It was George F. Kennan who said “It all goes back to WWI” looking at the post WWII world. It wouldn’t hurt if the foreign policy establishment put some effort into figuring out what he meant by that.
“National security” sties all over the country keep getting reslopped by the beltway blob. The beasts feeding in them have no use for Mr. X’s advice. Kennan said some strange, controversial and offensive things over the years. In our enlightened age he’d get cashed in more times a day than government checks in liquor stores. He’s been dead 17 years now. In any case, counting him out as a good judge of where international affairs are headed has proven wrong time after time.
X was no friend of the Soviet Union and was less than generous describing the proclivities of Russians generally. Truman made Kennan ambassador to the Kremlin in 1952. The Soviets barred him from the country four months later. Son Chris was 3 years old in Moscow during Dad’s short stint running the Embassy. When the little boy tried to play with Russky toddlers his own age, Bolshie handlers separated them. Kiddie comrades couldn’t be exposed to Western contamination. The wee capitalist already knew a few words and might have asked where their toys were. Kennan shared this incident with the press during a stopover in Germany flying home. Internationally circulated news accounts dried up the Soviet sense of humor instantly. They told the ambassador not to come back.
Ann Coulter called Kennan a “gasbag” for doubting any semblance of democracy would ever take root along the Volga. Those are words she isn’t revisiting right now or likely any time soon. George Kennan had a rather swelled head and demeaning self-confidence. Patience with fools was never his forte. What he didn’t have was a patrician WASP pedigree and the dim delusions of pampered trust fund brats. That kind of background made up the ranking brass of the diplomatic corps when he joined in the mid-twenties. Whatever the man’s faults, his ability to integrate keen understanding of human nature into elements of foreign policy was not matched by any Cold War peers nor the generation of statesmen that followed them.
If Kennan was a diplomatic dinosaur, people like Kissinger, Albright, Rice, Clinton and Kerry devolved back to protozoa by any rational comparison. Normally, Thomas Friedman would rank mighty low in my book as a source on international affairs – his fluent gibberish on the subject isn’t even funny. But he nailed it in a recent column recalling a quote he got from Kennan in 1998:
“I think it is the beginning of a new cold war. I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the founding fathers of this country turn over in their graves.
“We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way. [NATO expansion] was simply a lighthearted action by a Senate that has no real interest in foreign affairs. What bothers me is how superficial and ill informed the whole Senate debate was. I was particularly bothered by the references to Russia as a country dying to attack Western Europe.
“Don’t people understand? Our differences in the Cold War were with the Soviet Communist regime. And now we are turning our backs on the very people who mounted the greatest bloodless revolution in history to remove that Soviet regime. And Russia’s democracy is as far advanced, if not farther, as any of these countries we’ve just signed up to defend from Russia. Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are — but this is just wrong.”
Where I’d have to part ways with Kennan is in any surprise at “how superficial and ill informed the whole Senate debate was.” I’ve never heard one that wasn’t.
Now, getting back to WWI…
A well known building at 23 Wall St. in South Manhattan housed the most energetic office in the world – outside of the one at 10 Downing St. London – dragging us into that conflict. The wars haven’t ceased since the peace to end all peace was signed in Versailles.
At the risk of redundancy does anybody remember the treaty of Brest-Litovsk? All the work of dismembering the vassal states of the Tsarist-Soviet empires was accomplished seven months after the US entered the war. Eight months later Germany’s defeat occurred. A new treaty put the eleven freed republics right back into the Soviet grip. They happen to be the same ones NATO has been about drawing into their orbit for 25 years. What’s worse is, as the Versailles negotiations went on US troops were already fighting Bolsheviks in East Europe. Getting Ukraine out of Lenin’s clutches was a high priority.
Other consequences of the US’s last minute salvation of the Allies included a massacre and mass exodus of Greeks from Anatolia. Somehow the treaty terms compelled Churchill to bomb Kurds in remote mountain lairs. Before the “peace” England had no beef with them. The riots, insurrections, coup d’etats, assassinations, emigrations, genocides and upheavals that followed are too numerous to accurately list here.
We don’t know how the chips might have fallen without American force tipping the balance. We do know that as things now stand we inherited a great deal of the responsibility. Wall Street’s sway with media and government influencing American foreign policy is now over a century old. Nothing seems to be changing. Look at who finances the Council on Foreign Relations. It isn’t your local diner, contractor or hardware store. That syndicate of experts, academics, news barons, coven drovers and soothsayers was originally mustered by the Morgan group and friends. They “make the world safe for democracy” by upturning the concept of “one man one vote” at every step of the policy making process. Hiding the details of how decisions are made is among their great accomplishments. Expanding the choices available to individuals and keeping ordnance holstered are not.
While it wouldn’t be fair to say that some kind of collective conscience in South Manhattan fully recognizes that there is profit in war and plays that angle — ruling that out isn’t fully justified either. The path of transportation and communication between NYC’s financial district and Washington, DC is among the most traveled in the world. Cutting that artery permanently is in the strategic interest of the human race.