Saturday, June 9, 2018

Oh, Dear

Noticed, with some surprise, in the chapter "Training for Russia" of George Kennan's Memoirs 1925-1950:
This episode [of a warning ignored before US recognition of the USSR] has remained in my mind as the first of many lessons I was destined to receive, in the course of a diplomatic career, on one of the most consistent and incurable traits of American statesmanship--namely, its neurotic self-consciousness and introversion, the tendency to make statements and take actions with regard not to  their effect on the international scene to which they are ostensibly addressed but rather to their effect on those echelons of American opinion, congressional opinion first and foremost, to which the respective statesmen are anxious to appeal. The question, in these circumstances, became not: how effective is what I am doing in terms of the impact it makes on our world environment? but rather: how do I look, in the mirror of domestic American opinion, as I do it? Do I look shrewd, determined, defiantly patriotic, imbued with the necessary vigilance before the wiles of foreign governments? If so, this is what I do, even though it may prove meaningless, or even counterproductive, when applied to the realities of the external situation.
Congressional opinion now seems to respond chiefly to public opinion, at least the inferred opinion of those who are likely to vote in primaries, and so I think no longer counts as "first and foremost". I suppose it is well to be reminded that posing is nothing new.

1 comment:

  1. Posturing appears macrocosmic and microcosmic. I see plenty in my little village...