Why did George Kennan have doubts about the Truman administration’s containment policies?


Fundamental to this approach was the notion of asymmetrical response –of applying one’s own strengths against adversary weaknesses, rather than attempting to match the adversary in all of his capabilities.” –Gaddis, p. 60

Kennan’s Containment Goals

  • Restore balance of power (political / economic aid)
  • Exploit tensions within global communism (overt / covert)
  • Modify Soviet behavior over time (counter-pressure)

It is very simple to deal with an enemy, simpler than dealing with a friend.” –Kennan quoted in Gaddis, 72

Truman’s Containment Policies

  • Occupation as rehabilitation in Germany & Japan
  • Truman Doctrine in Greece and Turkey (and beyond?)
  • Marshall Plan and economic recovery in Western Europe
  • Berlin Airlift
  • NATO alliance
  • Atomic supremacy (hydrogen fusion bomb)

There was in the administration’s emphasis on capabilities at the expense of intentions a tendency to equate the importance of information with the ease of measuring it –an approach better suited to physics than to international relations. –Gaddis, p. 82

Early containment vocabulary

  • Asymmetrical response
  • Fall of China
  • Heartlands and rimlands
  • National Security Act (1947) –CIA, DoD, NSC
  • Spheres of influence
  • Strongpoint defense vs. perimeter defense
  • Titoism
  • Totalitarianism

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