Saturday, March 19, 2005 George Kennan, uber-cold-warrior, dies

March 19th

george kennan, the famous 'x' whose article in foreign affairs laid out the blueprint for the cold war, died at the ripe old age of 101.

he was also one of the more candid american diplomats.

he once said something to the effect of: "the us has 8% of the world's population and enjoys 50% of its resources. the objective of us foreign policy is to keep it that way".

this has been quoted by noam chomsky widely. i mentioned this quote in a column once, and got the following response from reader russil wvong some years ago:


I looked up PPS 23 a few months ago: it turned out that Chomsky
was misrepresenting what Kennan actually wrote, by stitching together
his words. (In a six-line quote, Chomsky clipped Kennan five times!)
For the gory details, including the full text of the section of
PPS 23 that Chomsky is quoting from, see

A Chomsky fan read my little essay and wrote to Professor Chomsky
asking him whether he wasn't exaggerating Kennan's iniquity.
Chomsky's response was quite hostile, to say the least. :-)

I think the following excerpt from a lecture Kennan gave in 1951
might summarize his view of US foreign policy a little more

Today, standing at the end rather than the beginning of this
half-century, some of us see certain fundamental elements on which
we suspect that American security has rested. We can see that our
security has been dependent throughout much of our history on the
position of Britain; that Canada, in particular, has been a useful
and indispensable hostage to good relations between our country
and British Empire; and that Britain's position, in turn, has
depended on the maintenance of a balance of power on the European
Continent. Thus it was essential to us, as it was to Britain,
that no single Continental land power should come to dominate the
entire Eurasian land mass. Our interest has lain rather in the
maintenance of some sort of stable balance among the powers of the
interior, in order that none of them should effect the subjugation
of the others, conquer the seafaring fringes of the land mass,
become a great sea power as well as land power, shatter the
position of England, and enter -- as in these circumstances it
certainly would -- on an overseas expansion hostile to ourselves
and supported by the immense resources of the interior of Europe
and Asia. Seeing these things, we can understand that we have had
a stake in the prosperity and independence of the peripheral
powers of Europe and Asia: those countries whose gazes were
oriented outward, across the seas, rather than inward to the
conquest of power on land.

["American Diplomacy", 1951]

What this means for relations between the US and India, I'm not sure.
To me, it suggests that the US interest is in maintaining some kind
of balance between India, China, Russia, and Japan, rather than
allowing any one of these countries to dominate Asia.

> it is interesting to see clinton echo kennan almost
> verbatim recently.

Actually, I think it only looks similar if you take it out of
context. They both note that the US has a disproportionate
share of the world's wealth; that's about the only similarity.
Kennan (a pessimist) was arguing that the US ought to prevent
a future attack from the Pacific by keeping Japan and the
Philippines out of Communist control, but that otherwise the
US ought to refrain from interfering in Asia. Clinton
(a liberal optimist) is arguing for free trade.

Now, in the next 15 years, the developing countries in
Latin America and Asia will grow three times as fast as
the United States, Europe and Japan. As I told the United
Nations a couple of days ago, early in the next century,
about 20 nations comprising half of the world's people
will move from the ranks of low-income nations to
middle-income nations. They are going to grow in a world
economy. We are going to participate in that growth to a
greater or lesser extent. The more fair trade deals we
have to allow us entry into their markets where we've been
at a significant disadvantage for too long, the more we will
participate. ...

This is not about NAFTA or factories moving there to sell back
to here. I think all of us agree it is highly unlikely anyone
will move a factory to Chile to sell back to here. This is
about how we can best seize our opportunities in the economy
that is emerging, and how 4 percent of the world's people can
continue to maintain 20 to 22 percent of the world's wealth,
and continue to grow the economy so incomes can rise and new
jobs can be created.


Thanks again,

end quote ======

and just today, got the following rejoinder to that from reader greg cox:

quote =========


George Kennan just died so I was searching the web for some stuff to post elsewhere about him and I came upon an article you wrote ( You state that Chomsky deliberately misquotes Kennan. That isn't totally fair. There is a part of the quote that Chomsky leaves out because it isn't needed. The dropped material is in reference to South East Asia, incidentally, an area the Kennan didn't see as important to US interests. The quote can be found in the Policy Planning Papers, I don't have it with me, but what is dropped isn't that important.

