The Bureaucrat’s Lament

My holiday reading is Nicholas Thompson’s The Hawk and The Dove, a Cold War history told through dual biography of George Kennan and Thompson’s grandfather Paul Nitze. I’ve been interested in the Kennan-Nitze relationship ever since (1) Lloyd Gardner’s American foreign policy class my senior year at Rutgers and (2) J-Kwon suggested an obvious reworking of his lyrics could be urrrbody in the club gettin’ Nitze when Washington attitudes turn militaristic. But among the many things I didn’t know about Kennan was that he wrote poetry. For instance, this is a lovely verse that he wrote around the time he frustratedly ended his tenure at the helm of the State Department Policy Planning Staff:

Perhaps in moment unforseen

The Great White Queen

made fruitful by your seed,

may yet create

So dazzling and so beauteous a brood

That world will marvel, history admire.

And then the scored, no-longer-wanted sire,

From bondage loosed, from travail freed

Basking beside the rays these progeny exude,

May find the warmth to which all souls aspire,

in autumn late.

What a whiner! If Kennan cycled from a depressive episode into a manic one, he might have anticipated Henry Rollins’ classic “I may be a big baby/ but I’ll scream in your ear.”

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Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman