Connecting history with the latest world events.
We live in an empire that began 500 years ago with the European conquest of the Americas. This program looks at how the empire permeates our lives.
What are we doing in the world? What are we doing to the world?
George Kennan was an influential US diplomat during the Cold War years. It was he who devised the containment strategy against the Soviet Union (as opposed to a more aggressive rollback policy). In February 1948 Kennan presented a document to President Truman, Presidential Policy Statement #23, which includes the following:
"The US has 50 percent of the world's wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which permits us to maintain this position of disparity...To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming, and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives.
"We should cease to talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are hampered by idealistic slogans the better."
Some have claimed that Kennan was speaking as a foreign policy "realist," and arguing against an ideological anti-Communist crusade. That may be so, but his words are clear, as Noam Chomsky has pointed out. The US intends to keep for itself an unfair share of the world's resources. The main difference between the realists and the ideologues is one of tactics in pursuing this ignoble goal.