I've also heard Chomsky use that quote in a lecture and mention that Kennan was refering to South East Asia, so it can not be claimed that he is hiding anything.

Greg Cox

end quote ==============

go figure! i personally prefer to believe that kennan did say this and did mean it. surely the us does act as though this is the very core of its policy: what's ours is ours, and what's yours is ours too.


Anonymous said...

I love the national slogan that you came up with - in a stroke you have killed 2 birds with 1 stone i.e. beware of China and don't give a rat's behind about the US. Perfect! Now only if we could find a visionary leader to deliver that message to the country...I know that this will be my slogan whereever I can make a difference.


Hari said...

This is a comment regarding your latest article in rediff. I hope this is the right forum to comment on it.

The idea of India being the creative center of the world is very interesting. And it is not impossible for us to do it. But there is contradictions within your article, I thought. If we are to have a national slogan like "Beat China" and then act on it, it is very necessary for us to act in unision. But, as you rightly point out, we have been very individualistic and that will negate the whole purpose of acting on a vision/idea/slogan.

Eshwar said...

Rajeev..."India can be creator of the future" is really good. Quite thot provoking. Its time India started thinking big, if she wants to be big.

But I dont agree with your mention of Nehru and his failings. Yes he was a charismatic leader but it kind of has become fashionable to beat him for India's most wrongs since he was India's first PM/statesman.

Probably we should look at why he did whatever he did and so learn from it.

Umesh Patil said...

Folly of Comparative Analysis

Rajeev Srinivasan, I read your “India can be creator of the future” article on Rediff ( published on March 23, 2005 and I have following comments.

- You like being blunt so I will start with the first comment – You are racial. There is no other way to interpret your categorization of America as “White Americans”. Obviously you have no clue whatsoever of how the demography is shaping in America, how levers of power are getting spread across multiple sections of society and how likely the politics is going to shape away from traditional categorization.

- You are still caught in the ivory tower, armchair, lofty, warmonger type of worldview. World is more integrated, forces of Globalization are changing everything in unprecedented way, old categories of sovereign states with all the trappings of the traditional power are under attack, new alignments are coming up, new institutions are getting formed and states are realizing the limits of sovereignty – including USA and China. Obviously you are intelligent, but when will you stop such fascist worldview? And by the way, if your objective is being rational so as to come up with an abstract concept framework in order to understand world happenings and further predict future happenings, just do introspection to understand how inadequate such highly partisan, one sided, narrow minded and obstinate your conceptual framework is. The framework where you are obsessed with which nation states control the world affairs. The problem with this formulation is it is too simplistic when nation state identity and it’s eminent domain power is getting constrained in many different ways.

- Why are you so dated to talk about AT&T? I mean people keep on making the so called wise crack comment to indicate that many assign higher market cap to Yahoo than GM and how wrong it is. It is not wrong but reflective of reality. Common on, GM is almost bankrupt (read it’s last quarter); it no longer represents America’s strength. The days of what is good for GM is good for America (I think 1953 or 1956, some time around Eisenhower time; you are history fact junkie; you can find that) are long back gone. GM stopped mattering to America way back in 1980s. AT&T stopped mattering to American Economy in 1990s. Just keep forgetting about Apple, Yahoo, Google, Juniper, Genentech, Adobee, Autodesk, IAC and so many new and upcoming companies. And then there are future companies like Scaled Composites. Well, I guess as long as smart people like you are not finding the new strength spots in American Economy; you will be stuck in this 5th grade game of who is powerful and who is rich. I mean, Rajeev really it is all childish and useless analysis to read all these geopolitical events through the kind of lenses you are using.

- About White America – which is the fastest growing demographic group in America? Hispanics. Which are tomorrow’s battle ground states in the perennial war of Red and Blue States? Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico; all Hispanic states. Muslims in Ohio did not go with Bush. Bush Administration rejects Modi’s visa and attempts to tone down anti-Muslim image in many different ways. Why are there so many Hispanic appointments in the current Administration? Senator Mel Martinez (Republican), the first Cuban-American Senator gives the first Spanish Speech on the Senate Floor. Rajeev, which world do you live in? Open your eyes. America has it’s problems and granted that it’s Democracy needs to expand and progress further (for example, election laws). But remember that it is one of the most vibrant Democracy on this planet. It is alive and kicking and it is taking all people forward with earlier White Americans. Not for nothing representatives like Bobby Jindal can make a splash in Republican Party or Barak Obama gets to Senate. Rajeev, stop being racial. In the vein of Barbara Boxer, I would say looks like your loyalty towards your screwed up ideology is stronger than your loyalty towards Truth.

