Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 22, 2014

Homeland security and The Long Telegram

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on February 22, 2014

At 9:22 PM (Moscow Time), February 22, 1946 George Kennan transmitted his “Long Telegram” to the State Department.   It was received at 3:52 Eastern Time.

Sixty-eight years ago this afternoon.

It was an acute analysis of the Soviet angle on reality, how this squared with other takes on reality, and how the United States could (should) play the gaps.

Kennan counseled what came later to be known as containment.  He did not like the word.  Given the realities of Soviet power and Russian nationalism, Kennan perceived the issue was less a matter of containing our adversary and more a matter of maintaining credible, coherent, and effective geo-political advantage.

For Kennan the ultimate source of this advantage was a culture of self-criticism and self-correction.  Reality is a solid bet. Soviet self-delusions would result in eventual collapse.  We should be strong, watchful, engaged, realistic… and patient.

While foreign policy was the clear priority, the “Long Telegram” includes an important element of what some might now call a “homeland security” component.

Here are the closing three paragraphs of Kennan’s note:

Much depends on health and vigor of our own society. World communism is like malignant parasite which feeds only on diseased tissue. This is point at which domestic and foreign policies meets Every courageous and incisive measure to solve internal problems of our own society, to improve self-confidence, discipline, morale and community spirit of our own people, is a diplomatic victory over Moscow worth a thousand diplomatic notes and joint communiqués. If we cannot abandon fatalism and indifference in face of deficiencies of our own society, Moscow will profit–Moscow cannot help profiting by them in its foreign policies.

We must formulate and put forward for other nations a much more positive and constructive picture of sort of world we would like to see than we have put forward in past. It is not enough to urge people to develop political processes similar to our own. Many foreign peoples, in Europe at least, are tired and frightened by experiences of past, and are less interested in abstract freedom than in security. They are seeking guidance rather than responsibilities. We should be better able than Russians to give them this. And unless we do, Russians certainly will.

Finally we must have courage and self-confidence to cling to our own methods and conceptions of human society. After all, the greatest danger that can befall us in coping with this problem of Soviet communism, is that we shall allow ourselves to become like those with whom we are coping.

Cut “Russians”, “Soviet”, “communism” and replace with your preferred adversary.   Does it remain wise counsel?  Especially as I read today’s headlines from Kiev, Caracas, Quetta and elsewhere, seems so to me.

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Comment by E. Earhart

February 22, 2014 @ 4:54 pm

Mr. Palin, what a provocative post . . . so many ways to go. Sticking with the Long Telegraph era, only updated for today . . .

In 2009, during his first trip overseas, a reporter asked our President if he was a proponent of American exceptionalism. He answered,

“I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism,” . . .”We have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional…. I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we can’t solve these problems alone.”

In 2013 addressing the crisis in Syria, our President stated,

“But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act….That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional.”

This prompted a NY Times Op-ed from none other than the Russian President on September 11, 2013, the very next day . . .

Comment by E. Earhart

February 22, 2014 @ 4:57 pm

On September 11, 2013, the Russian President wrote,

“My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.

There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Comment by E. Earhart

February 22, 2014 @ 5:13 pm

What do they really mean?

The words of Mr. Putin and Mr. Obama are all about who is to provide that guidance. But what are they really saying?

Mr. Putin is really acknowledging that yes, America really is exceptional, and that makes America more secure, and he does not want this. As Max Fisher writes in the WP:

“Americans aren’t special” is a terrible way to convince Americans to hear you out. But that idea is a sore point for Putin, exactly the sort of thing he’d struggle to resist poking at.”
“American exceptionalism” is a complicated idea but it basically boils down to a combination of simple nationalism and a belief that the United States can and should play a special role in shaping the world. The one other country that has most closely shared this view of itself was the Soviet Union. Putin’s Russia has obviously lost the ability to play the role of a superpower, but he still cultivates a sense of nationalism and national greatness. That often means nursing Russian pride hurt by perceived American bullying. This jab at “American exceptionalism” is a great illustration of that.

Now, what is our President really saying? IMO with words and actions what he really believes and follows through with policy, is that America is not exceptional.

The irony here is that President Putin knows America is exceptional and says otherwise; Our President does not believe we are exceptional, and says otherwise.

Comment by E. Earhart

February 22, 2014 @ 5:15 pm

The Long Telegraph- George Kennan cabled, [around the world] They are seeking guidance rather than responsibilities. We should be better able than Russians to give them this. And unless we do, Russians certainly will.

In 2009, Peggy Noonan wrote,

“America is not exceptional because it has long attempted to be a force for good in the world, it attempts to be a force for good because it is exceptional”.

Noonan, Peggy (September 12, 2013). “Vladimir Putin Takes Exception”. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 13 September 2013.

