America won the Cold War because every president since 1947 adhered to President Truman’s policy of “containment.” This was developed by George F. Kennan, a career foreign service officer, ambassador to the Soviet Union as well as Yugoslavia and, most importantly, a historian. He was one of six foreign policy elders known as “The Wise Men” after Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas’s book, “The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made.”
In 1947 Kennan wrote, “The main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russia’s expansive tendencies” with the long term goal that the Soviet Union would collapse.
Following such, the United States leaders neither embraced isolationism nor attempted to roll back Soviet power. We fought two major wars — the Korean and Vietnam wars — resulting in the death of over 100,000 military members, as well as other proxy wars and scrimmages resulting in the significant loss of American life through seven decades — and counting.
As a nation, we endured the humiliation of The Bay of Pigs fiasco, when President Kennedy, after taking responsibility, remarked, “Victory has a thousand fathers but defeat is an orphan.” This was followed by the October 1962 “Cuban Missile Crisis” that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.
We baby boomers, our parents and yes, our grandparents, took to heart President Kennedy’s inaugural speech as well as his words to the nation on Oct. 22, 1962, outlining America’s response to the Soviet Union and Cuba.
In his address to the nation, President Kennedy, in clear, firm and informative words, outlined our national response to the placement of missiles in Cuba by the Soviet Union. The missiles were removed. Yet few remember Kennedy’s words after nuclear war was averted: “It is insane that two men, sitting on opposite sides of the world, should be able to decide to bring an end to civilization."
Remarkable, in 1989, two score and two years, Kennan’s containment policy, adhered to by every president — Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and George H.W. Bush — succeeded in the breakup of the Soviet Union, without a Hot War of nuclear proportions between the then two super powers.
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As Americans, we understood and adhered to a policy explained in one word — containment. In contrast, it appears that every president since Truman seems to stumble time and time again in the Middle East.
America and President Truman were the first country and president to recognize Israel in 1947; rightly so. Yet that act set in motion decades of hatred against the United States by most Arab nations and people.
President Eisenhower’s administration approved the CIA’s 1953 coup that brought down the duly elected Iranian Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadegh, keeping in place the hated Shah of Iran, Mohammad Resa Pahlavi. This brought on a surge of Iran nationalism, culminating in the 1979 Iranian Islam Revolution.
Today, many Iranians who oppose the current regime, nonetheless believe that America’s recent “attack really wounded and insulted the national pride of Iranians.” President Trump’s needless tweet stating he will target Iran’s cultural sites further unites Iran’s resolve while dividing the U.S. and her allies. America continues to shoot from the hip while our enemies throughout the world take note and plan their next attacks to sow further divisions, not between their country and America, but rather divisions between Americans.
What America and the world needs today is another career foreign service officer, as well as other wise men and women, who have served as ambassadors, elder diplomats and historians, working together towards a Middle East policy that can be followed by this president and subsequent presidents and administrations. Highly unlikely to happen, but so needed.
Until then, much smaller and considerable less powerful countries will intentionally goad America into poor decisions, expensive wars and loss of American lives — on their terms.