Frases de George F. Kennan

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George F. Kennan

Fecha de nacimiento: 16. Febrero 1904
Fecha de muerte: 17. Marzo 2005

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George Frost Kennan fue un diplomático, politólogo e historiador estadounidense. Mejor conocido por su defensa de la política de contención de la expansión soviética durante el período de la Guerra Fría, la cual más tarde revirtió él mismo. Pronunció numerosas conferencias y escribió artículos académicos sobre las relaciones entre la URSS y Estados Unidos. Fue incluso uno de los del grupo de los ancianos de la política exterior conocido como "Los hombres sabios".

A finales de la década de 1940, sus publicaciones inspiraron la Doctrina Truman y la política exterior estadounidense de la contención de la Unión Soviética. Su llamado Telegrama Largo[1]​ que envió desde Moscú durante 1946 y el subsecuente artículo de 1947 "Las fuentes del comportamiento soviético" sostenían que el régimen soviético era expansionista por naturaleza y que su influencia debía ser "contenida" en áreas de importancia estratégica para los Estados Unidos. Estos textos sirvieron de justificación para la nueva política anti-soviética de la administración de Harry S. Truman. Kennan desempeñó un papel fundamental en el desarrollo de los programas e instituciones que definieron la Guerra Fría, especialmente el Plan Marshall.

Poco después de que su doctrina de la contención se convirtiera en política oficial de los Estados Unidos, Kennan empezó a criticar las mismas políticas que aparentemente había ayudado a lanzar. Posteriormente, antes de que concluyera el año de 1948, Kennan estaba convencido de que se podían iniciar negociaciones con el gobierno de la Unión Soviética. Sus propuestas fueron rechazadas por la administración de Truman por lo que la influencia de Kennan empezó a disminuir, sobre todo luego de la designación de Dean Acheson como Secretario de Estado en 1949. A medida que la estrategia de Estados Unidos para la Guerra Fría adquiría una forma más asertiva y militarista, Kennan lamentaba lo que él denominaba una abrogación de sus evaluaciones previas.

En 1950, Kennan abandonó el Departamento de Estado, salvo por dos breves comisiones como diplomático en Moscú y Yugoslavia, y se convirtió en un crítico realista de la política exterior norteamericana. Continuó analizando los asuntos internacionales como profesor del Institute for Advanced Study de 1956 hasta su muerte a los 101 años.

Fue un miembro del Consejo fundador del Rothermere American Institute en la Universidad de Oxford.[2]​

Frases George F. Kennan

„For the love of God, for the love of your children and of the civilization to which you belong, cease this madness.“

— George F. Kennan
Context: For the love of God, for the love of your children and of the civilization to which you belong, cease this madness. You are mortal men. You are capable of error. You have no right to hold in your hands — there is no one wise enough and strong enough to hold in his hands — destructive power sufficient to put an end to civilized life on a great portion of our planet. As quoted in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Vol. 37 (1981); also in [http://www.boston.com/news/globe/obituaries/articles/2005/03/18/george_kennan_dies_at_101_devised_cold_war_policy Boston Globe obituary of George F. Kennan by Mark Feeney (18 March 2005) D23.] Cited in James Carroll, House of War, Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., (2006), chapter 7, note 140, p. 581.

„If the Western world was really going to make a pretense of a higher moral departure point — of greater sympathy and understanding for the human being as God made him, as expressed not only in himself but in the things he had wrought and cared about — then it had to learn to fight its wars morally as well as militarily, or not fight them at all; for moral principles were a part of its strength.“

