America: A Beacon, Not a Policeman       America: a Beacon, not a Policeman

George Kennan on America's World Role

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THE U.S. AND THE WORLD: INTERVIEW WITH GEORGE KENNAN (Exerpts from NEW YORK REVIEW, August, 1999)

FULL TEXT    http://www.nybooks.com/nyrev/WWWarchdisplay.cgi?19990812004F

 

ON AMERICA’S ROLE IN THE WORLD---"What we ought to do at this point is to try to cut ourselves down to size in the dreams and aspirations we direct to our possibilities for world leadership……We have serious problems within our society…….We have by the tail, after all, in the form of our Pentagon, a vas bureaucratic monster that we don’t know even how to cut down, not to mention to bring fully under control. But purely military power, even it its greatest dimensions of superiority, can produce only short-term successes. Serving in Berlin at the height of Hitler’s military successes in 1941, I tried to persuade friends in our government that, even if Hitler should succeed in achieving military domination over all of Europe, he would not be able to turn this into any sort of complete and long-lasting political preeminence and I gave reasons for this conclusion. And we were talking, then, only about Europe. Applied to the world scene, this, of course even more true. I can say without hesitation that this planet is never going to be ruled from any single political center, whatever its military power.

ON INTERVENING IN OTHER NATIONS--"I would urge far greater detachment, on our government’s part, from their domestic affairs. I would like to see our government gradually withdraw from its public advocacy of democracy and human rights……this whole tendency to see ourselves as the center of political enlightenment and as teachers to a great part of the rest of the world strikes me as unthought-through, vainglorious and undesirable. If you think that our life here at home has meritorious aspects worthy of emulation by peoples elsewhere, the best way to recommend the is, as John Quincy Adams maintained, not by preaching at others, but by the force of example.

ON REPRESSION BY FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS—"We had, as a rule, nothing to do with the origins of the ways in which regimes in other continents oppressed elements of their own populations; and I see no reason why we should be held responsible for these unpleasant customs and see ourselves as guilty if they continue to be observed.

ON NATO EXPANSION TO THE BALTIC—" They-the Baltic states have been a part of Russia longer than they have been a part of anything else. I don’t think that it would be a good thing for NATO to try to complicate that historic relationship by taking these countries into what the Russians are bound to see as an anti-Russian military alliance….But NATO remains, in concept and in much of its substance, a military alliance. If there is any country at all against which it is conceived as being directed, that is Russia. And that surely is the way the Poles and others in that part of the world perceive it.

ON THE CHAOS IN RUSSIA--.."But life goes on. Since the Thirty Years War, no people have been more profoundly injured and diminished that the Russian people have been by the successive waves of violence brought to them by this past brutal century. There were the Russian-Japanese War of 1904-05; the fearful manpower losses brought about by Russia’s participation in the First World War; the cruelties and the fighting that were a part of the consolidation of Communist power after the First World War’ then, the immense manpower losses of World War II, and finally, extending over some seven decades and penetrating and in part dominating all these other disasters, there were the immense damages, social, spiritual, even genetic, inflicted upon the Russian people by the Communist regime itself. In this vast process of destruction, all the normal pillars on which any modern society has to rest—faith, hope, national self-confidence, balance of age groups, family structure, and a number of others—have been destroyed. The process took place over most of an entire century. It embraced three generations of Russian people. Such enormous losses and abuses are not to be put to rights in a single decade, perhaps not even in a single generation."

More on Kennan and America's World Role--by Prof. Dr . Nikolai von Kreitor