Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Remembering a great historian after 5 years

Dr. George Frost Kennan, Sir you have a great resume, you were an advisor, diplomat, political scientist and historian. You are considered to be the father of "containment" and a key figure in the Cold War, its been a pleasure to read your books, I truly admired them, you are a great mind and thanks for being part in American History, remembering you after 5 years, may you rest in peace!

George Frost Kennan:

(February 16, 1904 – March 17, 2005) was an American advisor, diplomat, political scientist, and historian, best known as "the father of containment" and as a key figure in the emergence of the Cold War. He later wrote standard histories of the relations between Russia and the Western powers.

In the late 1940s, his writings inspired the Truman Doctrine and the U.S. foreign policy of "containing" the Soviet Union, thrusting him into a lifelong role as a leading authority on the Cold War. His "Long Telegram" from Moscow in 1946, and the subsequent 1947 article "The Sources of Soviet Conduct" argued that the Soviet regime was inherently expansionist and that its influence had to be "contained" in areas of vital strategic importance to the United States.

These texts quickly emerged as foundational texts of the Cold War, expressing the Truman administration's new anti-Soviet Union policy. Kennan also played a leading role in the development of definitive Cold War programs and institutions, most notably the Marshall Plan.

Shortly after the diploma had been enshrined as official U.S. policy, Kennan began to criticize the policies that he had seemingly helped launch. By mid-1948, he was convinced that the situation in Western Europe had improved to the point where negotiations could be initiated with Moscow. The suggestion did not resonate within the Truman administration, and Kennan's influence was increasingly marginalized—particularly after Dean Acheson was appointed Secretary of State in 1949.

As U.S. Cold War strategy assumed a more aggressive and militaristic tone, Kennan bemoaned what he called a misinterpretation of his thinking.
In 1950, Kennan left the Department of State, except for two brief ambassadorial stints in Moscow and Yugoslavia, and became a leading realist critic of U.S. foreign policy. He continued to be a leading thinker in international affairs as a faculty member of the Institute for Advanced Study from 1956 until his death at age 101 in March 2005.

Academic career and later life
After the end of his brief ambassadorial post in Yugoslavia in 1963, Kennan spent the rest of his life in academia, becoming a leading realist critic of U.S. foreign policy. Having spent 18 months as a scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study between 1950 and 1952, Kennan permanently joined the faculty of the Institute's School of Historical Studies in 1956.

During his career there, Kennan wrote seventeen books and scores of articles on international relations. He won the Pulitzer Prize for history, the National Book Award, the Bancroft Prize and the Francis Parkman Prize for Russia Leaves the War, published in 1956. He again won a Pulitzer and a National Book Award in 1968 for Memoirs, 1925–1950.

A second volume, taking his reminiscences up to 1963, was published in 1972. Among his other works were American Diplomacy 1900–1950, Sketches from a Life, published in 1989, and Around the Cragged Hill in 1993.

His properly historical works amount to a six-volume account of the relations between Russia (whether the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union) and the West from 1875 to his own time; the period from 1894 to 1914 was planned, but never completed.

He was chiefly concerned with: the folly of the First World War as a choice of policy; he argues that the costs of modern war, direct and indirect, predictably exceeded the benefits of removing the Hohenzollerns. The ineffectiveness of summit diplomacy, with the Conference of Versailles as a type-case. National leaders have, and had, too much to do to give any single matter the constant and flexible attention which diplomatic problems require.

The Allied intervention in Russia of 1918–19. He was indignant with Soviet accounts of a vast capitalist conspiracy against the world's first worker's state, some of which do not even mention the World War; he was equally indignant with the decision to intervene, as costly, harmful, and counterproductive. He argues that the interventions may in fact, by arousing Russian nationalism, have ensured the survival of the Bolshevik state.

Kennan's historical writings, and his memoirs, lament in great detail the failings of democratic foreign policymakers and those of the United States in particular. According to Kennan, when American policymakers suddenly confronted the Cold War, they had inherited little more than rationale and rhetoric "utopian in expectations, legalistic in concept, moralistic in [the] demand it seemed to place on others, and self-righteous in the degree of high-mindedness and rectitude... to ourselves".

The source of the problem, according to Kennan, is the force of public opinion, a force that is inevitably unstable, unserious, subjective, emotional, and simplistic. As a result, Kennan has insisted that the U.S. public can only be united behind a foreign policy goal on the "primitive level of slogans and jingoistic ideological inspiration".

Containment, to George Kennan in 1967, when he published the first volume of his memoirs, involved something other than the use of military "counterforce". He was never pleased that the policy he influenced was associated with the arms build-up of the Cold War. In his memoirs, Kennan argued that containment did not demand a militarized U.S. foreign policy. Instead, "counterforce" implied the political and economic defense of Western Europe against the disruptive effect of the war on European society.

