A prominent American who saw the immigration disaster

Vincent Chiarello writes:

Clark Coleman’s discussion of Samuel Huntington’s views on immigration and the American nation reminds me of an encounter I had over two decades ago with a man not noted for his expertise on immigration, but his prescience in foreign policy: George F. Kennan.

In 1985, while I served as Press Attache at the U.S. Embassy in Oslo, I received an invitation to attend a luncheon at the ambassador’s residence: the guest of honor was the noted U.S. historian and foreign policy expert, George F. Kennan. I was eager to meet Kennan, for I had read most of his work on U.S. foreign policy, and I knew of his exalted standing amongst many members of the U.S. Foreign Service, which he admirably served from the rise of Hitler to the inception of the Cold War. While serving in Moscow after World War II, he penned the famous “X” telegram, which advocated the “containment” of Soviet expansion. Kennan’s wife was Norwegian, and they spent many a summer in “the land of the midnight sun,” visiting her family and their grandchildren, but rarely accepted an invitation. Because of my familiarity with his writings, I was asked to take the lead in keeping up the conversation.

As would be expected, the (then) current foreign policy issues dominated the discussion, including the danger posed by Soviet submarines in the Kola Peninsula, and the guests, who also included representatives from the Norwegian government, were pleased—at least they appeared to be—when the soiree ended. That night, I received a phone call from the ambassador asking if I would be interested in a one-on-one conversation over breakfast the next morning with none other than Kennan. The ambassador had an appointment that could not be broken; I jumped at the opportunity.

I remember that foreign policy issues occupied only a brief interlude in our conversation; what remains clearest in my mind about that meeting was Kennan’s deep pessimism about the future of the United States. Time and time again, he came back to the same theme: that unfettered immigration from non-European nations would be a disaster, and that the thin line that separated the U.S. from the rest of the world would disappear. As Mr. Coleman states, Huntington was fiercely opposed to the notion of America as “a propositional nation.” Kennan emphasized that same objection by repeatedly pointing out our Anglo-Saxon roots and cultural heritage. I cannot help but believe that, toward the end of that session, Kennan, who was to live to more than 100 years, was saying that Anglo-Saxons, that is, the white race, were being endangered by a flood of unassimilable strangers that would shake the nation to its very foundational core.

Eleven years after those encounters, Kennan published, Century’s Ending, in which he continued his Jeremiah-like role, warning the nation of the dangers we will face, which now also included potential environmental disasters. Included in his dirge-like observations, he wrote:

And finally, there is much in our own life, here in this country that needs early containment…. (of) our inability to reduce a devastating budgetary deficit; our comparable inability to control the immigration into our midst of great masses of people of wholly different cultural and political traditions.

Both Samuel Huntington and George F. Kennan were appalled by the willingness of the political leadership to destroy the country these two men so dearly loved by importing hordes of immigrants who, by their nature and numbers, will permanently alter what it is to be an American.

LA replies:

Thanks for this historically significant memo on Kennan.

But in his book 11 years after his conversation with you, did he address the immigration issue in any manner approaching what he had said to you? Did he address it seriously at all? Or did it come down to the passing comment you’ve quoted?

If he had those views which he felt so deeply, and did not do more to broadcast them and argue for them and try to affect public opinion, what good was it? Also, being so concerned about the topic, he should have heard of The Path to National Suicide, which was very close to his own view, and which was published in 1990. But there’s no indication that he did. Imagine if he had come forward, with his tremendous prestige, and made a serious argument on the need to repeal the 1965 Act and return to a policy aimed at keeping America a European country. He could have changed the whole debate.

But he didn’t. So I’m more discouraged and saddened by your anecdote than encouraged.

Vincent Chiarello replies:

I believe that Kennan was quite serious about the downward trajectory of American life caused by Third World immigration; during our breakfast tete-a-tete, I was convinced of that. Kennan, however, came from a tradition, well established in the Foreign Service, that raising your voice too loud on any issue was considered inappropriate, the result, perhaps, of that earlier Anglo-Saxon upbringing in which he was reared. To repeat the cliche: it was not what you said or wrote, but how you did it.

“Imagine if he had come forward, with his tremendous prestige, and made a serious argument on the need to repeal the 1965 Act and return to a policy aimed at keeping America a European country.”

It would, I believe, have been alien to him openly to advocate those views in public; it was not part of his persona. I totally agree with your conclusion that his opposition to the 1965 Immigration Act would have been important, but no such opposition, other than the bland words cited in his book, were ever forthcoming. Pity that.

Still, although it really serves no useful purpose today, Kennan’s views on the unfettered immigration represented, I am reasonably sure, many Americans of his generation, and their passing has made it easier for the multiculturalists to succeed in pedaling their execrable nonsense.

LA replies:

Fortunately, in another book of Kennan’s, which a reader reminded me of after this entry was initially posted, Kennan did write several pages on the immigration problem. I’ve posted an excerpt here. What he wrote was not insignificant, and he deserves credit. Still, given his prominence and the great respect in which he was held, and given his passionately held view that immigration was going to destroy the country, it is a shame he didn’t do much more.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 16, 2009 01:05 PM | Send

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