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Foreign Policy Lessons

Topic: Foreign Policy Lessons

Derek Chollet: The Cold War had been about containment, containment of the Soviet Union. George Kennan, who was a diplomat and scholar who came up with the phrase “containment” was many ways identified, he was a god among the foreign policy elites. This was the person who had come up with the word and the concept that had basically defined American foreign policy for over four decades and when the Soviet Union collapsed there was a tremendous desire among those in government and out of the government to be the next George Kennan, to come up with that phrase, that bumper sticker that would define not just the world as it was changing, but America’s role in it. Now what’s interesting is Kennan himself during the Cold War was unhappy with the way containment had been used and in his view, abused, and used as a rationale for doing all sorts of things that he didn’t think was in America’s interest. But nevertheless, at the end of the Cold War everyone, from Francis Fukuyama to Samuel Huntington with “The Clash of Civilizations” to George H.W. Bush with the New World Order to Bill Clinton with various versions of bumper stickers, tried to come up with that encapsulating phrase and win what sort of people derided at the time as the Kennan Sweepstakes.



Recorded on: 070/8/2008






Trying to apply sweeping generalizations to foreign policy only does the country a disservice, says Derek Chollet.

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