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Containment for a New Century

Gabe Rottman,
Legislative Counsel,
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
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July 31, 2007

This is so right on, I can’t help but plotz (and sorry I haven’t been posting recently; just wrote the bar, and decided to take a few days off).

A 21st-century rendering of X’s vision of containment would involve the closing of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, an unambiguous renunciation of torture and an abandonment of the notion that our legal and moral norms don’t apply to the current struggle. Kennan believed we gave our opponents a propaganda victory each time we acted in a manner unfitting of our ideals.“To avoid destruction,” Kennan concluded the X article, “the United States need only measure up to its own best traditions and prove itself worthy of preservation as a great nation.”

X, of course, was an anonymous George Kennan, in a Publius frame of mind, writing in Foreign Affairs almost sixty years ago about the proper long term strategy against Communism.Kennan biography author Nicholas Thompson argues that the Kennan model of economic and political marginalization and isolation is perhaps even more appropriate in modern counter-terrorism policy. The key, Kennan argued, was twofold. First, on the homefront, America ought to trust in its dedication to individual freedoms and constitutional norms. Second, abroad, America ought to use economic and political leverage and support to keep Soviet encroachment in contested regions at bay. What it should not do, however, is turn to military solutions as those of first course.I gotta say, sounds like we’ve abandoned both of those modest suggestions in our first years of the 21st Century.

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