With the passing of George Kennan, the last living member of the most successful foreign policy team in modern American history has left the stage. Kennan, Charles Bohlen, Robert Lovett, George Marshall, Dean Acheson and Harry Truman--these are the giants who set the United States on the road to victory in the Cold War. The containment doctrine they developed was followed in one form or another until the collapse of the Soviet Union. Rarely in history has such analytical brilliance led to such wise policy recommendations being followed over such a long period of time.
However, the Truman Administration's greatest gift has been lost in the accolades: their political achievement of knitting together a bipartisan coalition determined to promote containment regardless of which party was in power. The Truman Administration succeeded in politically isolating the left wing in the Democratic Party that favored some form of accommodation with the Soviet Union, epitomized by former Vice President Henry Wallace. The hard-line, preventive-war wing of the Republican Party, symbolized by General Douglas MacArthur, was likewise marginalized, a state of affairs reinforced by President Eisenhower, who essentially continued his predecessor's approach well into the Cold War. It is this successful combination of toughness, pragmatism and moderation that we must recall today in seeking a new national consensus on how to conduct the struggle against Islamist terrorism and revolution. Any approach to foreign policy that hopes to recreate an intellectual consensus among Americans must embrace certain elements of both traditional realism and morality, as the mass of the American people understand these terms.