— George F. Kennan
Context: Here, for the first time, I felt an unshakable conviction that no momentary military advantage — even if such could have been calculated to exist — could have justified this stupendous, careless destruction of civilian life and of material values, built up laboriously by human hands over the course of centuries for purposes having nothing to do with war. Least of all could it have been justified by the screaming non sequitur: "They did it to us." And it suddenly appeared to me that in these ruins there was an unanswerable symbolism which we in the West could not afford to ignore. If the Western world was really going to make a pretense of a higher moral departure point — of greater sympathy and understanding for the human being as God made him, as expressed not only in himself but in the things he had wrought and cared about — then it had to learn to fight its wars morally as well as militarily, or not fight them at all; for moral principles were a part of its strength. Shorn of this strength, it was no longer itself; its victories were not real victories; and the best it would accomplish in the long run would be to pull down the temple over its own head. The military would stamp this as naïve; they would say that war is war, that when you're in it you fight with every means you have, or go down in defeat. But if that is the case, then there rests upon Western civilization, bitter as this may be, the obligation to be militarily stronger than its adversaries by a margin sufficient to enable it to dispense with those means which can stave off defeat only at the cost of undermining victory. Written in regard to the Allied destruction of Hamburg and other German cities, p. 437

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„And there is a real question as to whether "bigness" in a body politic is not an evil in itself, quite aside from the policies pursued in its name.“

— George F. Kennan
Context: We are, if territory and population be looked at together, one of the great countries of the world — a monster country, one might say, along with others such as China, India, the recent Soviet Union, and Brazil. And there is a real question as to whether "bigness" in a body politic is not an evil in itself, quite aside from the policies pursued in its name. Around the Cragged Hill : A Personal and Political Philosophy (1994), p. 143

„Reading, in contrast to sitting before the screen, is not a purely passive exercise.“

— George F. Kennan
Context: Reading, in contrast to sitting before the screen, is not a purely passive exercise. The child, particularly one who reads a book dealing with real life, has nothing before it but the hieroglyphics of the printed page. Imagination must do the rest; and imagination is called upon to do it. Not so the television screen. Here everything is spelled out for the viewer, visually, in motion, and in all three dimensions. No effort of imagination is called upon for its enjoyment. “American Addictions” in New Oxford Review (June 1993)

„Here, for the first time, I felt an unshakable conviction that no momentary military advantage — even if such could have been calculated to exist — could have justified this stupendous, careless destruction of civilian life and of material values, built up laboriously by human hands over the course of centuries for purposes having nothing to do with war.“

— George F. Kennan
Context: Here, for the first time, I felt an unshakable conviction that no momentary military advantage — even if such could have been calculated to exist — could have justified this stupendous, careless destruction of civilian life and of material values, built up laboriously by human hands over the course of centuries for purposes having nothing to do with war. Least of all could it have been justified by the screaming non sequitur: "They did it to us." And it suddenly appeared to me that in these ruins there was an unanswerable symbolism which we in the West could not afford to ignore. If the Western world was really going to make a pretense of a higher moral departure point — of greater sympathy and understanding for the human being as God made him, as expressed not only in himself but in the things he had wrought and cared about — then it had to learn to fight its wars morally as well as militarily, or not fight them at all; for moral principles were a part of its strength. Shorn of this strength, it was no longer itself; its victories were not real victories; and the best it would accomplish in the long run would be to pull down the temple over its own head. The military would stamp this as naïve; they would say that war is war, that when you're in it you fight with every means you have, or go down in defeat. But if that is the case, then there rests upon Western civilization, bitter as this may be, the obligation to be militarily stronger than its adversaries by a margin sufficient to enable it to dispense with those means which can stave off defeat only at the cost of undermining victory. Written in regard to the Allied destruction of Hamburg and other German cities, p. 437

„A foreign policy aimed at the achievement of total security is the one thing I can think of that is entirely capable of bringing this country to a point where it will have no security at all.“

