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GEORGE F. KENNAN by John Lewis Gaddis


An American Life

by John Lewis Gaddis

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59420-312-1
Publisher: Penguin Press

The long-awaited authorized biography of George F. Kennan (1904–2005), the creator of America's Cold War containment strategy.

Kennan commissioned Gaddis (History/Yale Univ.; The Cold War: A New History, 2006, etc.) to write his life story back in 1981, on condition that the work not be published until after his death. Then 75, Kennan lived to be 101. Now the story can be told, and it is well worth the wait. At the beginning of his diplomatic career in the late 1920s, Kennan, along with a handful of others, was recruited into the Russian Studies section of the State Department's Eastern European division by Robert Kelley, and he helped FDR's Ambassador William Bullitt open diplomatic relations. Gaddis has had unique access to official papers, Kennan's own publications and documents, the diary that he kept throughout his life and his correspondence, especially to his sister. This access will be especially revealing for those interested in discovering more about the period from 1944 to 1952, which saw victory in World War II, the development of the atomic bomb, the adoption of containment, the beginning of the Cold War and the adoption of the Truman Doctrine. Throughout the book, Kennan’s papers make clear what he was responsible for, and what he wasn't. Gaddis also provides intriguing accounts of Kennan's work with the Marshall Plan, his establishment of a training program for upcoming officers in the military and diplomatic service and his work with Frank Wisner and the Office of Policy Coordination. But of equal interest are his later life at Princeton's School of Advanced Studies and his relations with subsequent Presidents, including Bill Clinton, whose expansion of NATO after the collapse of the Soviet Union Kennan forcefully objected to.

A well-rounded treatment of the life of a man who made significant contributions to his country and the world at large.