JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, remembering two distinguished American diplomats. First, Sol Linowitz, who died today. He had been CEO of the Xerox Corporation and an attorney. Then, as an adviser to President Carter, he helped negotiate the Panama Canal transfer in 1977. He also played a key role in Middle East peace negotiations.
Linowitz was a frequent guest on the NewsHour. In 1991, he talked about the needs of Israelis and Arabs for a lasting peace.
SOL LINOWITZ: First, foremost and dominating for Israel, peace. Ever since its founding it has known nothing but hostility and war and the sense of being surrounded by neighbors that wish it ill. Therefore, if Israel can, indeed achieve a peace, a reliable peace, security so it can go about and do its business constructively in the world that would be, I think, its fondest wish; that more than anything else is the objective of Israel.
As far as the Arab world is concerned, they, too, don't want to live in a region on the... with the danger of war and on the precipice so they ought to welcome the opportunity to find a way to resolve their problems. Moreover, if they can find a basis for peace, Israel has a lot to contribute to the region.
JIM LEHRER: Sol Linowitz was 91 years old.
George Kennan was a pivotal diplomatic thinker of the Cold War. Terence Smith looks at his legacy.
TERENCE SMITH: George Kennan served for decades before and after World War II as an American diplomat. In 1946, as the U.S.-Soviet Cold War was taking shape, Kennan wrote one of the most influential papers ever produced in the Foreign Service. It was published a year later in Foreign Affairs Magazine under the byline X.
Kennan argued: "The main element of any United States policy towards the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansionist tendencies." Diplomat and historian Strobe Talbott explained how that sentence became the cornerstone of U.S. policy for the next 40 years.
STROBE TALBOTT: But he did have this vision early on that what I think he called the vigorous and adroit application of counterforce against the phenomenon of the Soviet Union and the Soviet empire would keep it in check.
And if Soviet power was not allowed to expand, the contradictions within the Soviet system would eventually bring about what he called, back in the '40s, "the mellowing of Soviet power." And it's one of, I think, a minor miracle of our times that not only was he right, but he lived to see it be right.
TERENCE SMITH: Kennan did see Mikhail Gorbachev dial back the Cold War and reform the Soviet Union. In 1988, Robert MacNeil asked Kennan why those dramatic changes had happened.
GEORGE KENNAN: The main cause was the realization on the part of many intelligent people in the Soviet Union in these recent years of the fact that the whole system was going downhill, that it was no longer competitive, that the capitalist countries were going far beyond it. There were many other points of weakness, too, which became apparent to them, and that I think is the main reason for the change.
TERENCE SMITH: Kennan also said the U.S. should be modest about its role as Soviet power diminished.
GEORGE KENNAN: Our role, I think, is to take a more balanced view of ourselves, to realize that while there is a great deal that we can give to the rest of the world, particularly in the way of example, there is not as much that we can do to affect world events as we have fancied ourselves to be able to do in the past.
We take a more modest view of ourselves and our capabilities. That's the main thing, I think, and to get our own house in order, first of all.
TERENCE SMITH: According to Talbott, it was Kennan's skill with words that created his legacy. He was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author after his years as a diplomat.
STROBE TALBOTT: One reason he was so effective was not just that he was very independent as an intellect, he never let himself be pushed around, but because he was a master of the language. I've had many occasions to go back and reread his books, his memoirs, his history, and I cannot think of another public figure certainly in diplomacy who had anything like this literary skill and literary bent.
And it's one reason why his influence...he lived a very, very long life, but his influence will last much, much longer because there is this extraordinary paper trail, as it were, book after book after book by him.
TERENCE SMITH: George Kennan was 101 years old.