May 30, 2012
George F. Kennan, an outstanding twentieth-century American diplomat and scholar, played an important role in implementing and shaping US foreign policy, and earned well-deserved praise as a historian. He was a consistent advocate of a “realist” US foreign policy — laid down by Washington, Jefferson, and other founders — based on a prudent regard for US interests, and especially the long-term interests of the American people. By contrast, the “idealist” US foreign policy of recent decades is justified with seemingly principled slogans, but in fact is driven by narrow partisan interests. Kennan regarded America’s role in the postwar inter-Allied Nuremberg Trials of Germany’s defeated leaders as a “horror” and a “mockery.” In 1947-48, he joined with State Department chief George C. Marshall and other high-ranking US officials in opposing US support for the Zionist takeover of Palestine. With the passage of time, Kennan became increasingly pessimistic about America’s future, and ever more critical of US-style democracy.
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