George F. Kennan

(George Frost Kennan)

George F. Kennan
George F. Kennan
  • Born: February 16, 1904
  • Died: March 17, 2005
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Historian

68

Quotes

64

Citations

273

Concepts

0

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Quotes
Quote Topics Cited
A democracy is peace-loving. It does not like to go to war. It is slow to rise to provocation. When it has once been provoked to the point where it must grasp the sword, it does not easily forgive its adversary for having produced this situation. The fact of the provocation then becomes itself the issue. Democracy fights in anger -- it fights for the very reason that it was forced to go to war. It fights to punish the power that was rash enough and hostile enough to provoke it -- to teach that power a lesson it will not forget, to prevent the thing from happening again. Such a war must be carried to the bitter end. Democracies & Republics
A democracy is peace-loving. It does not like to go to war. It is slow to rise to provocation. When it has once been provoked to the point where it must grasp the sword, it does not easily forgive its adversary for having produced this situation. The fact of the provocation then becomes itself the issue. Democracy fights in anger — it fights for the very reason that it was forced to go to war. It fights to punish the power that was rash enough and hostile enough to provoke it — to teach that power a lesson it will not forget, to prevent the thing from happening again. Such a war must be carried to the bitter end. Democracies & Republics ;War & Peace
A democracy is severely restricted in its use of armed forces as a weapon of peacetime foreign policy. It cannot manipulate them tactically on any extensive scale for the accomplishment of measures short of war. Expansionism, Colonialism & Imperialism ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
A democracy soon becomes a victim of its own propaganda ... Its enemy become the embodiment of all evil. Its own side, on the other hand, is the center of all virtue. Democracies & Republics ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
A doctrine is something that pins you down to a given mode of conduct and dozens of situations which you cannot foresee, which is a great mistake in principle Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
A foreign policy aimed at the achievement of total security is the one thing I can think of that is entirely capable of bringing this country to a point where it will have no security at all. And a ruthless, reckless insistence on attempting to stamp out everything that could conceivably constitute a reflection of improper foreign influence in our national life, regardless of the actual damage it is doing to the cost of eliminating it, in terms of other American values, is the one thing I can think of that should reduce us all to a point where the very independence we are seeking to defend would be meaningless, for we would be doing things to ourselves as vicious and tyrannical as any that might be brought to us from outside. Defense & National Security
A political society does not live to conduct foreign policy; it would be more correct to say that it conducts foreign policy in order to live. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
A war regarded as inevitable or even probable, and therefore much prepared for, has a good chance of eventually being fought. Defense & National Security ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
All nations are not ready for this. Democracies & Republics
Anyone who has ever studied the history of American diplomacy, especially military diplomacy, knows that you might start in a war with certain things on your mind as a purpose of what you are doing, but in the end, you found yourself fighting for entirely different things that you had never thought of before ... In other words, war has a momentum of its own and it carries you away from all thoughtful intentions when you get into it. Today, if we went into Iraq, like the president would like us to do, you know where you begin. You never know where you are going to end. War & Peace
As to Korea, there is no longer any real hope of a genuinely peaceful and free democratic development in that country. Its political life in the coming period is bound to be dominated by political immaturity and violence. Where such conditions prevail, the communists are in their element. Therefore, we cannot count on native Korean forces to help us hold the line against Soviet expansion Democracies & Republics
Containment Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
European history has shown only too clearly the weakness of multilateral defensive alliances between complete sovereign nations as a means of opposing desperate and determined bids for domination of the European scene War & Peace
Every government is in some respects a problem for every other government. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Fig leaves of democratic procedure … hide the nakedness of Stalinist dictatorship Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
For every effort we make to assist someone beyond our own borders, we take something away from our own Foreign Aid ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Foreigners see in our society virtues that we have not seen and problems that we have not seen. States. Nations & Nationhood
Having elected a government, we will be best advised to let it govern and to let it speak for us as it will in the councils of the nations. Policy & Policy Making ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Heroism is endurance for one moment more. Leaders & Leadership ;Human Nature
