Death of George Kennan
George Kennan, who passed on last night, was the proof that a Foreign Service officer can be more than just a bureaucrat. The New York Times obituary brings out, though, how at odds he was with the government and its policies after the initial success of his “long telegram” from Moscow and the Foreign Affairs X article. Interestingly, his initial success continued upon his return to Washington after World War II as the head of State Department policy planning under General George Marshall, where Kennan was one of the originators of the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe. General Marshall is another of my heroes. He and Kennan represent some of the best of America, men of high moral character who excelled in serving their country. Their policies were truly “Christian” in the sense that they embodied the ideal of loving your neighbor that is missing in current policies. I don’t think either of them would necessarily like being called “Christian” today, with all the baggage that word carries. Earlier, Christian virtues of love and caring were instilled in people and became part of their world outlook without being tested by how often they went to church or whether they had “accepted Jesus as their personal savior.”
The world learned that the retribution extracted from Germany after World War I did not work, and under Kennan’s and Marshall’s guidance a much more Christian policy of forgiveness after World War II was probably one of the most successful foreign policy strategies ever pursued.
Now, under Bush, we again have an un-Christian, World War I policy of revenge. I don’t think it’s going to work. Colin Powell was the leader closest to following the Kennan-Marshall policies, but he was canned by Bush because of that. Tough policies work for a while. There were about 30 years between World War I and World War II. Hitler had great success for the first decade or so of his leadership in Germany. But the post World War II regime lasted over 60 years, before it was cast aside by narrow minds and greedy leaders.