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George Kennan

George Kennan

Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    George Kennan
    Book Description:

    A man of impressive mental powers, of extraordinary intellectual range, and-last but not least-of exceptional integrity, George Frost Kennan (1904-2005) was an adviser to presidents and secretaries of state, with a decisive role in the history of this country (and of the entire world) for a few crucial years in the 1940s, after which he was made to retire; but then he became a scholar who wrote seventeen books, scores of essays and articles, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir. He also wrote remarkable public lectures and many thousands of incisive letters, laying down his pen only in the hundredth year of his life.Having risen within the American Foreign Service and been posted to various European capitals, and twice to Moscow, Kennan was called back to Washington in 1946, where he helped to inspire the Truman Doctrine and draft the Marshall Plan. Among other things, he wrote the "X" or "Containment" article for which he became, and still is, world famous (an article which he regarded as not very important and liable to misreading). John Lukacs describes the development and the essence of Kennan's thinking; the-perhaps unavoidable-misinterpretations of his advocacies; his self-imposed task as a leading realist critic during the Cold War; and the importance of his work as a historian during the second half of his long life.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18095-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. ONE A Lonely Youth
    (pp. 1-20)

    When George Kennan was born, in 1904, there were about eighty-one million Americans. When he died, one hundred and one years later, there were about two hundred and eighty million: so many more, and a different people, and a different country. When this book is published I fear that to the vast majority of Americans his name will be unknown. This is, and will remain, regrettable. He was an extraordinary man, who not only represented but incarnated some of the best and finest traits of American character. Evidences of that make up the substance of this book.

    There are great...

  4. TWO In the Foreign Service
    (pp. 21-71)

    George Kennan left Princeton at the age of twenty-one. He was younger than most of his classmates. His grades were average. (His best grade was in history.) He was not at all certain of what he would do, where he would go for a career. In his class yearbook the entry for future occupation read: “unknown.” He had been thinking of law school, but that impulse weakened. There is some evidence that he thought law school would cost too much. Yet he had, perhaps for the first time, a modest financial leeway: he now got some money which his mother...

  5. THREE First Officer on the Bridge of the Ship of State
    (pp. 72-105)

    Alone in the Moscow embassy (Harriman was, again, away for some weeks), Kennan was ill. It was February 1946. Bedridden, but bound to deal with a mass of routine matters, he read a routine telegram from the Department of State, transmitting a query from the Department of the Treasury. It dealt with the Soviet government’s disinclination to agree to the standard American proposals of adherence to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. What could their reasons be: what did the Russians really want? Kennan’s reaction to this inquiry was anger. Here was another, lamentably ignorant, query about how and...

  6. FOUR Washington to Princeton
    (pp. 106-123)

    Nearly five years in his official career would still follow. Whether we call them ‘‘Ups and Downs’’ or “Limbo” “or “Purgatory” does not matter. He called them “Transition.” For him the importance of this gradual, and interrupted, transition from what I called “officer on the high bridge of the ship of state” to a different kind of life may appear from the many pages he devoted to them in his Memoirs: 132 pages (out of 500) in the first, 189 (out of 324) in the second, thus more than one-third in an autobiography encompassing about forty years. This reflects how...

  7. FIVE A Conscience of a Nation
    (pp. 124-154)

    The English writer Jean Rhys once wrote that a novel has to have a plot but that life doesn’t have any. This is largely true, for all kinds of reasons: one of them being that in a novel the writer intends every event or act or word to have eventual consequences, whereas in a man’s life so many consequences are unknown and unexpected and unintended. Yet there are times when certain consequences are decisive enough so that, in retrospect, they give a definite form to the history of a life, as if that had a “plot.” That was the case...

  8. SIX The Historian
    (pp. 155-175)

    Before I turn to the last chapter of George Kennan’s life, I wish to draw attention to another of his achievements, to Kennan the historian. Readers patient enough to have followed the chapters till now will recognize that his thinking was saturated with history, that his respect for history was allied to that exceptional kind of nostalgia that involves a respectful longing for times and places well before one’s childhood or youth.* However—such a taste for history does not necessarily result in an attempt to write it, just as a gourmet is not necessarily a cook (and a mental...

  9. SEVEN Philosophy, Religion; Memory; Old Age
    (pp. 176-190)

    In 1989 George Kennan was eighty-five years old. His prestige had reached its zenith. The president awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The head of the Soviet Union had grasped his hand and poured words of gratitude onto him. The Cold War was over. His recognition as “the architect of American foreign policy” during that Cold War was now complete, unchallenged, nearly universal. He took little or no interest in these encomia. He saw something else: that he was man of a century, the twentieth, which was now irremediably past. “I was ten years old in 1914, and eighty-five...

  10. Appendix: Two Finest Hours
    (pp. 191-200)
  11. Suggestions for Further Research
    (pp. 201-202)
  12. Index
    (pp. 203-207)