HST326 Paper - Whitehouse 1 Anna Whitehouse HST 326 24...

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Whitehouse 1 Anna Whitehouse HST 326 24 April 2011 Final Research Paper George F. Kennan and the Development of the “Containment” Policy It seems hard to imagine that someone so influential to US foreign policy as George F. Kennan entered the newly created Foreign Service after graduating from Princeton in 1925 simply because he had nothing better to do. 1 This choice, however, may not have been quite so random after all; when he was eight years old his father sent him live in Kassel, Germany for six months to learn German and pique his interests of the world beyond US soil. 2 The urge to travel may also have been predicted based upon his family history, as his cousin, twice removed, with whom he shared both name and birthday (he refers to him as George Kennan the elder) was an explorer in Russia during the late 1800s and wrote extensively about his travels. 3 Kennan’s extended time in the Soviet Union allowed him to develop perspectives about both the Soviet people and their government often contrary to those of the held by the US government and public opinion. Throughout his service with the government he devoted himself to dispelling these misconceptions primarily through writing, only to see his words fall flat before deaf ears. That is, until 1946 when his “Long Telegram” attracted the attention of the government and his 1947 “X Article” which, although it was largely misinterpreted, changed the way the nation thought, and served to sculpt American-Soviet relation policy following the conclusion of WWII. 1 George F. Kennan, Memoirs: 1925-1950 (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1967), 17 2 Ibid, 19 3 Ibid, 23
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Whitehouse 2 Kennan’s first tour of duty was during the spring and summer of 1927 in Geneva after graduating from Foreign Service School (which he found rather dull), followed by a permanent assignment in Hamburg. 4 This experience proved to him his education was not up to par, but when he got back to Norfolk with the intentions of quitting he ran into a former teacher from the Foreign Service School, William Dawson, who convinced him to stay on and train as a specialist for one of the rarer languages (Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and Russian) and spend the next three years doing a graduate study at the University Berlin. 5 Outside of school much of his education about prerevolutionary Russia came from the works of Anton Chehov and, inside, on the advice of an old professor, Kennan studied Russian history rather than Sovietology. 6 Since no relationship existed between the US and Russia his assignments during preliminary Russian training were in Tallinn and Riga, where his unit would receive major Soviet periodicals and publications, study them, and report back, to whatever extent possible, the economic conditions in the Soviet Union. 7
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This note was uploaded on 01/05/2012 for the course HST 326 taught by Professor Mccaffray during the Spring '11 term at University of North Carolina Wilmington.

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HST326 Paper - Whitehouse 1 Anna Whitehouse HST 326 24...

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