— George F. Kennan
Context: A foreign policy aimed at the achievement of total security is the one thing I can think of that is entirely capable of bringing this country to a point where it will have no security at all. And a ruthless, reckless insistence on attempting to stamp out everything that could conceivably constitute a reflection of improper foreign influence in our national life, regardless of the actual damage it is doing to the cost of eliminating it, in terms of other American values, is the one thing I can think of that should reduce us all to a point where the very independence we are seeking to defend would be meaningless, for we would be doing things to ourselves as vicious and tyrannical as any that might be brought to us from outside. This sort of extremism seems to me to hold particular danger for a democracy, because it creates a curious area between what is held to be possible and what is really possible — an area within which government can always be plausibly shown to have been most dangerously delinquent in the performance of its tasks. And this area, where government is always deficient, provides the ideal field of opportunity for every sort of demagoguery and mischief-making. It constitutes a terrible breach in the dike of our national morale, through which forces of doubt and suspicion never cease to find entry. The heart of our problem, here, lies in our assessment of the relative importance of the various dangers among which we move; and until many of our people can be brought to understand that what we have to do is not to secure a total absence of danger but to balance peril against peril and to find the tolerable degree of each, we shall not wholly emerge from these confusions. Radcliffe Commencement Address (16 June 1954), published as "The Illusion of Total Security" in The Atlantic Monthly, # 194 (August 1954)

„I also suspect that what purports to be public opinion in most countries that consider themselves to have popular government is often not really the consensus of the feelings of the mass of the people at all, but rather the expression of the interests of special highly vocal minorities — politicians, commentators, and publicity-seekers of all sorts: people who live by their ability to draw attention to themselves and die, like fish out of water, if they are compelled to remain silent.“

— George F. Kennan
Context: There are certain sad appreciations we have to come to about human nature on the basis of these recent wars. One of them is that suffering does not always make men better. Another is that people are not always more reasonable than governments; that public opinion, or what passes for public opinion, is not invariably a moderating force in the jungle of politics. It may be true, and I suspect it is, that the mass of people everywhere are normally peace-loving and would accept many restraints and sacrifices in preference to the monstrous calamities of war. But I also suspect that what purports to be public opinion in most countries that consider themselves to have popular government is often not really the consensus of the feelings of the mass of the people at all, but rather the expression of the interests of special highly vocal minorities — politicians, commentators, and publicity-seekers of all sorts: people who live by their ability to draw attention to themselves and die, like fish out of water, if they are compelled to remain silent. These people take refuge in the pat and chauvinistic slogans because they are incapable of understanding any others, because these slogans are safer from the standpoint of short-term gain, because the truth is sometimes a poor competitor in the market place of ideas — complicated, unsatisfying, full of dilemma, always vulnerable to misinterpretation and abuse. The counsels of impatience and hatred can always be supported by the crudest and cheapest symbols; for the counsels of moderation, the reasons are often intricate, rather than emotional, and difficult to explain. And so the chauvinists of all times and places go their appointed way: plucking the easy fruits, reaping the little triumphs of the day at the expense of someone else tomorrow, deluging in noise and filth anyone who gets in their way, dancing their reckless dance on the prospects for human progress, drawing the shadow of a great doubt over the validity of democratic institutions. And until people learn to spot the fanning of mass emotions and the sowing of bitterness, suspicion, and intolerance as crimes in themselves — as perhaps the greatest disservice that can be done to the cause of popular government — this sort of thing will continue to occur.

„I said that wherever these people, meaning the Soviet leadership, confronted us with dangerous hostility anywhere in the world, we should do everything possible to contain it and not let them expand any further. I should have explained that I didn't suspect them of any desire to launch an attack on us.“

— George F. Kennan
Context: I said that wherever these people, meaning the Soviet leadership, confronted us with dangerous hostility anywhere in the world, we should do everything possible to contain it and not let them expand any further. I should have explained that I didn't suspect them of any desire to launch an attack on us. This was right after the war, and it was absurd to suppose that they were going to turn around and attack the United States. I didn't think I needed to explain that, but I obviously should have done it. Interview on [http://www.pbs.org/newshour/gergen/kennan.html Online NewsHour : "George Kennan" (PBS) (18 April 1996)]

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„The heart of our problem, here, lies in our assessment of the relative importance of the various dangers among which we move; and until many of our people can be brought to understand that what we have to do is not to secure a total absence of danger but to balance peril against peril and to find the tolerable degree of each, we shall not wholly emerge from these confusions.“

