George Kennan's Containment Theory

George Kennan’s Containment Doctrine Revisited
By
Aizaz Khan
I would like to review George Kennan’s Containment Doctrine through the lens of a splendid article written by Chalmer M. Roberts, “How Containment Worked”, which first appeared in the 1972’s summer edition of the Foreign Policy journal. Roberts, was the chief diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post who covered the Cold War, the nuclear arms race and the seats of power in Washington in the 1950's and 60's, The article gives a unique perspective of George Kennan’s contribution towards formulation of US foreign policy, during the post cold-war era and deals with the concept of containment and how Kennan’s famous “X article” in Foreign Affairs helped to rally support for Truman’s
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Roberts had shown immense understanding of the concept of containment with his assessment that containment by 1972 had run its course. Kennan realized early on that McCarthyism was creating disharmony in the American society and he wanted the government to take the leading role in stiffening the public against hysteria, while helping them to understand that while there were problems with Russia, they were manageable. However, by then it had been too late as the US had already embarked upon a confrontational course against the USSR. I believe that Kennan should never have published the “X article”, as he was an active-duty Foreign Service officer and comments or hypothesis by professional diplomats always carry weightage and have long-term implications. Had Kennan’s formulations remained in the inner portals of policy-memos, the subsequent governments could not have used them as a ruse to follow disastrous policies in third world countries and especially in Vietnam, for countering communism. Personal ambition might have come in the way of sound judgement while deciding to publish the “X Article”, as it catapulted Kennan into national lime-light and effectively made him the spokesman for post-war American internationalism. This also points towards a lack of humility in US foreign policy at the time. Walter Lippmann, a political commentator, was more vehement in his denunciation of the containment and called it a “strategic

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