George Frost Kennan died on March 17, 2005 at the age of 101, he was an American diplomat, political scientist, and historian.
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on February 16, 1904, to Kossuth Kent Kennan, a lawyer specializing in tax law, a descendant of dirt-poor Scotch-Irish settlers of 18th-century Connecticut and Massachusetts, who was named after the Hungarian patriot Lajos Kossuth (1802–94), and Florence James Kennan.
During the late 1940s, his writings inspired the Truman Doctrine and theU.S. foreign policy of “containing” the Soviet Union.
His “Long Telegram” from Moscow during 1946 and the subsequent 1947 article “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” argued that the Soviet regime was inherently expansionist and that its influence had to be “contained” in areas of vital strategic importance to the United States.
These texts provided justification for the Truman administration’s new anti-Soviet policy.
At the age of eight he went to Germany to stay with his stepmother in order to learn German.
He attended St. John’s Military Academy in Delafield, Wisconsin, and arrived at Princeton University in the second half of 1921.
Unaccustomed to the elite atmosphere of the Ivy League, the shy and introverted Kennan found his undergraduate years difficult and lonely.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1925, Kennan considered applying to law school, but decided it was too expensive and instead opted to apply to the newly formed U.S. Foreign Service.
He passed the qualifying examination and after seven months of study at the Foreign Service School in Washington he gained his first job as a vice consul in Geneva, Switzerland.
Within a year he was transferred to a post in Hamburg, Germany. Interned briefly by the Nazis at the outbreak of World War II, Kennan was released in 1942 and subsequently filled diplomatic posts in Lisbon and Moscow during the war.
It was from Moscow in February 1946 that Kennan sent a cablegram, known as the “Long Telegram,” that enunciated the containment policy.
The telegram was widely read in Washington, D.C., and brought Kennan much recognition.
Later that year he returned to the United States and in 1947 he was named director of the State Department’s policy-planning staff.
Kennan accepted appointment as counselor to the State Department in 1949, but he resigned the following year to join the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.
He returned to Moscow in 1952 as U.S. ambassador but came back to the United States the following year after the Russians declared him persona non grata for remarks he made about Soviet treatment of Western diplomats.
In 1956 he became permanent professor of historical studies at the institute in Princeton, a tenure broken only by a stint as U.S. ambassador to Yugoslavia (1961–63).
In the late 1950s Kennan revised his containment views, advocating instead a program of U.S. “disengagement” from areas of conflict with the Soviet Union.
George will always be man that people will remember, he has lived a long life and a very good one.