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Sources of American conduct: George Kennan and the containment policy

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posted on 2023-09-06, 03:29 authored by Kim Brinck-Johnsen

George Kennan's 1947 Foreign Affairs article "The Sources of Soviet Conduct" was tremendously influential in the construction of American Cold War foreign policy. His description of the political and philosophical roots of Soviet foreign policy shaped policy makers' attitudes towards the Soviet Union and led them to focus American foreign policy during the Cold War on "containing" the Soviet Union. America's preoccupation with containing the Soviet Union meant that American policy was based more on an analysis of Soviet behavior than it was on American political and diplomatic traditions. Furthermore, because containment defined American interest in terms of another nation, Cold War policy marked a sharp break from the principles that had dominated American foreign policy during the first 150 years of American nationhood. Kennan argued that in order to respond effectively to the ideologically unified and coherent Soviet policy, America needed to construct an ideologically unified and coherent American policy. As a corollary, containment predicated a unified American public and a shared sense of purpose. The logic of containment was persuasive, and throughout the Cold War, Americans defined themselves, and America, as anti-communist. Now, with the end of the Cold War, Kennan, and others, have urged a return to the principles that marked American foreign policy during the pre-World War II years, and they have begun to promote these old principles as the new sources of American conduct.



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Thesis (M.A.)--American University, 1995.


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