For now, you really ought to read Todd Purdum's piece in the forthcoming issue of Vanity Fair. It's called "One Nation, Under Arms." Purdum artfully splices brief reflections from his exploration of Kennan's collected papers with a pessimistic assessment of our collective capacity to halt the campaign of national disfigurement foisted on us by the unfortunate Kennan and his fellow architects of the national security state. Here's my favorite bit:
A theme that runs through page after page of Kennan’s writings—from his astonishment at the leisure culture that thrived in Southern California during his first visits there, in the post–World War II period, to his mordant commentaries on the Reagan era—is a profound love of country tempered by deep disappointment at the ways in which the modern United States has so often been willing to settle for the wasteful, the trivial, the second-rate. In Box 286, one finds a speech to the National Defense University, in 1985, in which Kennan sounded just these themes as he reflected on the broader meaning of containment.
“There is much in our own life, here in this country,” Kennan said, “that needs early containment. It could in fact be said that the first thing we Americans need to learn to contain is, in some ways, ourselves: our own environmental destructiveness; our tendency to live beyond our means and to borrow ourselves into disaster; our apparent inability to reduce a devastating budgetary deficit.”The old diplomat lived long enough to see another two decades where such tendencies escaped containment; he'd find little to surprise him among the depths we've plumbed in recent months. It's tough to look back over Kennan's diaries and letters in the last decades of his life, to see his disappointment and powerlessness in the face of the un-killable multi-trillion dollar mutant his ideas helped to feed. If that guy spent 101 years feeling frustrated, what's left for the rest of us to do?
Almost makes you want to retire from this business, pack up your books, and move to a place that's never heard of Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Buck McKeon, "bomb power," or extraordinary rendition. Almost.