The procedure was almost as routine as a fire drill. With every big flare-up in relations with Soviet Russia, George Frost Kennan and his policy planners would retire to their fifth-floor conference room in the Department of State, lock the doors, take off their coats and work through the nights plotting how, if they were the men in the Kremlin, they would heckle the U.S.

Few U.S. citizens knew of George Kennan, for the 45-year-old, restless, intense chief of State's policy-planning staff was an expert's expert. Yet his solid analyses of what the...

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