This 70-Year-Old Memo Remains the Basis for U.S. Foreign Policy Today

George F. Kennan

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History does repeat itself and that remains true today.

Stolen elections, campaign fraud, wars conducted over false information, assassinations, dirty tricks among political parties, incompetent elected officials at the highest levels of government are nothing new. But here is an interesting memo written 70 years ago which rings true today. It is a Memo about using raw American military and economic power to guarantee a U.S. standard of living which is far in excess of anything else in the world.

George F. Kennan
George F. Kennan

While the Memo was specifically written as it applied to the Far East, its message today is still applicable to how the U.S. conducts both its foreign and domestic policies.  This message in this Memo guided US policy in Viet Name, Asia, and South America when the U.S. conducted coups against democratically elected governments for the sole benefit of U.S. corporations.

While this Memo is over  70-years-old, it remains the basis for U.S. foreign policy today, and should get revived under the Trump Administration. The Memo was written by an intellectual diplomat and State Department official, George F. Kennan, who was present at the end of World War II when the Cold War was beginning shaped by its vehement anti-communism.

As the U.S. was becoming more involved in Asia after the defeat of the Japanese, Kennan saw it was a quagmire, but one with huge economic potential. This would be good for American corporations, but deadly for the Asians. This was the basis for the decades-long wars in Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines and the slaughter of millions of civilians. His views remain valid today as the basis for corporate foreign policy. What is interesting is that when the Memo was written the U.S. was terrorized by communism, which was never the threat it was supposed to be. Today, the new existential threat is Muslim fundamentalist groups thousands of miles away. It’s all part of  the need for some American corporations and politicians to be in a perpetual state of war that is inferred to in this Memo. Or, as Eisenhower said, war is also good business.

Here is a segment of the Memo that addresses these points:

“Furthermore, we have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment.

“Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world benefaction.”  (Italics added.)

Source: George F. Kennan Memo Excerpts from “Memo PPS23” written in 1948.

Memo by George Kennan, Head of the US State Department Policy Planning Staff. Written February 28, 1948, Declassified June 17, 1974. George Kennan, “Review of Current Trends, U.S. Foreign Policy, Policy Planning Staff, PPS No. 23. Top Secret. Included in the U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1948, volume 1, part 2 (Washington DC Government Printing Office, 1976), 509-529.


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