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 22, 2014 @ 6:32 pm

Interesting post and comments. I do believe the complex history of Russia and the US and their luck and skill in exploiting resources of continental scope make them unusual in world history. Whatever the staying power of these two nation-states that did not exist 500 years ago perhaps will only be measurable 500 years
in the future.

John Lewis Gaddis of Yale writing on the history of the Cold War and biography of George Kennan make interesting reading.

Comment by E. Earhart

February 22, 2014 @ 7:55 pm

Much depends on health and vigor of our own society. [Whatever] is like malignant parasite which feeds only on diseased tissue. This is point at which domestic and foreign policies meets . . .

Health and Vigor of our own society brings to mind Founding Father Alexander Hamilton’s passionate arguments in The Federalist Papers for an “energetic government.” He/Federalist argued that the nation needed vigor in order to survive and thrive domestically as well as in the dangerous international scene. Domestic growth, security, prosperity, and world power.

Hamilton was talking hls. And after all, as Coastie/HLSW contributor JHC would acknowledge, the USCG, founded by Hamilton, is the most effective HLS Agency!

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 22, 2014 @ 8:10 pm

I have previously mentioned food security on the comments section of this blog as a HLS issue or even a threat!

Found this link on another blog:


Comment by Christopher Tingus

February 23, 2014 @ 10:49 am

American exceptionalism?

Thank you Judge Jeanine who I believe should be our next President of the United States and given her recent report on the vulnerability of our power grid which would make our food security concerns little compared with the power grid turned off! Kindly see:


Let’s get a grip on ourselves and demand tomorrow morning that the bunch of buffoons we have entrusted not only to the exponential rise of a $17 trillion + debt under this administration as well as previous, but the US DoD, Congress and others who willingly and knowingly allow our electric grid to be vulnerable to attacker and even a weather balloon, never mind a satellite in low orbit to our south causing us many woes we are so, so unprepared for and I ask as well as Judge Jeanine and what about our electric grid as the Koreans and the Iranians many are convinced are certainly very interested in such a explosive WMD satellite over the southern hemisphere where we have little protection and never mind all those who seek our demise and we continue to extend our handclasp to enemy . what about a solar flare?

Get with it as cybersecurity and a simple cell phone can cause much damage to your local electric facility and so get over your American ego that you are so exceptional and enjoin those brilliant folks who we are so fortunate to walk among us to now address a very vulnerable electric grid system which has already come under attack – nuclear meltdown and any on and off switch, atm’s food shelves empty out of eighteen infrastructures, seventeen would be hit hard and halted!

Let’s recruit Judge Jeanine to run on the Independent ticket and let us begin to get over ourselves and the Clinton’s the Bush family as Mrs. Bush has already referenced and the Obama failures and let’s really begin to work to safeguard our populace instead of all these wasted monies and outlandish spending – the question remains, will it be a solar flare, a weather balloon carrying a relatively small WMD, a satellite launched by the Koreans or the “Brutes of Tehran” w/explosive WMD 300 miles which will decapitate Life as we know it with 9 out of 10 Americans to perish and what of our other fellow human beings with some already having little or no access to a clean glass of water in the 21st century, some 1 billion fellow wonderful human beings and our time is wasted by the Democrats and Republicans and their boyish ways….let’s get a grip on our electric grid!

Today, while involved in Africa with my reaching to identify millions from investors to work with colleagues, those astute in their wave patented technology and attempts to utilize desalination to move large amounts of water off of Cape Verde or off Indonesia for example, well, I have decided to use the slogan, “Let’s Get A Grip On Our US Electric Grid” and work w/Judge Jeanine and other leading experts in Industry, Security and related to as this is truly a hugh concern and We must again extend our handclasp to Judge Jeanine for enlightening us to existing attacks and threats to our grid and Life which is so precious!

Judge Jeanine for President! (and I am not kidding) – enough of this empty rhetoric from the WH to Congress – We the People have real issues which concern us and We understand our precious Life is and what responsibilities we have during this our watch!

Christopher Tingus
Global H20 Solutions LLC
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA 02645

Comment by E. Earhart

February 23, 2014 @ 11:24 am

Chris, you are one of our exceptional citizens trying to make a difference. Thank you for your efforts.

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 24, 2014 @ 9:18 am

And Phil to answer your specific question–“Does it remain wise counsel?”–yes it was wise counsel then and now. Unfortunately ignored then and now!

Perhaps historians, sociologists, political scientists will devote future efforts to answering this why! Perhaps not.

My quick and dirty answer is that American elites choose to ignore this advice starting with a former Wall Streeter Paul Nitze, a principal author of NSC-68! That document stands as the principal rebuttal to the long-telegram!

Worship of MAMMON contains the seeds of self-destruction.

Check out St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

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