined the Institute for
Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, hoping to educate the US
public and US policymakers by illuminating the history of US-Soviet
relations. He also spoke frequently on contemporary problems,
particularly the nuclear arms race. Now that the Cold War has,
astonishingly, ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kennan
argues (e.g. in Around the Cragged Hill) that the US ought to limit
its foreign policy to maintaining its alliances with Western Europe
and Japan, and ought to focus on addressing its pressing domestic

This page provides links to writings by and about George Kennan that
are available on the Internet. Some articles (notably those provided
by the New York Times and the New York Review of Books) require
registration or subscription.

{end quote}


Take a look at the section: "2. Reports, articles, lectures, interviews"
in particular,

* the famous: 'X Paper'

The political personality of Soviet power as we know it today is the
product of ideology and circumstances: ideology inherited by the
present Soviet leaders from the movement in which they had their
political origin, and circumstances of the power which they now have
exercised for nearly three decades in Russia. There can be few tasks
of psychological analysis more difficult than to try to trace the
interaction of these two forces and the relative role of each in the
determination of official Soviet conduct, yet the attempt must be made
if that conduct is to be understood and effectively countered.



* the 'Long Telegram'

February 22, 1946. Published in Foreign Relations of the United
States, 1946, vol. VI. US policymakers had been hoping to continue
their partnership with the Soviet Union after World War II, and were
puzzled as to why the Soviet Union was being so uncooperative, even
hostile. Kennan's Long Telegram from the Moscow Embassy explained the
Soviet view of the world. It struck a chord and was widely distributed
within the Truman Administration.



Amara Graps, PhD          email: amara at amara.com
Computational Physics     vita:  ftp://ftp.amara.com/pub/resume.txt
Multiplex Answers         URL:   http://www.amara.com/
"It's not the pace of life I mind. It's the sudden stop at the end."

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