Interviews with George F. Kennan
George F. Kennan (b. 1904), is best known for his writings, pronouncements, and philosophical ex-changes, especially over the past fifty years when he became, in effect, the nation's premier diplomatic intellectual. Through his humane and thoughtful influence, he worked to moderate the fierce complexities of political policy in the West.
The "long telegram" he sent the State Department from the embassy in Moscow in 1946 detailed his intricate thoughts on postwar Soviet politics as well as relations between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. He also articulated a long-term plan for containing Communism. This communiqu crystalized as the policy followed by the U.S. and its allies until the crash of the Soviet Union.
Such prescience was typical of Kennan's political thought. "I believe," he said in 1956, thirty-three years before the Berlin Wall collapsed, that "some day Russia will have to abandon East Germany and let it rejoin Berlin." In 1960, forty years before others took up the banner, he decried the encroachment of technology on American culture and the fragmenting impact it was having on the average American's consciousness. That same year he noted how America's over-reliance on the automobile and the direction toward unchecked suburban growth were splintering communities, causing environmental degradation, and depleting resources, all of which have grown to be pressing issues in American discourse.
This collection of Kennan's interviews ranges over four decades. All feature his perceptions on international affairs and foreign policy. Two have never before appeared in print--one from the Oral History Project at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, the other from the John Foster Dulles Oral History Project. These give extensive, broad-ranging overviews of Kennan's career in international relations and the developments of his thought.
T. Christopher Jespersen is chair of the history department at North Georgia College and State University. He is the author of American Images of China, 1931-1949 and editor (with David Schmitz) of Architects of the American Century: Individuals, Ideas, and Institutions in Twentieth-Century American Foreign Policy--Essays on American Foreign Policy-makers and the Organizations They Have Shaped.