Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Holbrook on Kennan

Richard Holbrooke writes a pretty fair assesment of George F. Kennan and explains why he almost always disagreed with him. And that is quite revealing. He sees Kennan as "not the brilliant architect of containment but an eloquent skeptic, forcing people in power to make sure their easy justifications stood up before his polite but ferocious criticism." Kennan was always bemused that his doctrine of containment inspired the heardheaded power politics that shaped the cold war. Holbrook shows us Kennan’s great flaw. He writes that Acheson had Kennan right: Achison said that Kennan reminded him of his father’s old horse who, when crossing wooden bridges, would make a lot of noise, then stop, alarmed by the racket he had caused. Kennan will be remembered as a footnote--not as a cause--to the policy of containment.

Discussions - 2 Comments

re: Kennan and containment.

I’d like to find a written record of the argument(s) that Kennan and others must have carried with those that believed the USSR needed to be stopped then (not contained) - before 100 million souls were lost and more than a billion livetimes of human advancement and productivity were wasted and enslaved to creating a marxist heaven-on-earth.

Seems a poor trade. Given the maelevolent earth we live on some of us might just have been saved by one or more of those now lost lives. Likely many more than the losses we’d endured to fight the good war to free those captive peoples.

Someday I think we will find historians will consider Kennan and his kind as shortsighted and selfish. A proof that pragmatism is a poor substitute for principle.

IIRC, Kennan quit the govt fairly soon after the "X" article and then basically sniped rhetorically at containment from the academic world (he came back to public service for a stint as US ambassador to Yugoslavia under JFK). Kennan, as I noted on another thread, was against the formation of NATO. A brilliant man in some ways, but with a huge streak of unseriousness.

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