Seven hundred pages of George Kennan’s diaries have just been published, and though I have not read them, David Greenberg’s review in the New Republic gives us dilettantes some of the highlights—and at times the lowlights—of the entries that cover the years from 1916 to 2004. Greenberg focuses on a fact that historians knew, but which the public by and large does not: Kennan was, by the standards of our age and, more importantly, by the standard of his own, a bigot.
“As a 28-year-old Foreign Service officer,” writes Greenberg, “[Kennan] remains convinced that the world’s problems are ‘essentially biological.’” Or as Kennan himself put it, “We have a group of more or less inferior races. . . . No amount of education and discipline can effectively improve conditions as long as we allow the unfit to breed copiously and to preserve their young.”
Kennan continued to confide such views to his diaries five decades later; women, gays, Catholics, Chinese, blacks and Jews each receive individual and repeated scorn.