The reason for this failure of American statesmanship lay, as the reader will have observed, in such things as the deficiencies of the American political system from the standpoint of the conduct of foreign relations; the grievous distortion of vision brought to the democratic society by any self-abandonment--as in World War I--to the hysteria of militancy; the congenital shallowness, philosophical and intellectual, of the approach to world problems that bubbled up from the fermentations of official Washington; and the pervasive dilettantism in the execution of American policy. How pleasing it would be if one were able to record, in concluding this volume, that these deficiencies had been left behind, along with all the individual undertakings and adventures of 1918--to be recaptured, like these, only by the labor of the historian; to take on, like these, that deceptive quaintness which the passage of time bestows on all human situations, however tragic; to be contemplated, now, from a safe distance, as the components of dead situation only partially relevant to our own.That would have been pleasing to suppose in 1956, when Kennan published the volume. It would be pleasing to suppose now, and about as difficult.
Yet after reading the volume, it seems to me that though the failures of American policy are clear, no ally's policy was sounder. The concerns of the US War Department were borne out by the results of the intervention--an embitterment of Russian opinion, with no effect on Soviet power, or, while the war lasted, the efforts of the Central Powers. The British and French authorities that nudged the US into the undertaking had much more professional management on the civilian side, but their understanding of the realities of Russia was no better and perhaps worse.
(Princeton University Press has brought the both volumes of the pair, Russia Leaves the War being the first, back into print.)