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Review Essay

Ideas Man

The Legacy of George F. Kennan

In This Review

George F. Kennan: An American Life
George F. Kennan: An American Life
By John Lewis Gaddis
Penguin Press, 2011, 800 pp. $39.95 Purchase

The first book to complicate the reputation of George Kennan came out in 1967. It was 600 pages long, and the cover would show a forlorn young man staring right at you. The tale was of an awkward boy from the Midwest who never quite fits in. He gains knowledge in the Foreign Service and becomes the United States' wisest Soviet analyst. Then, for a brief -- but crucial -- moment, he serves as the head of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff under President Harry Truman, helping remake the world after World War II. Along the way, he writes the "Long Telegram" and the "X" article, which laid out a strategy forever known as containment, and he plays a central role in designing the Marshall Plan. He writes beautiful memos that anticipate the dangers of keeping Germany divided and starting an arms race. But soon he grows irritated with Washington, and

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