Kennan’s Long Telegram

On February 22, 1946, George F. Kennan sent the Long Telegram to the State Department. The subsequent publication of the “X Article” in Foreign Affairs, considered by the foreign policy elders of the day, set the policy of Containment toward the Soviet Union. Quoting from the preface,

Answer to Dept’s 284, Feb. 3,13 involves questions so intricate, so delicate, so strange to our form of thought, and so important to analysis of our international environment that I cannot compress answers into single brief message without yielding to what I feel would be a dangerous degree of oversimplification. I hope, therefore, Dept will bear with me if I submit in answer to this question five parts...I apologize in advance for this burdening of telegraphic channel; but questions involved are of such urgent importance, particularly in view of recent events, that our answers to them, if they deserve attention at all, seem to me to deserve it at once

No subsequent policy, even the War on Terror, has combined the durability and success of Containment. Thirteen years since that ennunciation, there is now a need to enunciate a new policy, not replacing, but overarching the War on Terror, because the world is no longer even remotely bipolar.  A new policy must be authored,  suitable for the resumed pluralism of the world scene.  It should answer this question:

How,  in a multipolar world, with a relative decline of economic and military power, can America’s  security, as much economic as military, be best assured for the next half-century?

The purpose of the long horizon is this. It disallows incorporation into the policy issues that relate to specific, immediate, tactical needs. It forces the authors to take the long view.  It should be a relevant test of every policy with shorter horizon.

We’re a bit short of elder statesmen right now. Those remaining should be invited to add to their legacies of thought.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *