Friday, March 18, 2005

George F. Kennan, 1904-2005

An Ahab’s moment of silence for George F. Kennan, a giant of 20th century geopolitical strategy and the architect of the “containment” strategy that arguably was responsible for bringing down the Soviet Union. I’m looking forward to reading his official biography, authored by my undergrad thesis advisor, John Lewis Gaddis. JLG had been meeting with Kennan for the last 20-odd years in preparation for writing the book, under the condition that nothing be published until after Kennan’s death. It's quite a life to document: two Pulitzer Prizes, the Long Telegram, and decades of diplomatic service. For all that, Gaddis says that Kennan "saw himself as a literary figure. He would have loved to have been a poet, a novelist." Oxblog's David Adesnik has a nice short piece-cum-obit on Kennan's opposition to "democracy promotion" abroad, an especially hot topic given recent events, and summarizes the misconceptions about his policy of containment. In any case, humanity has lost a great one.


Blogger Lewis Mumford said...


I recall reading his reading his NSC68 in second year IR. The remarkable thing about that period was how little Western policy makers knew about the Soviets. Yet his observation about how the rigidity of the Soviet regime was destined to result in its demise was prescient.

Dean in Toronto tommorow. I still have my Canadians for Dean button.

4:25 PM  

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