Peter Robinson, a Reagan speechwriter in the last years of the Cold War, posed an interesting question the other day. He noted that on Feb. 22, 1946, a mere six months after the end of World War II, George Kennan, a U.S. diplomat in Moscow, sent his famous 5,000-word telegram that laid out the stakes of the Cold War and the nature of the enemy, and that that "Long Telegram" in essence shaped the way America thought about the conflict all the way up to the fall of the Berlin Wall four decades later. And what Mr. Robinson wondered was this:
"Here we are today, more than six years after 9/11. Does anyone believe a new 'Long Telegram' has yet been written? And accepted throughout the senior levels of the government?"
Because, if it had, you'd hear it echoed in public – just as the Long Telegram provided the underpinning of the Truman Doctrine a year later. Kennan himself had differences with Truman and successive presidents over what he regarded as their misinterpretation, but, granted all that, most of what turned up over the next 40 years – the Cuban missile crisis, the Vietnam war, Soviet subversion in Africa and Europe, Grenada and Afghanistan – is consistent with the conflict as laid out by one relatively minor State Department functionary decades earlier.
Why can't we do that today?