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Published September 20, 2012

George Kennan (1904-2005) was an American diplomat who is best known as the father of Containment--the strategy by which the United States attempted to counter the spread of Communism across the globe. Kennan was a professional diplomat who signed up with the nascent US Foreign Service right out of Princeton when he discovered that law school was too expensive. He left that agency in 1950, and aside from two brief stints as ambassador to the USSR (terminated after some unfavourable comparisons with Nazi Germany) and Yugoslavia he never returned. Kennan was a vocal adherent of the Realist school of thought in International Relations--meaning he and others like him feel that a balance of power should determine foreign policy, as opposed to the more idealistic, morality driven "Wilsonian" tradition adhered to by the likes of Bill Clinton.

In American Diplomacy, Kennan explains his philosophy in the context of (then) contemporary American history.  I first came across it several years ago in a graduate seminar on American Diplomatic History, and re-read it recently on a whim. I'll be completely honest, I liked this book and I feel that it has a lot to offer a diplomat in EVE. 

Kennan raises four main points. The first is that short term trends and ill-informed popular opinion have degrees of influence on foreign policy that far outstrip their actual value. The author cites many of the events surrounding the start of the 1898 Spanish American War (in no small part instigated and sustained by "yellow journalism"), but we can see similar events in contemporary history, such as the recent hamfisted and overly simplistic responses to Middle Eastern affairs by a certain presidential candidate. Speaking from the perspective of a GoonSwarm diplomat, I can state that this holds true in EVE. There is always considerable pressure from various groups within my alliance to act out in one foolish way or another, and invariably the exponents of those actions possess voices whose volume is inversely related to actual intelligence.

The second point is that all foreign powers and their aims must be given due consideration. Kennan maintains that there is absolutely no room for patronization or insensitivity in diplomacy and he cites America's complicated relationships with China and Japan during the Interbellum period as an example. EVE is absolutely rife with examples of how one entity treating a subordinate as an inferior invariably sours the relationship and leads to treachery or war. TEST's recent campaign against -A- is a great example as, thanks to ages of mistreatment, -A-'s renters have practically lined up to abandon their former masters.

Third, concepts of law and morality are all too often a hindrance to productive international relationships. In the real world, we see this in the massive culture clash that takes place when Western concepts of either run headlong into the radically different value systems prevalent in the Middle or Far East. Dragging morality into an issue practically forces one of the parties involved to attempt to force its concept of "right" on the other--leading to friction and an unnecessary distraction from other, potentially more important issues. In EVE, we see a similar dynamic, but because real lives aren't lost in the game's endless wars, we see that to be entertaining rather than tragic.

Finally, Kennan generally rejects war as a useful solution to diplomatic problems. War, he argues, is not the end of a problem but rather a new and dangerous beginning for a plethora of new ones... new problems exacerbated fanned by the moral and ethical problems raised by the war itself. He argues that rather than trigger a change in the outlooks that caused the conflict, it merely serves to reinforce them. In essence, resolution is achieved by addressing the needs of those heading towards war and changing their hearts and minds. Again, due to the fact that EVE is a game, this particular lesson (though valid in the real world) falls a little flat because, for most of us at least, war is entertainment.

As mentioned earlier, I really liked Kennan's work. It's been my experience that most people are not informed enough to make intelligent foreign policy decisions, nor are they inclined to make themselves such (and indeed, a good few that probably should be still are not). Kennan's point on separating morality and ethics from practical discussions (or at least putting them in the back seat) also holds a particular degree of resonance.  In short, EVE is a cold, cruel game. American Diplomacy is its ultimate player guide.

I'm a long-standing GoonSwarm Federation Diplomat, avid Warhammer 40k player, painter and recreational marksman.
Author: George F. Kennan
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press
Price: $15.32