— George F. Kennan
Context: A foreign policy aimed at the achievement of total security is the one thing I can think of that is entirely capable of bringing this country to a point where it will have no security at all. And a ruthless, reckless insistence on attempting to stamp out everything that could conceivably constitute a reflection of improper foreign influence in our national life, regardless of the actual damage it is doing to the cost of eliminating it, in terms of other American values, is the one thing I can think of that should reduce us all to a point where the very independence we are seeking to defend would be meaningless, for we would be doing things to ourselves as vicious and tyrannical as any that might be brought to us from outside. This sort of extremism seems to me to hold particular danger for a democracy, because it creates a curious area between what is held to be possible and what is really possible — an area within which government can always be plausibly shown to have been most dangerously delinquent in the performance of its tasks. And this area, where government is always deficient, provides the ideal field of opportunity for every sort of demagoguery and mischief-making. It constitutes a terrible breach in the dike of our national morale, through which forces of doubt and suspicion never cease to find entry. The heart of our problem, here, lies in our assessment of the relative importance of the various dangers among which we move; and until many of our people can be brought to understand that what we have to do is not to secure a total absence of danger but to balance peril against peril and to find the tolerable degree of each, we shall not wholly emerge from these confusions. Radcliffe Commencement Address (16 June 1954), published as "The Illusion of Total Security" in The Atlantic Monthly, # 194 (August 1954)

„We are, if territory and population be looked at together, one of the great countries of the world — a monster country, one might say“

— George F. Kennan
Context: We are, if territory and population be looked at together, one of the great countries of the world — a monster country, one might say, along with others such as China, India, the recent Soviet Union, and Brazil. And there is a real question as to whether "bigness" in a body politic is not an evil in itself, quite aside from the policies pursued in its name. Around the Cragged Hill : A Personal and Political Philosophy (1994), p. 143

„If humiliation and rejection are to be the rewards of faithful and effective service in this field, what are those of us to conclude who have also served prominently in this line of work but upon whom this badge has not yet been conferred?“

— George F. Kennan
Context: If humiliation and rejection are to be the rewards of faithful and effective service in this field, what are those of us to conclude who have also served prominently in this line of work but upon whom this badge has not yet been conferred? We cannot deceive ourselves into believing that it was merit, rather than chance, that spared some of us the necessity of working in areas of activity that have now become controversial, of recording opinions people now find disagreeable, of aiding in the implementation of policies now under question. … In no field of endeavor is it easier than in the field of foreign affairs to be honestly wrong; in no field is it harder for contemporaries to be certain they can distinguish between wisdom and folly; in no field would it be less practicable to try to insist on infallibility as a mark of fitness for office. In defense of a colleague undergoing investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1951; published in Memoirs : 1950-1963 (1967), p. 218

„A doctrine is something that pins you down to a given mode of conduct and dozens of situations which you cannot foresee, which is a great mistake in principle.“

— George F. Kennan
Context: A doctrine is something that pins you down to a given mode of conduct and dozens of situations which you cannot foresee, which is a great mistake in principle. When the word ‘containment’ was used in my ‘X’ article, it was used with relation to a certain situation then prevailing, and as a response to it. As quoted in "George Kennan Speaks Out About Iraq" at History News Network (26 September 2002)

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„The counsels of impatience and hatred can always be supported by the crudest and cheapest symbols; for the counsels of moderation, the reasons are often intricate, rather than emotional, and difficult to explain.“

