Tuesday, January 03, 2012

An American life

Curiously, I am coming to rather dislike George Kennan, though not the book that celebrates his life. John Gaddis's biography is magnificent--compelling, convincing, detailed, human. And the man he portrays is admirable in his youthful mastery of the Soviet Union: "the most impressive example of hell on earth that our time has known," in Kennan's words.

But his middle-aged distaste for America's consumer culture is embarrassing. What a narrow, condescending snob Kennan turned out to be! And what was with his 'Program A', in which he advocated that the US and Britain forces occupying Wester Germany withdraw 'to the ports' in the preposterous hope that this would encourage Stalin to similarly withdraw the Red Army from the eastern third of the country? That was nothing short of nutty. Far from ending the division of Europe into East and West, that would have pretty much turned it over to the East, at the very least a massive Finlandization of the Continent.

Still, I can't recommend the book too highly: George Kennan: An American Life. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford


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