Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts William R. Kintner An Appreciation

William R. Kintner An Appreciation

We are honored to dedicate this issue of Or& to the memory of William R. Kintner, director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute from 1969 to 1973, and president of FPRI from 1975 to 1982, His death on February 1, 197, at the age of eighty-one, removed from the scene another of those remarkable American veterans of both World War II and the cold war. By turns a soldier, scholar, diplomat, and author, Kintner tackled challenges thrown up by a century notably inhospitable to freedom. He went about his work directly and humbly, and he was prepared to work in the shadows so long as the cause was advanced.

I first met him in the summer of 1968. It was a bad year for cold warriors, what with Vietnam and campus unrest, A former colonel, veteran of World War II and Korea, and early member of the Office of Strategic Services, which later became the CIA, then professor Kintner had burnished his credentials by co-authoring a series of books—Forging a New Sword, Protracted Conflict, A Forward Strategy for America–that echoed that era of deadly global rivalry. As a University of Pennsylvania graduate student hired to assist him at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, I expected this open-faced, burly, and rather stiff man to be quite a warmonger.

Our first meeting was not encouraging. He mistook me for an expected visitor, and when the mistake became clear he looked annoyed, then gruffly gave me an assignment of which only three words were clear: “due next week.” It turned out that he was planning a book about anti-ballistic missile defense, and he wanted my views on how to deploy the arguments based on the materials he handed me. I did my best and before long was inducted into his company. The book required concentration unavailable at FPRI’s of&es in the crowded old Girard Bank building at 36th and Walnut. Kintner therefore took all the materials to the seashore, requiring me to commute there each day to work with him in his hotel room.

Kintner did not write books-he assembled them. Dozens of pages of his difficult script on yellow-lined foolscap were interspersed with quotations, scraps of newspapers, pages of books, and sometimes blank spaces to be filled later. (Invariably, the sources of quotes were lost.) A stapler stood ready, and the floor gave proof that it had been fired many times. The scissors were equally well worn, and empty spools of scotch tape completed the scene. At the vortex, seated on a couch and dressed in an outrageous Hawaiian shirt and shorts, sat the genial, relaxed man with the quiet, firm voice.

I soon discovered that Kintner was the least likely of cold warriors. His apparently blunt exterior molded by military command disguised a very shy Summer 1997 i 333 An Appreciation and self-effacing nature. During nearly thirty years of friendship, I never heard him boast. And being a religious student of the Swedenborgian teaching, he would not allow vanity to come between himself and his Creator.

Truth be told, Kintner was not interested in conflict, but conflict came to him, unbidden, brought by evil men. He could not in good conscience avoid the struggle, but he betrayed no bloodlust at all. This was illustrated by the ease with which he forged friendships across the cold war divide. Soviet diplomats expecting a ferocious fellow found instead a friendly bear. He was always ready to search out the man underneath the ideology and befriend him in the midst of difficulties.

Kintner was a creative thinker. He had trained at West Point in the last class to be taught cavalry maneuvers. He fought the D-Day invasion on Omaha Beach and the Korean War on Pork Chop Hill. He knew war at its bloodiest and most cruel, as a foot soldier. Not long after these experiences of old-style warfare, he was theorizing about the astonishing and befuddling changes wrought by the nuclear era. Kintner was thus a charter member of the generation that taught Americans about geopolitics, international affairs, and, of course, the Soviet Union. Together with Robert Strausz-Hupe, Stefan Possony, James E. Dougherty, Frank Barnett, and others, Kintner created a “Philadelphia school” on how to wage a protracted conflict against Soviet communism without compromising liberty or risking nuclear war. He was among that small group who, under Nelson Rockefeller’s chairmanship, produced the “Open Skies” proposal of 1955, which offered an early version of arms control that today we call transparency: steadying the balance by reassuring the rivals about each other’s arsenals.

Though often described as a conservative, Kintner was a flexible man. He worked well with labor leaders and saw the welfare of the common man as a key promise of democracy, believed in a free market but was no advocate of Darwinian capitalism, and feared for a civilization that exalted consumerism over morality.

Later, when I got to know him better, I realized that he was an “other-directed” man. The things of this world he measured by their impact on a calling to serve God. This hidden imperative was revealed only to a few. He did not linger on it, but you knew you had entered his supreme confidence when he discussed it.

Vietnam was a terrible and tragic time for Bill Kintner. Americans were ripping the country apart over a badly run foreign war in the wrong place at the wrong time. To this grand anguish was added a personal one. As director of FPRI in 1970, succeeding Robert Strausz-Hupe, he had to take the institute out of the University of Pennsylvania, where antimilitary faculty members prevailed in prohibiting classified studies on research, including arms control.

Kintner knew more than a little about Asia. He had fought the Chinese in Korea, where as a commander he won a reputation for taking care of hi men, Ultimately, in his view, the Soviet Union, not China, was the more dangerous adversary. But Vietnam had to be managed successfully lest the larger cause be lost.

Kintner’s embassy in Thailand (1973-75) proved controversial. He had the impossible task of securing Thai support for a war the United States was preparing to leave. He was too bluntly honest, especially with his own government. He then returned to FPRI and served as president from 1975 to 1982. Here, too, controversy struck, and he found himself in a distasteful quarrel with some of his colleagues. But Kintner persevered, pioneering a joint project with the Soviet Institute for the Study of the USA and Canada that permitted annual exchanges between top non-governmental scholars and analysts despite the cold war. He also co-authored an incisive book on A Matter of Two Chinas.

He remained active well into his old age, serving after retirement on the board of the congressionally chartered United States Institute of Peace. With Richard Foster he did notable work on strategy for the U.S. Navy and wrote a regional study of Soviet strategy. He had a remarkable fund of “war stories” about the famous and sometimes the rich, but despite my urging and that of others, he never put down his impressions of the many leaders he met, ultimately judging the character of others was not for him.

Kintner was an exceptionally loyal man. He experienced difficult times yet never flinched from doing right. He had to live with himself and with the Supreme Being. In later years he rejoiced in the end of the cold war but did not gloat at the defeat of the Russians. He knew too many good men on the other side, and there was something about the humiliation of a great people that he feared.

Although stricken finally with a painful disease, he persisted, concentrating on a remarkable historical-theological work, The Role of Ancient Israel, which was published in 1996. He made one of his last public appearances-at great physical effort-to attend FPRI’s fortieth anniversary banquet, where we were able to thank him publicly for a lifetime of service.

It can be said about William Kintner that he did his best, and that his best was very good indeed. He embodied the great simplicities that underpin a life well lived: honesty, courage, candor, kindness, compassion, and uprightness in thought and deed. I can see him still-his shy smile, direct manner, the man on the couch assembling his books and strategies from the raw material of life. Verily did he love life, but for Heaven’s sake, not his own. Those of us who benefited so much from his teaching by example must carry on his ideal. We cherish his memory, secure in the knowledge that in the great roll call of those who preserved liberty in a dangerous time, the name of William R. Kintner will occupy a notable place. To use a phrase of Swedenborg, he was truly a “celestial man.”