Tag Archives: containment

Book Review #7

30 May

George F. KennanReading John Lewis GaddisGeorge F. Kennan: An American Life was a depressing experience for a number of reasons. Reading biography has a singular drawback, that plumbing the depths of an individual whose work or experience prompted admiration would reveal some noxious secret that ultimately undermines the original cause for exploring a life. It’s not so much that I don’t admire George F. Kennan now, but that his long, eventful life casts his perspective on realism and containment in less favorable terms. It’s very difficult to read about an idol.

As an undergraduate two people distracted me from language study: my adviser and George F, Kennan. Bo doubt I had a crush on my adviser from the first day of a section of the Introduction to Political Science class he taught. I had already taken two classes on Congress and another introduction, but now I was wedded to International Relations. I abandoned any fantasy about interning for a senator. Kennan also frequently got sidetracked by women. Discussions in class were electric and fluid, not really lectures but just as insightful. Here was a teacher – for she wasn’t promoted to her position yet – who let students speak and still could maintain discipline and cover a topic. Nothing anyone said was not useful to her. Unlike Kennan in his later incarnation as a lecturer at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, she rarely spoke for more than a few minutes at a stretch, confining herself to offering introducing concepts and fielding questions. One of the first assignments was Kennan’s 1946 “Long Telegram”, offered in the form of his 1947 Foreign Affairs article, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct“, signed as “X”. Admittedly, the relationship between the two eluded me then, but Gaddis delivered me from that confusion. The first iteration was brilliant; the “X’ article was a political error.

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Bombers And Other Madness (Video)

2 Apr

KJU's Growing PainsRobert Farley and Michael Cohen express their frustration with flawed American policy in Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, and Iran.

Michael A. Cohen diagnoses the cognitive dissonance.

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The Korean War and Presidential Emergency Powers

6 Jul

Commemoration of Korean War events has begun afresh as June 25 reset the calendar for another year. GI Korea offers a heartfelt, if revisionist account of Task Force Smith (my comment recounts why I believe the banner of United Nations intervention is no cynical machination.).

I would emphasize the issue of presidential authority.

One of Truman’s important but little noted first moves in the fateful last weeks of June had been to recall Averell Harriman from Europe, where he had been a kind of roving ambassador, and make him a special assistant to help with war emergency problems; and one of Harriman’s first movies in his new role was to press upon the President the need for congressional support for what he was doing in Korea. He urged Truman to call for a war resolution from Congress as soon as possible, while the country was still behind him. Dean Acheson, however, disagreed, insisting that such a resolution was unnecessary and unwise. The President, said Acheson, should rest on his constitutional authority as Commander in Chief. It was true that congressional approval would do no harm, but the process of obtaining it, Acheson thought, might do great harm. In the mounting anxiety over how things were going in Korea, the timing was wrong.

Truman sided with Acheson, telling Harriman further that to appeal to Congress would make it more difficult for future presidents to deal with emergencies.

Later when Robert Taft and others began criticizing the President [Harriman would recall] I was convinced the President had made a mistake. This decision, however, was characteristic of President Truman. He always kept in mind how his actions would affect future presidential authority.

(Truman [E-Book], David McCullough, 1992, pp. 4926-4930)

My grandmother’s second husband fought in Korea (my grandfather was a sailor during WW2 in the Mediterranean fleet). I won’t distract readers here with his bitter accounts of fighting, the Korea terrain, and the locals. Suffice it to say, he would not approve of me living in ROK. But, despite his rancor, I believe he did good. The Korean War offered the hope that war would not become general and global, like World Wars One and Two. But, it also perverted American political institutions. It is a Faustian bargain, but a sacrifice history will cherish.

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