Kennan: “Saving a continent”

His talent – which was more than considerable – was his ability to take hold of a notion and see all its parts in relation to one another; he could grasp both broad generalities and minute specifics, and relate them all to one another in a forceful, lucid, seamless prose that commanded belief and respect. Not long after Kennan arrived in Washington, Forrestal sent him over to Marshall, and Marshall suggested to Kennan that the State Department needed a Policy Planning Staff composed of a group of bright young men [and women] without operational responsibilities who would serve as a “brain trust” to consider long-range ideas for foreign policy. Kennan was to become the head of this staff as soon as he could break away from his duties at the War College. Marshall had returned from his meeting with Stalin freshly determined that the United States must shape up a coherent program, and act. He called Kennan to his office at once. As Kennan recalled it, Marshall was brief, to the point: Europe was in a mess. Something would have to be done. If he [Marshall] did not take the initiative, others would. Others, particularly people in Congress, would start coming up with ideas of their own about what ought to be done for Europe. He would then be forced on the defensive. He was determined to avoid this if he possibly could. . . . “I had a limited time (I cannot remember whether it was ten days or two weeks; I remember only that it was brief) in which to give him my recommendations. . . . He then added characteristically . . . that he had only one bit of advice for me: ‘Avoid trivia.’”

–Charles L. Mee, Jr.

[Keven Jung Young Wm James Tolstoy Sanchez Asia.]

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