- It is foolish to measure America’s strength in terms of the fleet of air craft carriers. Yes, they did add state of the art attack submarine named Carter and state of the art aircraft carrier named Regan recently; but they are canceling many old Cold War type projects too. Rumsfeld may be controversial, but if you are serious student of American War Machine, watch which projects he is funding and which he is canceling. Trying to prepare the machine for the war of 21st century and not the old Cold War. There is another smart man – Senator McCain who is trying to stir American War machine in the right direction.

- In the end if you indeed insist in trying to quantify America’s strength and weakness; measure the strength in terms how many Nobel Prizes Americans win every year. How many Field Medals are there for American Mathematicians. How many patents are filed every year. How many new companies get formed (companies sprouting and dying – including AT&T – is the normal process). Whether America addressed the 2000 stock market problems by Sarbanes Oxley and other SEC reforms or not. Compare that with reforms in Indian Capital Markets when UTI scandal happened and just imagine how transparent Chinese Capital Markets are. Further, where does the VC money go in USA and so on. The day you will see less and less number of American Physicists and Economists getting Nobel Prize; you will know America is weaker compared to other nations. Not for nothing National Science Foundation complains to the Congress that large number of papers in Physical Review and Physical Review Letters are coming from Chinese Academicians.

The larger point is first of all this exercise of trying to measure “power” of Nations is lamentable, regressive and backward looking with no benefits. Needless to say the exercise of how India would do that is useless. There are so many things Indians are doing right and great (like trying to throw away the sectarian politics of RSS and BJP.) And secondly, if you really insist on such Comparative Analysis; try using correct yardsticks, not how many war ships and racial demography.

Umesh Patil
San Jose, CA 95111
March 23, 2005.

Anonymous said...

I dont think Rajeev is being racial at all. He's just "keeping it real".You live in one of the most heterogeneous states in the united states. If you've ever lived in one of the southern red states you would conclude that America is all about White Supremacy and near blind Christianity. Its no coincidence that the last three presidents were from the south. "Reaching Out" to the minorites is just a hogwash. I dont think you would ever have a black/hispanic/brown president. Demographics do not matter. A very small number of firangs were good enough to take over the whole of south asian subcontinent. About 15000 americans were good enough to take over entire Iraq. We always had the slave menatlity and will alwasy have unless something drastic is done about it.

Sppadic said...

hello name is sonu..interesting article..could i just add my few paisa worth ...rite.. to start off..i understand its everyman for himself policy in business and its true that we need to galvanise the Indian psyche to get the best possible out of ourselves.. I have no doubt that India the ancient knowledge base - can still arrive at its pinnacle..but surely nationalism is not have a nationalistic view is i believe detrimental to our goals...Nationalism in all its ugliness is what we have seen with the BJP in power....the very essence of this great nation of ours has been tolerance and understanding through the ages...

I can understand the need for a united front and a great charismatic leader... but to lead you need to have willing followers.and here you have raised a valid point...Indians are too individualistic..the running joke about us having so many political parties...and the very existence of political parties based on religion is wrong..but thats for another day..

Also could i just add that the concept of "beat china" is once again not something I agree is business but politics cannot be run like a business.. well atleast thats my opinion..for in politics theres such a thing as diplomacy and making compromises more so than in business..
true that china and the US are the main powers..but lets not forget the philosophy of the chinese..who have stayed back and watched the world ..they have truly been the sleeping giant and India could learn from the Chinese.. competition is good..nay healthy but India needs to get started with the simplest of things first..poverty and the starving millions..lets work to get the basic amenities to all..I know its a near impossible task but as you said..anything is possible if you put ur mind to it.. and if the Indian psyche puts its mind to it.. who knows what wondrous achievements we can achieve..

Anonymous said...

where the hell should I post my comment for your stupid Rediff blog ?