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George Kennan: An American Life

Jacob Heilbrunn reviews John Lewis Gaddis’ George Kennan: An American Life:

Kennan would later complain that his idea was debauched by the Truman administration. He didn’t mean for America to become a global empire. The military didn’t have to be the prime means of countering the Soviets. But Secretary of State Dean Acheson took a harder line. Kennan became an outsider, a critic of the nuclear arms race that began under the Truman administration and seemed to take on a life of its own, as each side amassed more and more atomic weaponry.

This was the point I was making the other day about Huntsman’s misrepresentation of Kennan’s position. I have not yet read Gaddis’ book, but from what Heilbrunn says about it he seems to have reached many of the same conclusions about Kennan that John Lukacs did in his excellent George Kennan: A Study of Character. Gaddis’ study of Kennan may be as good as Heilbrunn says, but I would still wager that no one has made it easier to understand who Kennan was and why he believed what he did than Lukacs.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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