The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Kerry looking at Cold War policy models?

Ron Brownstein's piece yesterday, under the hed Kerry Casts Himself as Solid Realist and Bush as Dreamy Idealist, surrounds the presumptive candidate with some heavyweight names from the Cold War foreign policy establishment:
...Kerry is tilting away from one Democratic tradition - Wilsonian idealism. But he is excavating another - the realism of the post-World War II foreign policy "Wise Men" such as Dean Acheson and George Kennan. These thinkers, and presidents such as Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy whom they influenced, were as determined to balance America's commitments with its capacities as they were to contain the spread of communism.

Now, during administrations of either stripe, the Cold War was not prosecuted with uniform success. And there is no easy read-across at any level of detail between policies towards the the Communist block (that dangerous over-simplification) then and what is required now. He's talking about attitude:
"Basically, Kerry is coming back to liberal realism," says James Chace, an Acheson biographer and author of a recent article on the Wise Men's legacy. "These men … they were very tough-minded, all of them. They were against day dreaming; they were against sentimentality."

Brownstein connects some dots:
The Wise Men husbanded military strength but pressed the Cold War mostly through nonmilitary means. Increasingly, Kerry is suggesting that forceful but measured approach will be his model in the war on terrorism.

Now, my knowledge of Cold War US foreign policy ranges from rusty to non-existent. No critiques for the moment.

Except that, still with the Hallin book on the bedside table, I have to say that the Cold War model by which strategy in Vietnam was guided was completely and disastrously inappropriate to the circumstances.


In following up the thesis, to start with, there's Chace's American Prospect article (here or here) of May 19 Wise After All: The "wise men" once fell out of favor; time they fell back in [1].

From Kerry's site, a piece on Kerry's speech at the Harry Truman library (June 3). Unfortunately, the full text of the speech does not seem to be available.

There is a useful-looking biblio and notes on containment in the Cold War; Kennan's 1947 X article in Foreign Affairs, more properly, The Sources of Soviet Conduct: an appreciation of Kennan (PDF); a 1998 Weekly Standard (!) piece How Dean Acheson Won the Cold War.

(The Ferraro site has a healthy stew of materials on the subject. Other useful-looking Cold War listings here and here.)

  1. Chace wrote a biography of Acheson; Walter Isaacson has a book on Acheson, Kennan and others.

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