Monday, March 10, 2014

Recalling Kennan—Again

I recall reading or hearing someone who said that people only have a few favorite records and they play them over and over again. That must have been a long time ago because the word “record” was used, instead of CD. I smiled wryly then because I found it true of me. There are only a handful of genuinely memorable figures that make a deep impression—on this or that aspect of life. Meanwhile life repeats the same patterns, and the same names therefore surface.

I’ve written five other posts here in which I recall the American diplomat, George Kennan (1904-2005). Kennan was a realist in international relations; he advocated that such relations should narrowly reflect national interest. This view does not suit the American political classes; they operate under the delusions of exceptionalism and would have us believe that our national interest does not diminish with distance from our shores. Hence, despite his influence, Kennan was marginalized.

Some of us, however, think that rational approaches, which favor humility, are sound when dealing with crises elsewhere. Instead we go into paroxysms of outrage when the advance of the Four Horsemen of our times (I’d called them Enlightenment, Secularism, Democracy, and Capitalism here) are opposed somewhere in  the world, i.e., by Putin in Russia. Let’s just calm down. The Crimea is a matter of Russian national interest. A simple way of putting it might be: “What Khrushchev gave Putin can take away.”

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