Mr. Kennan’s America

No admirer of George F. Kennan’s should be surprised by the angry tone of the reviews his recently published Diaries has been receiving.  Of the several I have read, in the British as well as the American press, all were, to some extent or another, willfully unsympathetic.  That is only to have been expected, Kennan himself having been entirely out of sympathy with the modern world and its promoters and enthusiasts, greedy Republican corporate capitalists and demagogic Democratic politicians alike.  What struck me was the reviewers’ depressing historical ignorance and their astounding want of historical empathy and imagination in their confrontation with Kennan’s antimodern—but quintessentially American—intellect, ideas, and sensibilities, which collectively prompted Col. Andrew Bacevich (who shares his subject’s well-known antipathy for American military crusades abroad), writing in Harper’s Magazine, to judge Kennan “a crank.”

George Kennan was born in 1904 and died in 2005 at the age of 101.  That is about as long a life span as it is given man to achieve, and Kennan’s life embraced a century unprecedented in human history for the scope and speed of the transformative change it experienced.  It would be astonishing had a man of Kennan’s critical capacities and social and aesthetic sensitivities felt comfortable and at ease...

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