Sunday, November 13, 2011

Henry Kissinger on George Kennan

Yesterday I posted an entry about Henry Kissinger, and in doing so I noted that he, along with George Kennan, are probably the two most important figures in American foreign policy outside of some presidents (and more important than some presidents). In the New York Times today, Kissinger reviews the new biography of George Kennan by John Lewis Gaddis. Kissinger's review is lengthy and thorough. Kennan is a complex figure, and Kissinger argues that Kennan would offer both realist and idealist visions that often contradicted each other. This trait limited Kennan's work as a policymaker, but it contributed to the deep insights that he could provide to those in power. As John Lukacs also notes, Kissinger remarks that Kennan is a superb prose stylist.

This new book is going to near the top of my reading list. As readers of this blog may recall, Lukacs has written about his friend can in a short biography and Lukacs published a selection of the letters that they exchanged over the course of around 40 years. It will be interesting to compare perspectives of the authorized biographer Gaddis with those of the friend Lukacs.

Kennan is an intriguing figure, who, like many number of great persons, he is at once contradictory, vexing, and inspiring. Full of very human foibles, but full of striking insights and accomplishments as well, I'm sure that this book will prove worthwhile. I look forward reporting on further in the future blog post.

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