“Containment” and American Society”- Castine | Community Spirit

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“Containment” and American Society”- Castine

Join Bob Rackmales in Castine for a discussion entitled “George Kennan on “Containment” and American Society” on Monday, January 23rd at 12 noon. The talk is an exploration of the new book by John Lewis Gaddis titled George F. Kennan, an American Life with a focus on the areas that Kennan influenced.

The program is sponsored by the Witherle Memorial Library in Castine and will be held in the Unitarian Universalist Parish House across the green from the library.

George Kennan (1904-2005), was a career Foreign Service Officer who became one of the “wise men” who helped formulate American foreign policy in the wake of World War II and then went on to a distinguished second career as a historian and public intellectual. Kennan was a complex thinker whose ideas, in Zbigniew Brzezinski’s view “were misinterpreted both by those who shared them as well as by those who rejected them.” However, a core aspect of his thought, which Gaddis’ book thoroughly documents, was his strongly held conviction that serious weaknesses in American society and governing institutions were undermining the ability of the United States to conduct a coherent foreign policy. Many of the words that express our current preoccupations such as “partisanship” and “stalemate” figure prominently in Kennan’s concerns as well. He is often referred to as “the father of containment”, but has also been called “the father of American declinism”, given his pessimism over the prospects of fundamental domestic reform.

An early review of George F. Kennan: An American Life appears in the November 14, 2011 edition of The New Yorker. Click here to read Louis Menand’s Getting Real: George F. Kennan’s Cold War.

About the Speaker: Bob Rackmales entered the US Foreign Service thirty-seven years after George Kennan. The latter would have approved of some of Bob’s assignments (e.g. Charge d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, where he had the same language teacher as Kennan thirty years earlier), but not of others (Director of the Office of Human Rights, the existence of which Kennan thoroughly disapproved). Following Kennan’s example, if at a lower level of proficiency, Bob turned to diplomatic history following his retirement in 1995. Bob lives in Northport with his wife Mary, a retired legal services attorney. He is a member of the Advisory Council of the Camden Conference and the Board of Trustees of Belfast Senior College.

This presentation is hosted by the Witherle Memorial Library in Castine and offered as a free community event in anticipation of the 25th Annual Camden Conference: The U.S. in a 21st Century World: Do we have what it takes? February 17-19, 2012.

The mission of the Camden Conference is to foster informed discourse on world affairs through year-round community events, public and student engagement, and an annual weekend conference. For more information visit the website at www.camdenconference.org, or email info@camdenconference.org or call 207-236-1034.