Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
March 21, 2005
HISTORY: Kennan

I can't let pass without comment the death, at the ripe old age of 101, of George Frost Kennan, the great foreign policy analyst and author of the concept of "containment" of the Soviet Union. Kennan was one of the giants - he wasn't always right but he was hugely influential and incisive. You can read his NY Times obit here, plus more from David Adesnik here and Daniel Drezner here. I spent more time reading Kennan than almost any other academic writer in high school and college, especially his work on the peace of Versailles and the unsuccessful U.S. intervention in Russia during the Russian Revolution, the subject of my senior thesis in college. Kennan was an unsparing critic of Woodrow Wilson's impractical idealism, and a lively reconstructor of the Russian and American scenes of the era.

I wouldn't, as Instapundit does, call him "the Wolfowitz of the Cold War," given that Kennan spent more of his time battling hawks (like Paul Nitze, who also only died only recently) than doves; Kennan was mortified by the extent to which containment developed into an active military policy. Kennan's cold-blooded realism hasn't worn well over time, although I'll admit that I found his view initially appealing. One insight Kennan gets too little credit for is his prediction, from the very outset of the Cold War, that the internal tensions of the many nationalities within the Soviet Union would eventually tear the USSR apart.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:27 AM | History | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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