Mr. Stephens, Mr. Kennan and the uninvited Mr. Lippmann: a comment by Political Observer

The New Cold War cliches are Putin as the New Stalin, President Obama’s lack of ‘resolve’ and it’s twin European/EU lack of resolve i.e. Merkel, and ‘Russian revanchism’ all carefully articulated by Mr. Stephens. Who then, quite boldly and imaginatively, uses the Long Telegram, and it’s successor the famous Mr. X essay as his starting point:  his extemporaneous and not quite convincing, not to speak of hectoring essay, is the issue of this thought experiment.

What Mr. Stephens leaves out of his political re-imagination, on ideological grounds? is the essay by American political mandarin Walter Lippmann. Perhaps a long quotation from this reply to Mr. X’s position paper will give much needed historical context, in the interest of demonstrating policy debates at the beginning of the Cold War and their relevance for policy debates in the present:

It will be evident, I am sure, to the reader who has followed the argument to this point that my criticism of the policy of containment, or the so-called Truman Doctrine, does not spring from any hope or belief that the Soviet pressure to expand can be “charmed or talked out of existence.” I agree entirely with Mr. X that we must make up our minds that the Soviet power is not amenable to our arguments, but only “to contrary force” that “is felt to be too strong, and thus more rational in the logic and rhetoric of power.”

My objection, then, to the policy of containment is not that it seeks to confront the Soviet power with American power, but that the policy is misconceived, and must result in a misuse of American power. For as I have sought to show, it commits this country to a struggle which has for its objective nothing more substantial than the hope that in ten or fifteen years the Soviet power will, as the result of long frustration, “break up” or “mellow.” In this prolonged struggle the role of the United States is, according to Mr. X, to react “at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points” to the encroachments of the Soviet power.

The policy, therefore, concedes to the Kremlin the strategical initiative as to when, where and under what local circumstances the issue is to be joined. It compels the United States to meet the Soviet pressure at these shifting geographical and political points by using satellite states, puppet governments and agents which have been subsidized and supported, though their effectiveness is meager and their reliability uncertain. By forcing us to expend our energies and our substance upon these dubious and unnatural allies on the perimeter of the Soviet Union, the effect of the policy is to neglect our natural allies in the Atlantic community, and to alienate them.

The Lippmann essay available here:

Political Observer

About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer.
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