Frank Costigliola [editor] | 2014 | 712 pages
In The Kennan Diaries, historian Frank Costigliola assembles and organizes the immense lifetime of correspondence and journal entries left by George F. Kennan, one of America’s most celebrated diplomats. Through the diaries, which span most of Kennan’s life, beginning in his teenage years in 1916 and to his 2004 death, we come to know a driven man of personal conviction- conviction both for the good the force of wise American diplomacy can do for the world, and for his own greatness. Kennan, probably best known for his authorship as Deputy Chief of Mission of the US to the USSR under Ambassador Averell Harriman of the 5,500-world “Long Telegram” in 1946 which he denounced the Kremlin, then an Ally in the war against Nazi Germany. The Telegram would become required reading in Washingon shortly after its publishing in Foreign Affairs magazine. Not long after the Telegram, Kennan authored another article which outlined the policy of ‘containment’ which would ultimately prove to guide American strategy through the Cold War. He would go on to serve in a number of high-level diplomatic posts in the post-war period.
Kennan never rose to the pinnacle of American diplomacy- to his utter dismay- blocked at every turn from the Secretary of State’s chair by formidable enemies both within and outside the State Department and White House who considered him a bit of a radical. Nevertheless, his influence on American diplomacy and international strategy has been proven by history to have been some of the most important the country has ever known. Kennan in his journaling is often insufferable; he takes himself incredibly seriously and drones on endlessly about how underappreciated in his time he feels he is both by the public and official Washington- this proves to be a theme through the decades the correspondenceheld by the book. But despite the vanity we also gain an absorbing glimpse into the intellectual mechanics of a true political giant in our nation’s history. Kennan may not carry the prestige or named cache of a Henry Kissinger or John Foster Dulles through the pages of history, but neither of those men left a lifetime’s record, which is what gains Kennan such broad, expansive treatment in Diaries. History buff? Recommend.