Tag Archives: george-f-kennan

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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What Is Left Flank’s “European Balkans”?

23 Jul

Sir Halford Mackinder A comment arrived from , and I’m happy to respond:

What is “Eurasian Balkans”–one of your categories–supposed to mean?

The Balkans = Southeastern Europe. No Asia about it.

This cartoon certainly seems to have nothing to do with the Balkans.

I apologize for not explaining earlier about this category, since it is part of a very serious argument of which Left Flank approves highly. This blog supports a scholarly tradition termed, “geopolitics”. (a convenient website for starters, but practitioners each have their own definitions) is “…the study that analyzes geography, history and social science with reference to spatial politics and patterns at various scales (ranging from home, city, region, state to international and cosmopolitics). It examines the political, economic, and strategic significance of geography, where geography is defined in terms of the location, size, function, and relationships of places and resources.” Representative figures in this tradition I admire, but not uncritically, are , , , and .

The term, “Eurasian Balkans” occurs as a the title of the fifth chapter in Brzezinski’s . Brzezinski defines this geographical area in this way:

“In Europe, the word “Balkans” conjures up images of ethnic conflicts and great-power regional rivalries. Eurasia, too, has its “Balkans”, but the Eurasian Balkans are much larger, more populated, even more religiously and ethnically heterogeneous. They are located within that large geographic oblong that demarcates the central zone of instability…that embraces portions of southeastern Europe, Central Asia, and parts of South Asia, the Persian Gulf area, and the Middle East.” (p. 123)

There is also the popular example of ‘s .

Political Geography in 1984 

A third influence is the area examined in ‘s .

From these influences, I have created a geographical category, “Eurasian Balkans” extending from Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, and Romania southeastward through Bulgaria and Turkey, northward through the Caucasus until the Caspian and Iran, and extending southward through the eastern Mediterranean, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, and the Arabian peninsula. The boundary between Central and South Asia is the Afghan-Pakistan border. Iran and Russia are their own geographical categories. I consider Georgia and Ukraine (at least the western half) part of Europe. Africa is also its own geographical category just for simplicity, but I do recognize that Egypt, the Horn of Africa, and Sudan are more similar to the Eurasian Balkans than to the rest of the continent.

I hope this begins to explain that particular category. This geopolitical element is a very important part of this blog, and is one of two distinguishing features (the other is identification with a moderate political agenda) of it. I appreciate the opportunity your comment allowed me to explain this.

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