Monthly Archives: August 2012

Books! The very long life of George F. Kennan #cbr4

Sadly it looks like I won’t make my goal of 52 books this year for Cannonball Read. I might still be able to read close to that number (maybe) but I don’t know that I can force out all of the reviews I have let slide. This book, in my opinion, should count for 3 or 4 books though!

As an ex-Political Scientists I’ve read Kennan’s X article in Foreign Affairs several times. The article argues for an approach to the Soviet Union that would contain its expansive tendencies. This later became “containment” and official policy of the United States, a slight distortion as he was arguing primarily for diplomatic containment and not military.  Kennan’s ideas and writings were complex and, as John Lewis Gaddis in George F. Kennan: An American Life shows, sometimes contradictory, which tended to lead to Kennan’s own frustration when his ideas were put into policy.

Gaddis succeeds at showing us the full picture of the man through this expansive biography. He had access to all of Kennan’s writing, letters, and diaries and even the family. At times I wished for more discussion of the events of the day, but this is again a biography and not a history.

Although the work isn’t for the casual Cold War era reader, it is worth the effort if you want to know more about Kennan’s development as a public intellectual and his influence on the events of the 20th century.  Gaddis has created a biography of which Kennan could be proud.