Since the 1950s, anti-Russian accusations have switched parties. Back then, Republicans denounced Democrats as serving Moscow. Now Democrats bash Republicans for the same: You traitors! Fun, isn’t it? Well, turnabout is fair play.

I came to this from another of my lockdown reads, George F. Kennan’s two-volume memoirs. The diplomat-historian would feel unhappily at home today amid our bitter divisions. His laments from the 1950s and 1960s still resonate, especially his horror at the McCarthyism that decimated the State Department.

What Secretary of State Dean Acheson called “the attack of the primitives” has returned with current right-wing hatred of liberals and experts. There has always been an angry American substratum that every few years erupts at immigrants, leftists, Blacks, the educated and federal officials. McCarthy’s base was a resentful working class, which Trump too utilizes.

Kennan saw in the early 1950s how loyal foreign service officers were falsely accused of aiding communism. The “old China hands,” so called because most were missionary kids who spoke Chinese, accurately reported during the war that Chiang’s Nationalists were corrupt and ineffective and that Mao’s Communists were likely to win. They were right but penalized for it.

Never tried but unable to prove their innocence, the China hands were drummed out of State by John Foster Dulles when he took over in 1953. Kennan regretted that he could not help them. America lost a generation of Asia expertise, which contributed to wars and tensions for decades. We now see a similar exodus of talent from government, leaving the next president to reverse (recently indicted) Steve Bannon’s “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

Dulles’s purges made foreign service officers fear suspicions of disloyalty, so they cautiously reported what official policy demanded, seldom raising doubts or objections. This is why, some argue, our embassies in Saigon and Tehran delayed reporting regime instability. Blunt, candid analyses are discouraged if they go against policy (e.g., Saudi Arabia is okay).

Kennan declined to judge if Alger Hiss was a spy. (He probably was.) Accusations like the great Hiss controversy of the 1950s have reappeared. Did Trump operative Paul Manafort’s deep contacts with Russian intelligence agents constitute spying for a hostile power? Are charges of Russian electoral cyber penetration the equivalent of 1950s congressional committees’ charges of Soviet influence?

One difference between the 1950s and now is the willingness of many career officials to resign, sometimes after they’ve been tagged with disobedience. “You scorn me,” they in effect tell the Trump administration, “so I’m out of here.” Many disillusioned Trump appointees join them. Resignations and early retirements have never run so high. Speaking Truth to Power always had costs. These people are willing to pay them.

America tends to split periodically over suspected traitors within — the Jacobins and XYZ affair over revolutionary France, British support for the Confederacy, the Palmer Raids and red scare under President Wilson, the roundup of Japanese-Americans in 1942, McCarthyism and birtherism. Politicians use suspicion of other Americans’ foreign ties to win votes.

Is there any cure for these recurring bouts of hatred? Not so long as America is a shifting mix of people and regions with different economic, educational and cultural perspectives. Even in homogenous societies ordinary citizens resent rulers, which is now happening in Europe. Demagogues make their living railing against “elites.” The size of their audience varies with the stress the system is under.

Princetonian Kennan was a member of the elite and knew it, especially after suffering politicians’ ignorant stumbles into diplomacy, a problem today. Diplomacy, he held, must be conducted by professionals. (He was right.) Kennan became ambassador to Yugoslavia in 1961 but left frustrated in 1963 because Congress couldn’t handle the complex idea that Tito, although a Communist, blocked Soviet power.

Calm, deep and insightful, he formed his Soviet views by long personal observation, initially from Riga, Latvia, then in the U.S. embassy in Moscow in the 1930s and 1940s. Even when we were wartime allies, he warned of Stalin’s designs. His 1946 “Long Telegram” and his famous 1947 “X” article framed four decades of U.S. policy.

Unfortunately, Kennan’s “containment” was too nuanced for politicians and most media. Dulles and Nixon denounced it as timid and demanded “rollback” in East Europe. Kennan foresaw flexible political and economic containment hastening the burnout or mellowing of Soviet power, which did occur after Stalin died (e.g., Khrushchev’s 1956 de-Stalinization speech).

To Kennan’s chagrin, the Pentagon quickly subordinated foreign policy to defense policy and kept it that way. Kennan called nuclear weapons unusable and horrible. To him, the Third World was a distraction; he disliked nation-building and decried the Vietnam War.

Kennan would recognize today how Republicans still scapegoat the State Department. In terms of weakening morale at State, Pompeo now plays Dulles’s role but in a simpler and neater way, by firing the department’s inspector general.