George Kennan, Fareed Zakaria, Kim Kardashian…And The Los Angeles Of 2014
Fareed Zakaria, the Indian princeling (his father was the deputy leader of the ruling Congress Party in India), has enjoyed a glittering career in America. He reviews in the NYT the newly published diaries of American diplomat George Kennan (1904-2005), author of the “containment” strategy of the Cold War that successfully threaded the needle between WW3 and Soviet domination of Western Europe.
As I`ve mentioned before from reading Kennan`s late-in-life book Around the Cragged Hill (1994), Kennan was a Gloomy Gus, but exactly the kind of depressive realist an optimistic country like America needs to pay attention to.
Daniel Engerman wrote:
My one conversation with Kennan, who once was ambassador to Moscow, began with Russia and quickly turned to the depth of his conservatism. Asked what shaped his ideas about Russia, he recalled his professors at the University of Berlin in 1927. They had taught him about Realien, the givens of geography, climate and race that shaped nations and international relations. (The English “realities” doesn`t suggest the word`s resonance in 18th Century German philosophy.) Realien outlasted ephemera like ideology and even political systems–and should, he believed, be the basis of any foreign policy.
(By the way, Henry Kissinger is another follower of this German mindset. I`m rereading his memoirs and he makes relentlessly clear that he viewed each foreign statesman he dealt with as just a variation on the permanent themes of that country`s national character. As illustration, here`s Kissinger`s foray into sportswriting previewing how national soccer teams would play in the 1986 World Cup based on their deep national traits: the Italians play like miserly Mediterranean peasants, the Germans play like the General Staff fought the Great War with lighting counterstrikes when the opponent overreaches—such as when the Italians` eleventh uphill offensive against the Austro-Hungarians left them exhausted, German reinforcements in October 1917 suddenly swept down into the Italian plains in the attack described by Hemingway in A Farewell to Arms, etc.)
“However one cuts it, the question is not whether there are limits to this country`s ability to absorb immigration; the question is only where those limits lie, and how they should be determined and enforced—whether by rational decision at this end or by the ultimate achievement of some sort of a balance of misery between this country and the vast pools of poverty elsewhere that now confront it. The inability of any society to resist immigration … is a serious weakness, and possibly even a fatal one, in any national society.” (p. 19) …
But, you could actually say stuff like that in the past, before immigration ascended to an unquestionable sacred civil right that the rest of the world`s population holds over the citizens of the United States (an ideological development of roughly the period when Carlos Slim bailed out the New York Times—purely coincidental, I`m sure).
As a former student of Samuel Huntington, Zakaria likes Kennan`s foreign policy but it shocked, shocked by Kennan`s “racism” and proprietary British-American view of his country.
Writing on a flight to Los Angeles in 1978, Kennan thinks about how few white faces he will see when he lands and laments the decline of people “of British origin, from whose forefathers the constitutional structure and political ideals of the early America once emerged.” Instead, he predicts, Americans are destined to “melt into a vast polyglot mass, . . . one huge pool of indistinguishable mediocrity and drabness.”
The residents of Los Angeles of 2014 take deep offense at Kennan`s 1978 prediction, or at least they would if Kim Kardashian ever brings it to their attention on TMZ.