The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War
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Only two Americans held positions of great influence throughout the Cold War. The two men embodied opposing strategies for winning the conflict. Yet they dined together, attended the weddings of each other's children, and remained lifelong friends.
Paul Nitze was a consummate insider who believed the best way to avoid a nuclear clash was to prepare to win one. George Kennan was a diplomat turned academic whose famous "X article" persuasively argued that we should contain the Soviet Union while waiting for it to collapse from within. A masterly double biography, The Hawk and the Dove "does an inspired job of telling the story of the Cold War through the careers of two of its most interesting and important figures" (The Washington Monthly).
movie star might be able to propose a major arms deal without being attacked by Congress and the press as a weakling. A few weeks before the inauguration, Kennan wrote to the economist Walt Rostow, Eugene’s brother, to suggest that the new administration pledge to reduce America’s nuclear arsenal by 25 percent. Kennan’s enthusiasm for Reagan vanished fast. Compared with other movie cowboys, Reagan was outwardly more the brash Sundance than the measured Butch. His strategy for the Soviets? “We
“Kennan Urges Halving of Nuclear Arsenals,” Washington Post, May 20, 1981. 279 Two days after that: Don Oberdorfer, “George Kennan’s 30-Year Nightmare of Our ‘Final Folly,’” Washington Post, May 24, 1981. 279 the entire text: GFK, “We Got Ourselves into This Mess,” Washington Post, May 24, 1981. 279 “probably our most distinguished”: James Reston, “A Day to Remember,” NYT, May 24, 1981. 279 “Kennan later equated”: GFK interview with JLG, Sept. 4, 1984, GFKP OF, box 62, p. 10. 279 a
talk by drawing parallels to the Nazis’ entrance into the Rhineland in 1936. THAT VERY DAY, Saturday, October 27, everything almost went to hell. Kennedy received a belligerent note from Khrushchev, who in turn received a belligerent letter from Castro. The Cuban leader had stayed up all night and decided that the USSR should respond to any American invasion by “liquidating such a danger forever.” Cuba shot down a U.S. spy plane, killing its pilot. Another American plane strayed into Russian
Ohio can look after his business, and I will question the witness right now.” Thurmond then argued that the Asilomar speech was not just an isolated thought experiment. The well-tailored former aide to Dean Acheson had long been a coward. The senator next pulled out a dovish conclusion reached by a panel at a conference Nitze had attended at the National Council of Churches in 1958. Did Nitze agree with that? If not, why had he not dissented? Thurmond also needled Nitze about his association
suggested that Johnson’s goal “was to pin everyone down so that, if things went wrong, no one could say he overruled his advisers.” If so, the president succeeded. In his memoirs, Nitze quotes from Valenti’s notes verbatim, with one damning exception. When asked by Johnson about the chances of success, he does not write that he answered 60 percent, but that he answered “40 percent.” KENNAN’S MOMENT to weigh in on the Vietnam War came in early 1966. Six months had passed since Nitze’s fateful