George F. Kennan: Immigration Seer

In a recent VDARE.com blog entry, Steve Sailer discusses legendary American diplomat and historian George F. Kennan, providing a brief quote from what Kennan had to say about immigration in his 1993 memoir Around the Cragged Hill: A Personal and Political Philosophy.  

The entire passage on immigration (approximately 2,100 words) in Kennan`s book, excerpted from his Chapter 7 on “Dimensions,” was reprinted by The Social Contract quarterly that same year and is available online [20-kB PDF]. 

In my view, Kennan was a formidably good writer, eminently quotable.  So the material in The Social Contract`s excerpt is useful in crafting letters-to-the-editor and op-eds.  For example, here`s one of Kennan`s paragraphs:

There will be those who will say, `Oh, it is our duty to receive as many as possible of these people and to share our prosperity with them, as we have so long been doing.` But suppose there are limits to our capacity to absorb. Suppose the effect of such a policy is to create, in the end, conditions within this country no better than those of the places the masses of immigrants have left: the same poverty, the same distress. What we shall then have accomplished is not to have appreciably improved conditions in the Third World (for even the maximum numbers we could conceivably take would be only a drop from the bucket of the planet`s overpopulation) but to make this country itself a part of the Third World (as certain parts of it already are [See here, here, and here (PDF)—PN]) thus depriving the planet of one of the few great regions that might have continued, as it now does, to be helpful to much of the remainder of the world by its relatively high standard of civilization, by its quality as example, by its ability to shed insight on the problems of the others and to help them find their answers to their own problems.

Another glimpse into Kennan`s views on America`s immigration-blitzed future was provided by VDARE.com friend and correspondent Vincent Chiarello, who`d had a significant one-on-one “audience” with Kennan while serving in the U.S. Foreign Service.  

In 2009, “Don Vincenzo” wrote about this encounter to the late Lawrence Auster, who devoted a blog entry (A Prominent American Who Saw the Immigration Disaster) to it at his (still-extant) site View From the Right [VFR].

I think it`s worthwhile to present Don Vincenzo`s full account of his experience with Kennan:

In 1985, while I served as Press Attache at the U.S. Embassy in Oslo, I received an invitation to attend a luncheon at the ambassador’s residence: the guest of honor was the noted U.S. historian and foreign policy expert, George F. Kennan. I was eager to meet Kennan, for I had read most of his work on U.S. foreign policy, and I knew of his exalted standing amongst many members of the U.S. Foreign Service, which he admirably served from the rise of Hitler to the inception of the Cold War. While serving in Moscow after World War II, he penned the famous “X” telegram, which advocated the “containment” of Soviet expansion. Kennan’s wife was Norwegian, and they spent many a summer in “the land of the midnight sun,” visiting her family and their grandchildren, but rarely accepted an invitation. Because of my familiarity with his writings, I was asked to take the lead in keeping up the conversation.

As would be expected, the (then) current foreign policy issues dominated the discussion, including the danger posed by Soviet submarines in the Kola Peninsula, and the guests, who also included representatives from the Norwegian government, were pleased—at least they appeared to be—when the soiree ended. That night, I received a phone call from the ambassador asking if I would be interested in a one-on-one conversation over breakfast the next morning with none other than Kennan. The ambassador had an appointment that could not be broken; I jumped at the opportunity.

I remember that foreign policy issues occupied only a brief interlude in our conversation; what remains clearest in my mind about that meeting was Kennan’s deep pessimism about the future of the United States. Time and time again, he came back to the same theme: that unfettered immigration from non-European nations would be a disaster, and that the thin line that separated the U.S. from the rest of the world would disappear. … [Harvard political scientist Samuel] Huntington was fiercely opposed to the notion of America as “a propositional nation.” Kennan emphasized that same objection by repeatedly pointing out our Anglo-Saxon roots and cultural heritage. I cannot help but believe that, toward the end of that session, Kennan, who was to live to more than 100 years, was saying that Anglo-Saxons, that is, the white race, were being endangered by a flood of unassimilable strangers that would shake the nation to its very foundational core.

Eleven years after those encounters, Kennan published, At A Century’s Ending, in which he continued his Jeremiah-like role, warning the nation of the dangers we will face, which now also included potential environmental disasters. Included in his dirge-like observations, he wrote: 

 And finally, there is much in our own life, here in this country that needs early containment…. (of) our inability to reduce a devastating budgetary deficit; our comparable inability to control the immigration into our midst of great masses of people of wholly different cultural and political traditions.

 Both Samuel Huntington and George F. Kennan were appalled by the willingness of the political leadership to destroy the country these two men so dearly loved by importing hordes of immigrants who, by their nature and numbers, will permanently alter what it is to be an American.

There`s also some follow-up discussion between Messrs. Auster and Chiarello at that VFR entry.