THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
George Frost Kennan (1904-2005), scholar, diplomat and historian,
is perhaps best known for his role in developing U.S. foreign policy
in the immediate aftermath of World War II. In response to a State
Department request for an explanation of Soviet behavior in early
1946, Kennan traced the basic features, background and prospects
of Soviet foreign policy and the implications for American policy in
a memo now known as the“Long Telegram.”
The most famous of all
his writings,“The Sources of Soviet Conduct,”
was published in the
July 1947 issue of
under the authorship of “X.” In that
article, Kennan outlined the policy of “containment” that would guide
U.S. relations with the Soviet Union for the next four decades.
During a distinguished Foreign Service career from 1926 to 1953,
Kennan served in Geneva, Hamburg, Tallinn, Riga and, later, Prague,
Berlin, Lisbon and London. In 1933, when President Franklin D.
Roosevelt recognized the Soviet Union, Kennan accompanied the
new ambassador, William C. Bullitt Jr., to establish the embassy in
Moscow, serving there for four years. In July 1944, he returned to
Moscow as Ambassador Averell Harriman’s deputy chief of mission.
Subsequently, he served as director of the Policy Planning Staff in the
Department of State from 1947 to 1949, ambassador to the USSR in
1952 and ambassador to Yugoslavia from 1961 to 1963.
Kennan retired from the Foreign Service in 1953, and in 1956
joined the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey,
where he taught, researched and wrote for the rest of his life. His first
book,American Diplomacy , 1900–1950
(1951), was praised on both
literary and historiographical grounds, and he won Pulitzer Prizesfor two later works, Russia Leaves the War (1956) and Memoirs: 1925–1950 (1967).
His subsequent publications continued to stir interest because his
views, if sometimes out of step with official U.S. policy—including his
prediction of the demise of the USSR—were often vindicated by his-
tory. Even when they weren’t, he was recognized for having raised the
level of public discourse.
Ambassador Kennan served as president of AFSA from 1950 to
1951. This piece, excerpted from a speech he delivered at AFSA on
March 30, 1961, was published in
The Foreign Service Reader
1997). The full transcript of the speech was published in the May 1961
Foreign Service Journal
his is the classic function of diplomacy:
to effect the communication between
one’s own government and other
governments or individuals abroad,
and to do this with maximum accuracy,
imagination, tact and good sense. Of
course, this is not all there is, or not
all there is on the surface. But at the
bottom of almost every facet of Foreign
Service work, if you analyze it, you will find, I think, that what is
essentially at stake is this process of communication.
In 1961, the legendary diplomat talked
with his colleagues at AFSA about the
profession of diplomacy.
ON DIPLOMACY: THE PROFESSION
GEORGE KENNAN SPEAKS
As a Profession