The death of a realist

George Kennan, the great American diplomat, has died. David Adesnik at Oxblog analyzes Kennan’s place in the history of 20th century American diplomacy, and provides links to the obituaries in the Washington Post and the New York Times. Everyone who is even mildly conversant in the field knows that Kennan was a foreign policy realist. Yet, Adesnik notes that neither the Post nor the Times describes him as such.
One of Kennan’s daughters is good friend of my wife, and I met Kennan once at a wedding in a small French town about half an hour from Orleans. When we were introduced, he gave me one of those old-fashioned “size-ups,” looking me over from bottom to top starting with my shoes. I guess that’s what good diplomats did at one time. But the thing I remember most was Kennan’s intellectual curiosity. When we stopped by his hotel room, I saw that he had brought along a thick history of France and several books about the region, which he was planning to tour. You have to admire a guy in his late 70s, who already knows as much about the world as Kennan, who still is thirsty for more knowledge.

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