Odd Couple

The Hawk and the Dove
Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War
Nicholas Thompson
Henry Holt, $27.50, 416 pp.

The Hawk and the Dove is a composite biography told through the story of Paul Nitze’s and George Kennan’s divergent stances on U.S. policy during the Cold War. Each man was a significant figure in the development of policy toward the Soviet Union: Kennan, the diplomat, from 1933, when he was posted to the U.S. embassy in Moscow; Nitze, the military and strategic planner, from the end of World War II in 1945.

The narrative is shaped by the conviction of author Nicholas Thompson (Nitze’s grandson) that the two men, who were State Department colleagues in the Truman administration, remained friends over the years in spite of their vigorous disagreements. Each fiercely opposed the other’s position on policy toward the Soviets. Nitze favored confrontation, Kennan containment. The author argues that their views represented polar opposites on U.S.-Soviet relations from 1948, when the Cold War broke out in full force, until 1989, when the Soviet Union finally collapsed. Hence the title, The Hawk (Nitze) and the Dove (Kennan).

Reviews and reflections about the book and its author have appeared in the New York Times and the Washington Post, and on...

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About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.