I have no hope that a nuclear disaster can be avoided. Energy ;Chemical & Biological Weapons & Energy ;Nuclear, Chemical & Biological Weapons & Energy
I sometimes wonder what use there is in trying to protect the West against fancied external threats when the signs of disintegration within are so striking Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
If there is no real European federation and if Germany is restored as a strong and independent country, we must expect another attempt at German domination…. The only reasonably hopeful possibility for avoiding … this is some form of federation in Western and Central Europe. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
In a sensitive matter, where its own ignorance could scarcely have been greater, Congress would have been better advised to leave the conduct of foreign policy in the hands of those who have been constitutionally charged with it. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
In the fabric of human events, one thing leads to another. Every mistake is in a sense the product of all the mistakes that have gone before it, from which fact it derives a sort of cosmic forgiveness; and at the same time every mistake is in a sense the determinant of all the mistakes of the future, from which it derives a sort of cosmic unforgivableness. Miscellaneous
Iraq is a terrible place. Some fool American is going to come out here and try to redesign it Compliments, Insults & Rebukes ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
It cannot be too often reiterated that this Government does not possess the weapons which would be needed to enable it to meet head-on the threat to national independence presented by the communist elements in foreign countries. This poses an extremely difficult problem as to the measures which our Government can take to prevent the communists from achieving success in the countries where resistance is lowest. Rebellion, Revolution, Insurgency & Resistance
It is clearly unwise for us to continue the attempt to carry alone, or largely single-handed, the opposition to Soviet expansion. It is urgently necessary for us to restore something of the balance of power in Europe and Asia by strengthening local forces of independence and by getting them to assume part of our burden. Expansionism, Colonialism & Imperialism ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
It is urgently necessary that we recognize our own limitations as a moral and ideological force among the Asiatic peoples. Our political philosophy and our patterns for living have very little applicability to masses of people in Asia. They may be all right for us, with our highly developed political traditions running back into the centuries and with our peculiarly favorable geographic position; but they are simply not practical or helpful, today, for most of the people in Asia. Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
It never pays … for one great power to take advantage of the momentary weakness or distraction of another great power in order to force upon it concessions it would never have accepted in normal circumstances. Negotiating & Negotiations
Let me control personnel, and I will ultimately control policy. Policy & Policy Making
Nations, like individuals, are largely the product of their environment; and many of their characteristics, their fears and their neuroses, as well as their abilities, are conditioned by the impressions of what we may call their early childhood. History
No other people, as a whole, is entirely our enemy. No people at all … is entirely our friend. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Not all countries are ready for it [democracy]. Democracies & Republics
Now this problem of the adjustment of man to his natural resources, and the problem of how such things as industrialization and urbanization can be accepted without destroying the traditional values of civilization and corrupting the inner vitality of its life—these things are not only problems of America; they are the problems of men everywhere. Environment & Environmentalism
One of the most dangerous moments to world stability will come when some day Russian rule begins to crumble in the eastern European area. The Kremlin may then feel itself seriously threatened internally and may resort to desperate measures States. Nations & Nationhood
Our experience with ad hoc wartime and post-hostilities agencies operating in the foreign field has demonstrated that not only are new agencies of little value in executing policies which go beyond the vision and the educational horizon of their own personnel, but that they actually develop a momentum of their own which, in the final analysis, tends to shape—rather than to serve—the national policy. Policy & Policy Making
Our friends must not expect us to do things we cannot do. Discrimination & Prejudice
Our opposition to Communist expansion is not an absolute factor; containment must be taken in relation to American security and American objectives. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Our public dealings with the Russians can hardly lead to any clear and satisfactory results unless they are preceded by preparatory discussions of the most secret and delicate nature. Secrecy & Transparency ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Our use of the United Nations as an instrument for opposing Soviet expansion. prior to the conclusion of peace, has strained that institution severely. It has an increasing tendency to alarm smaller nations and to paralyze, rather than stimulate, their will to play an active part in the organization United Nations