— George F. Kennan
Context: There are certain sad appreciations we have to come to about human nature on the basis of these recent wars. One of them is that suffering does not always make men better. Another is that people are not always more reasonable than governments; that public opinion, or what passes for public opinion, is not invariably a moderating force in the jungle of politics. It may be true, and I suspect it is, that the mass of people everywhere are normally peace-loving and would accept many restraints and sacrifices in preference to the monstrous calamities of war. But I also suspect that what purports to be public opinion in most countries that consider themselves to have popular government is often not really the consensus of the feelings of the mass of the people at all, but rather the expression of the interests of special highly vocal minorities — politicians, commentators, and publicity-seekers of all sorts: people who live by their ability to draw attention to themselves and die, like fish out of water, if they are compelled to remain silent. These people take refuge in the pat and chauvinistic slogans because they are incapable of understanding any others, because these slogans are safer from the standpoint of short-term gain, because the truth is sometimes a poor competitor in the market place of ideas — complicated, unsatisfying, full of dilemma, always vulnerable to misinterpretation and abuse. The counsels of impatience and hatred can always be supported by the crudest and cheapest symbols; for the counsels of moderation, the reasons are often intricate, rather than emotional, and difficult to explain. And so the chauvinists of all times and places go their appointed way: plucking the easy fruits, reaping the little triumphs of the day at the expense of someone else tomorrow, deluging in noise and filth anyone who gets in their way, dancing their reckless dance on the prospects for human progress, drawing the shadow of a great doubt over the validity of democratic institutions. And until people learn to spot the fanning of mass emotions and the sowing of bitterness, suspicion, and intolerance as crimes in themselves — as perhaps the greatest disservice that can be done to the cause of popular government — this sort of thing will continue to occur.

„Now this problem of the adjustment of man to his natural resources, and the problem of how such things as industrialization and urbanization can be accepted without destroying the traditional values of a civilization and corrupting the inner vitality of its life — these things are not only the problems of America; they are the problems of men everywhere.“

— George F. Kennan
Context: Now this problem of the adjustment of man to his natural resources, and the problem of how such things as industrialization and urbanization can be accepted without destroying the traditional values of a civilization and corrupting the inner vitality of its life — these things are not only the problems of America; they are the problems of men everywhere. To the extent that we Americans become able to show that we are aware of these problems, and that we are approaching them with coherent and effective ideas of our own which we have the courage to put into effect in our own lives, to that extent a new dimension will come into our relations with the peoples beyond our borders, to that extent, in fact, the dreams of these earlier generations of Americans who saw us as leaders and helpers to the peoples of the world at large will begin to take on flesh and reality. Lecture at Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey (March 1954); published in “The Unifying Factor” in Realities of American Foreign Policy (1954), p. 116

„In no field of endeavor is it easier than in the field of foreign affairs to be honestly wrong; in no field is it harder for contemporaries to be certain they can distinguish between wisdom and folly; in no field would it be less practicable to try to insist on infallibility as a mark of fitness for office.“

— George F. Kennan
Context: If humiliation and rejection are to be the rewards of faithful and effective service in this field, what are those of us to conclude who have also served prominently in this line of work but upon whom this badge has not yet been conferred? We cannot deceive ourselves into believing that it was merit, rather than chance, that spared some of us the necessity of working in areas of activity that have now become controversial, of recording opinions people now find disagreeable, of aiding in the implementation of policies now under question. … In no field of endeavor is it easier than in the field of foreign affairs to be honestly wrong; in no field is it harder for contemporaries to be certain they can distinguish between wisdom and folly; in no field would it be less practicable to try to insist on infallibility as a mark of fitness for office. In defense of a colleague undergoing investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1951; published in Memoirs : 1950-1963 (1967), p. 218

„I lived, particularly in childhood but with lessening intensity right on to middle age, in a world that was peculiarly and intimately my own, scarcely to be shared with others or even made plausible to them.“

— George F. Kennan
Context: I lived, particularly in childhood but with lessening intensity right on to middle age, in a world that was peculiarly and intimately my own, scarcely to be shared with others or even made plausible to them. I habitually read special meanings into things, scenes and places — qualities of wonder, beauty, promise, or horror — for which there was no external evidence visible or plausible to others. My world was peopled with mysteries, seductive hints, vague menaces, "intimations of immortality." A passage from the first volume of his Memoirs as quoted in Political Realism in American Thought (1977) by John W. Coffey, p. 26

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