George F. Kennan: An American Life By John Lewis Gaddis (Penguin, 784 pp., $39.95) I. George F. Keenan, who was born in 1904 and died in 2005, and served under presidents from Calvin Coolidge to John F. Kennedy, left as deep an imprint on American geopolitics as any intellectual of the twentieth century. But the exact nature of his achievement continues to elude full or even coherent description. One reason is that most of his very long life was spent in comparative obscurity.
To a sensitive mind there is something pathetic in the dogged resolution with which the cult of the Very Best Butter clings to its prime tenet in the face of mounting evidence that it is unsound. The very best butter was not good for the works of the March Hare's watch. That was the somber truth, but his romantic soul knew that there must be some other explanation. In 1952 our political romantics were told that a military man would not be good for the works, but they knew it couldn't be so, for he was the very best military man.