Sunday, August 22, 2010

John Lukacs on George Kennan

I just posted a three-way celebration of Kennan, Lukacs, and Jacques Barzun; however, I want to devote a bit more to Lukac's George Kennan: A Study in Character (2004, 277 p.). Lukacs's admiration of Kennan (although not entirely uncritical) is manifest. While this is not a full-fledged biography of Kennan (one remains to be written; apparently John Lewis Gaddis has received "official biographer designation), Lukacs's work covers all 101 years of Kennan's life.

Rather than go on further with details from the book, let me offer some quotes that will provide a better insight into Kennan and give us some reason to consider in light of some present issues before our nation:

Lukacs quotes from a speech that Kennan delivered at the University of Notre Dame in 1953:

    There are forces at large in our society today. . . . The all march, in one way or another, under the banner of an alarmed and exercised anti-communism. . . . I have the deepest misgivings about the direction and effects of their efforts. . . . They impel us—in the name of our salvation from the dangers of communism—to many of the habits of the thought and action [of our Soviet adversaries]. . . . I tremble when I see this attempt to make a semi-religious cult our of emotional-political currents of the moment . . . designed to appeal only to men's capacity for hatred and fear, never to their capacity for forgiveness and charity and understanding. . . . Remember that the ultimate judgments of the good and evil are not ours to make: that the wrath of man against his fellow man must always be tempered by the recollection of his weakness and fallibility and by the example of forgiveness and redemption which is the essence of his Christian heritage.

p. 130 (Lukacs appends the entire speech at the end of the book).

This quote, still important to consider today, should give you a good sense of the man and his sensibilities.

2 comments:

Leo Wong said...

I recommend:

http://www.carnegiecouncil.org/resources/transcripts/0166.html

and:

http://vimeo.com/16423966

http://vimeo.com/16521540

Stephen N. Greenleaf, Esq. said...

Mr. Wong,
Thank you very much for the terrific citations. I'm looking forward to reviewing them more closely.