George Kennan, RIP


The man who invented containment, brainpowered the Marshall Plan, taught roughly a bazillion young poli-sci students, and lived long enough to go in and out of favor with just about every Foreign Policy school, is dead at a ripe 101. I'll leave his legacy for others, and just add that the 1925-50 segment of his memoir is some of the most thrilling diplomatic writing you'll ever read, as our young hero ventures out into the hinterlands of the great Soviet experiment, and discovers—decades before others allowed themselves to learn—that the dream was a murderous lie.

NEXT: Who Will Watch the Watchers?

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  1. “Events of the past thirty years seem to have proven that he was right about the Soviets, huh?”

    Events that occurred between 40 and 30 years ago seem to prove that he was right about the misapplication of his containment policy to Southeast Asia.

  2. Aren’t we still “containing” Cuba too? Why?

    That’s the thing about a government policy: once they get it in their heads to do something, by god, they’ll do it. Regardless of effectiveness or cost. Adjustment and nuance are forbidden words. Re-assessment and experimentation are heresy.

    On the rare occasions when someone is foolish enough to make a case for change, he is shouted down as being “heartless” or “soft on X”. On the even rarer occasion when the argument for change carries the day, you can be sure that the change will be made in the most dunder-headed and ham-fisted manner possible. Witness California’s energy “deregulation” or W’s SS “privatization” plan. And then the cycle repeats.


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