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Containment Policy. Speaks Of George Kennan

1559 words - 7 pages

As promulgated in 1947 by one of its chief architects, George Kennan, the policy of containment fashioned a strategy to deal with the implacable challenge posed by Soviet Communists (Kennan, 582). Because of their ideology and history, the Soviets were held to be dangerous and thus their expansion must be countered by the West. To deal with the Soviet threat, Kennan called for a long-term and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies (Kennan, 575). Although containment policy was widely accepted at its point of conception, the policy is in fact logically flawed. If the Soviet system really was a flawed as theorists such as Kennan surmised, then the best policy would have been not ...view middle of the document...

Much of the same holds for arms policy. It is true that the Soviets vast, economy-straining arms buildup was in part a reaction to Western defense spending. Much of this buildup, however, would have happened anyway. As Kennan pointed out in 1947, central to the classic Soviet communist view of the world was an intense suspiciousness of, and hostility toward, the surrounding capitalist world. Massive arms expenditures are a necessary concominant of this world view, and they were likely no matter how the West chose to array its arsenal.Indeed, the West tried to level or reduce arms expenditures several times - in the mid-1940s, the 1960s, and the 1970s. Each time the Soviets responded by continuing to build. As Jimmy Carter's Secretary of Defense, Harold Brown, concluded with exasperation, 'When we build, they build; when we cut back, they build' (Thomas, 371). As it happened, it was under Carter that the 'Reagan defense buildup' began. The value of that expensive policy is not at all clear. It probably helped the Soviets (especially Gorbachev) to appreciate the depth of the country's economic dilemma, but the effect may have been fairly marginal since the Soviets were already vastly overspending for defense. Moreover, the buildup came at a severe cost to the American economy which was then forced to devote much of the 1990s trying to recover.As mentioned earlier, Soviet ideology also had at its center an almost messianic drive to undermine the capitalist enemy. As Kennan wrote in 1947, the Communists believed that for capitalism to perish, a final push was needed from a proletariat movement in order to tip over the tottering structure (Kennan, 567). It is on this drive that containment focused most directly, and the assumption was that if the Soviets' expansionary impetus was systematically frustrated, their foreign policy would eventually mellow because of changes from within. Accordingly, the United States sought to apply unalterable counter-force at every point where they show signs of encroaching upon the interests of a peaceful and stable world (Kennan, 567).Kennan does not mention it in his 1947 article, but at its core the policy of containment applied the lesson of Munich: when a county bent on expansion gains more territory, its appetite is only further whetted. Thus when Communist expansion was thwarted the policy was held to have been successful. Likewise, when areas fell into the Communist camp, containment was held to have suffered a setback. What ultimately brought about the mellowing of Soviet expansionism, however, was not containment's success, but its failure.Wherever they expanded, the Soviets sought, often brutally, to suppress ancient nationalisms and freedoms. Kennan anticipated that the Soviets would find maintaining control over eastern Europe to be difficult. In 1947, he proclaimed it unlikely that the 100 million Soviets could permanently hold down not only their own minorities, but some ninety million Europeans with a...

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