Wednesday, August 1, 2007


Check out this op-ed applying to today's terrorism threat lessons that an article, signed only "X," taught 60 years ago.
X was, in fact, George Kennan (right), chief of policy planning at the U.S. State Department; his article, "The Sources of Soviet Conduct," appeared in the July 1947 edition of Foreign Affairs.
X advocated waiting for Communism to collapse of its own accord -- a strategy of "long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment" rather than direct confrontation with the Soviet Union. Op-ed writer Nicholas Thompson contends that although X did not make clear whether he preferred political or military methods, Kennan preferred the former. The preference is even more apt now, Thompson argues:

Applied today, that advice would entail spending more time and money building up our Muslim allies. The Center for Strategic and International Studies reports that only about $900 million of the $10 billion we’ve given Pakistan since 2002 has gone to health, education and democracy promotion. Most of the rest has gone to the military. The Bush administration has recently taken steps to change this ratio. But Kennan, one of the authors of the Marshall Plan, would have wanted the numbers to be closer to the reverse.

A 21st-century rendering of X’s vision of containment would involve the closing of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, an unambiguous renunciation of torture and an abandonment of the notion that our legal and moral norms don’t apply to the current struggle.

It's a powerful recipe, especially attractive on account of its mention of "legal ... norms" -- that "L" word by which we lawyers live is too seldom heard in contemporary policy debate. Thankfully, some candidates this election cycle are, at least, uttering words close to those with which X brought his article to an end: "To avoid destruction the United States need only measure up to its own best traditions and prove itself worthy of preservation as a great nation."

1 comment:

Judith Weingarten said...

Re: the rarely-heard "L" word, Needlenose today cited former vice president Walter Monsdale's words in a recent WaPo editorial, "we told the truth, obeyed the law and kept the peace." He suggested that the Dems make this their catch-phrase. I agree.


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