Outcome of these elections is not in doubt due to simple fact that there is only one candidate for each position…. You may be wondering why party propaganda machine attaches such importance to electoral campaign and surrounds it with such unparalleled pomp and circumstance. Voters, Voting & Elections ;Dictators, Despots, Autocrats, Autocracies & Dictatorships
Respect for the law is not an obligation which is exhausted or obliterated by willingness to accept the penalty for breaking it. Nationalism & Treason ;Citizenship & Patriotism
The best thing we can do for other people is by example and not by preaching Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
The best thing we can do if we want the Russians to let us be Americans is let the Russians be Russian. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
The best thing we can do if we want the Russians to let us be Americans is to let the Russians be Russian. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
The counsels of impatience and hatred can always be supported by the crudest and cheapest symbols; for the counsels of moderation, the reasons are often intricate, rather than emotional, and difficult to explain Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
The danger of collective catastrophe … is so great as to be in part a certainty. Environment & Environmentalism
The jealous and intolerant eye of the Kremlin can distinguish, in the end, only vassals and enemies, and the neighbors of Russian if they do not wish to be one, must reconcile themselves to be the other. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
The Middle East is undoubtedly in for a rocky time. In Palestine we have a situation which is badly fouled up by the past mistakes of many people, including ourselves. These probably cannot be settled without great unpleasantness, including violence. War & Peace ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
The moment it became in the interests of one or the other of the Great Powers to alter the status quo, none of these treaty structures ever stood in the way of such alteration. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
The only way in which a European union, embracing Britain but excluding eastern Europe, could become economically healthy would be develop the closest sort of trading relationships either with this hemisphere or with Africa. Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs
The problem is not so much that they are Communists as it is that they are Russians. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
The use of U. S. regular armed forces to oppose the efforts of indigenous communist elements within foreign countries must generally be considered as a risky and profitless undertaking, apt to do more harm than good. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
The worst thing our Communists could do to us, and the thing we have most to fear from their activities, is that we should become like them. Miscellaneous
There is a little bit of the totalitarian buried somewhere, way down deep, in each and everyone of us. Human Nature
there is a real question as to whether "bigness" in a body politic is not an evil in itself, quite aside from the policies pursued in its name. Management & Managing Government
There will be no room, here, for the smug myopia which views American civilization as the final solution to all world problems; which recommends our institutions for universal adoption and turns away with contempt from the serious study of the institutions of peoples whose civilizations may seem to us to be materially less advanced. Expansionism, Colonialism & Imperialism ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
This office has in recent decades, in my view, been seriously misused and distorted Management & Managing Government
We cannot operate with one foreign policy objective in one area, and with a conflicting one next door. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
We have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity. Intergovernmental Relations
We have about 50% of the world's wealth but only 6.3% of its population…. we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment … Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs
We must reduce as far as possible our establishment in Germany; for the residence of large numbers of representatives of a victor nation in a devastated conquered area is never a helpful factor, particularly when their living standards are as conspicuously different as are those of Americans in Germany. Military & Veterans
Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial establishment would have to go on, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy. Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs
Without a generation of civilized people to study history, to preserve its records, to absorb its lessons and relate them to its own problems, history, too, would lose its meaning. History
One sometimes feels a guest of one's time and not a member of its household. Time
The accords were fig leaves of democratic procedure to hide the nakedness of Stalinist dictatorship.
The best an American can look forward to is the lonely pleasure of one who stands at long last on a chilly and inhospitable mountaintop where few have been before, where few can follow and where few will consent to believe he has been.
The very concept of history implies the scholar and the reader. Without a generation of civilized people to study history, to preserve its records, to absorb its lessons and relate them to its own problems, history, too, would lose its meaning. History