New Book Review up at PRAGATI: George F. Kennan: an American Life

Cross-posted at

PRAGATI – the Indian National Interest Review has published my review of John Lewis Gaddis’ biography George F. Kennan: An American Life.

The creative art of strategy 

….Into the breach strides eminent diplomatic historian John Lewis Gaddis, offering a magisterial 784 page biography, a quarter- century in the making, George F. Kennan: An American Life. Gaddis, a noted historian of the Cold War and critic of revisionist interpretations of American foreign policy, has produced his magnum opus, distilling not only the essence of Kennan’s career, but the origins of his grand strategic worldview that were part and parcel the self-critical and lonely isolation that made Kennan such an acute observer of foreign societies and a myopic student of his own.

Gaddis, who is a co-founder of the elite Grand Strategy Program at Yale University, had such a long intellectual association with his subject, having been appointed Kennan’s biographer in 1982, that one wonders on theories of strategy at times where George Kennan ends and John Lewis Gaddis begins. Giving Kennan the supreme compliment among strategists, that he possessed in the years of the Long Telegram and the Policy Planning Staff, Clausewitz’s Coup d’oeil, Gaddis does not shy away from explaining Kennan’s human imperfections to the reader that made the diplomat a study in contradictions….

Read the rest here.

3 thoughts on “New Book Review up at PRAGATI: George F. Kennan: an American Life”

  1. If I am not mistaken George Kennan was the mysterious “Mr. X” who wrote what became America’s blueprint for the policy of containment of the USSR in Foreign Affairs Magazine (1947?)

  2. Yep. That is him. The “X” article in Foreign Affairs was reworked from the secret “Long Telegram” that Kennan sent to the State Department from the US embassy in Moscow. It ended up on the desk of every bigwig from the President on down instead of being, as often happens, getting filed away unread.

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