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George Kennan's Influence On Diplomatic Doctrines Of The Cold War Era

1054 words - 5 pages

“George Kennan came as close to authoring the diplomatic doctrine of his era as any diplomat in our history,” said former-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Kennan, known for his “X” article, inadvertently coined the term “containment” which became the leading diplomatic doctrine of the cold war era. Since the late 1940s, America changed its doctrine and shifted to a more globalized approach to international affairs -- a system based on international cooperation, both politically and economically. These foreign entanglements are inspired, in part, by the Soviet-American estrangement, but also indicate a convenient opportunity to reorient U.S. dominance on the world stage by engaging with a host of other countries, including Japan and South Korea. In this paper I will hone in on Kennan’s definition of national interest and assess the adherence to a new doctrine of global governance. I will then examine alliances like NATO, ANZUZ, MEDO and SEATO to support my historical argument that the U.S. saw a convenient opportunity to reorient her doctrine for political and economic gain, and other nations who joined in alliance had a national interest to do so.

Kennan argues that national interest in international affairs boils down to institutional survival. To this end, he argued that national interest can be defined in two parts, the first, is “to protect the security of the nation, by which is meant the continued ability of this country to pursue the development of internal life without serious interference.” The second, and perhaps the most pertinent to the emergence of global alliances and partnerships, is to “advance the welfare of its people, by promoting a world order in which this nation can make the maximum contribution to the peaceful and orderly development of other nations and derive maximum benefit from their experiences and abilities.” This definition changed diplomatic doctrine to the extent that people and state actors began seeing the importance of partnerships and alliances.

Two reactions and approaches emerged with Kennan’s definition of national interest, the first, universalism, sought to achieve peace through structures like the United Nations and League of Nations. It required willingness on behalf of member-nations to give up some level of sovereignty for collective power in the international system. The second is a particularized approached, a more skeptical approach to universalism, which considers the impracticability of having a uniform legal apparatus for all the different states. The particularized approach says that in order for alliances to be effective it relies on a “real community of interest and outlook, which is to be found only among limited groups of governments.” The alliances that the United States formed were strategic, or particularized partnerships, that insulated themselves and other nations who were threatened by the USSR.

One example of a strategic alliance is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or...

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