Exhausted by war, the Soviet Union posed no serious military threat to the United States or its allies at the beginning of the Cold War, Kennan argued, but rather a strong ideological and political rival. In the 1960s, Kennan criticized U.S. involvement in Indochina, arguing that the United States had little vital interest in the region.

In Kennan's view, the Soviet Union, Britain, Germany, Japan, and North America remained the arenas of vital U.S. interests. In the 1970s and 1980s, he emerged as a leading critic of the renewed arms race as détente was breaking down. In 1989, President George H.W. Bush awarded Kennan the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

Yet, he remained a realist critic of recent U.S. presidents, urging, in particular, the U.S. government to "withdraw from its public advocacy of democracy and human rights". "This whole tendency to see ourselves as the center of political enlightenment and as teachers to a great part of the rest of the world strikes me as unthought-through, vainglorious and undesirable", he said in an interview with the New York Review of Books in 1999. "I would like to see our government gradually withdraw from its public advocacy of democracy and human rights. I submit that governments should deal with other governments as such, and should avoid unnecessary involvement, particularly personal involvement, with their leaders."

These ideas were particularly applicable, he said, to U.S. relations with China and Russia. Kennan opposed the Clinton administration's war in Kosovo as well as its expansion of NATO (the establishment of which he had also opposed half a century earlier), expressing largely unrealized fears that both policies would worsen relations with Russia. He described NATO enlargement as a "strategic blunder of potentially epic proportions".

Kennan remained vigorous and alert in the last years of his life, although arthritis had him confined to a wheelchair. In his later years, Kennan concluded that "the general effect of Cold War extremism was to delay rather than hasten the great change that overtook the Soviet Union".

At age 98, he warned of the unforeseen consequences of waging war against Iraq. He warned that launching an attack on Iraq would amount to waging a second war that "bears no relation to the first war against terrorism" and declared efforts by the Bush administration to link al Qaeda with Saddam Hussein "pathetically unsupportive and unreliable". Kennan went on to warn:

Anyone who has ever studied the history of American diplomacy, especially military diplomacy, knows that you might start in a war with certain things on your mind as a purpose of what you are doing, but in the end, you found yourself fighting for entirely different things that you had never thought of before... In other words, war has a momentum of its own and it carries you away from all thoughtful intentions when you get into it. Today, if we went into Iraq, like the president would like us to do, you know where you begin. You never know where you are going to end.

In February 2004, scholars, diplomats, and Princeton alumni gathered at the university's campus to celebrate Kennan's 100th birthday. Among those in attendance was then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, international relations theorist John Mearsheimer, journalist Chris Hedges, former ambassador and career Foreign Service Officer Jack F. Matlock, Jr., and Kennan's official biographer, John Lewis Gaddis.

Death and legacy
Kennan died on March 17, 2005 at age 101 at his home in Princeton. He was survived by his wife, Annelise, whom he married in 1931, and his four children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

In an obituary in The New York Times, Kennan was described as "the American diplomat who did more than any other envoy of his generation to shape United States policy during the cold war," to whom "the White House and the Pentagon turned when they sought to understand the Soviet Union after World War II".

Of Kennan, historian Wilson D. Miscamble remarked that "[o]ne can only hope that present and future makers of foreign policy might share something of his integrity and intelligence".

Foreign Policy described Kennan as "the most influential diplomat of the 20th century". Henry Kissinger said that Kennan "came as close to authoring the diplomatic doctrine of his era as any diplomat in our history", while Colin Powell called Kennan "our best tutor" in dealing with the foreign policy issues of the 21st century.

During his career, Kennan received a number of awards and honors. As a scholar and writer, Kennan was a two-time recipient of both the Pulitzer Prizes and the National Book Award, and had also received the Francis Parkman Prize, the Ambassador Book Award and the Bancroft Prize.

Among Kennan's numerous other awards and distinctions were the Testimonial of Loyal and Meritorious Service from the Department of State (1953), Princeton's Woodrow Wilson Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Nation's Service (1976), the Order of the Pour le Mérite (1976), the Albert Einstein Peace Prize (1981), the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade(1982), the American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal (1984), the Franklin D. Roosevelt Foundation Freedom from Fear Medal (1987), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1989), the Distinguished Service Award from the Department of State (1994), and the Library of Congress Living Legend (2000). Kennan had also received 29 honorary degrees and was honored in his name with the George F. Kennan Chair in National Security Strategy at the National War College and the George F. Kennan Professorship at the Institute for Advanced Study.

Historian Wilson D. Miscamble argues that Kennan played a critical role in shaping the foreign policies of the Truman administration. He also states that Kennan did not hold a vision for either global or strongpoint containment; he simply wanted to restore the balance of power between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Like historian John Lewis Gaddis, Miscamble concedes that although Kennan personally preferred political containment, his recommendations ultimately resulted in a policy directed more towards strongpoint than to global containment

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