Sunday, January 9, 2011

Now That's How Diplomacy Works! George Kennan Explains It All To You

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By Barry Rubin

Martin Kramer has written a brilliant article about Iran and diplomatic practices in general. Before going further, I should add that I''ve never read anything by him that wasn't brilliant.

The story in brief is this: George Kennan was one of the greatest diplomats in American history. He is also the father of the containment strategy on the USSR during the Cold War. Recently, an Iranian-American scholar wrote an article saying that if Kennan were alive today he'd favor a soft policy on Iran.

Kramer cites what Kennan actually did say regarding Iran, which was the exact opposite. In fact, Kennan favored a tough line against the Mossadegh government (a nationalist regime that seized British oil interests, became increasingly infiltrated by Communists, and was overthrown by a U.S.-backed coup) in the early 1950s and a very tough strategy in response to the Islamist revolution and the seizure of Americans as hostages in the late 1970s. On both occasions, he even proposed war with Iran if necessary to secure U.S. interests.

The article is quite interesting but I want to cite here one statement by Kennan with more general implications. I think you will see how it applies to 2010 by the time you finish reading it:

"The idea that the appetites of local potentates can be satiated and their deep-seated resentments turned into devotion by piecemeal concessions and partial withdrawals is surely naïve to a degree that should make us blush to entertain it. If these people think they have us on the run, they will plainly not be satisfied until they have us completely out, lock, stock, and barrel, and then they will want to crow for decades to come about their triumph, in a way that will hardly be compatible with minimum requirements of Western prestige. The only thing that will prevent them from achieving this end is the cold gleam of adequate and determined force. The day for other things, if it ever existed, has now passed."

I think Israel has learned this message through sad experience. Since Kennan is regarded as one of the great diplomats in American history and the author of the successful U.S. strategy in the Cold War perhaps the U.S. government might think about that wisdom in dealing with the current conflict.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

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