George F. Kennan, R.I.P.

One of my intellectual heroes passed away on Thursday. George F. Kennan was one of the most fascinating and important figures in American foreign policy. My Master’s thesis centered on the debate surrounding Kennan’s concept of containment. I spent a great deal of time in grad school reading this amazing man’s writing and wrestling with his ideas. He was talented writer as well as a first rate thinker. One might not have agreed with him on every issue but you had to take him seriously.

Perhaps I will post more later, but if you are interested here are a few books worth reading on the subject:

– Kennan’s memoirs are a good place to start. The first covers the years 1925 – 1950, the second 1950 – 1963. Also worth checking out are Sketches From a Life and At a Century’s Ending: Reflections, 1982-1995

– If I had to pick one book that dealt with Kennan and the larger scope of American Foreign Policy it might be American Visions of Europe : Franklin D. Roosevelt, George F. Kennan, and Dean G. Acheson by John Lamberton Harper. In many ways, this was the book that inspired my thesis. Instead of Roosevelt and Acheson, however, I picked former Marxist turned conservative James Burnham and the influential writer and columnist Walter Lippmann to go with Kennan.

– Another writer I love to read, John Lewis Gaddis, is expected to come out with a biography of Kennan soon. I for one can’t wait.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).