May 01, 2005

Remembering a Giant

In March 1952, George F. Kennan reached the pinnacle of his diplomatic career. America’s leading authority on Russia, he was appointed Ambassador to the Soviet Union. But it turned out Kennan hated the job, was disgusted with the name-calling of US-Soviet relations, and felt that his Soviet hosts loathed him.

Not surprisingly, two months later Kennan made a diplomatic gaffe. When a reporter asked what conditions were like in the USSR, Kennan said the oppressiveness reminded him of when he was interned by the Nazis. Needless to say, the Soviets were loath to be compared to the Nazis in any way; Kennan was declared persona non grata.

George Kennan, who passed away in March at the age of 95, had a knack for stating uncomfortable truths. On the eve of the current war in Iraq, he commented pithily that “War seldom ever leads to good results.”

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