The news from Boston is that the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy is to be decommissioned today. A Harvard professor of international relations/nuclear proliferation muses today in the Boston Globe about what the man for whom the carrier was named would have to say about Iraq, north Korea and Iran. Graham Allison boils down JFK's probable advice to GW Bush as follows:
a) Force is the hand in the glove of US diplomacy. JFK understood the use of military power, but used it as a last resort rather than a first option in the missle crisis, guaranteeing that we are alive today to read this.
b) Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. Vice President Cheney said we would never negotiate with "evil." I don't know what you would call someone who wanted to put nuclear missles in this hemisphere, but JF and RF Kennedy talked and talked and talked with Khrushchev and the Soviet leaders, and the denouement of the missle crisis saved the lives of millions of citizens worldwide. Is Iran really more "evil," more of an "enemy" of ours than the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was in l962?
c) " The perfect should not be the enemy of the good. Although his ultimate goal was to bury Communism, Kennedy knew that this was a long-term project. Success would require careful small steps that avoided confrontations that could lead to a nuclear war neither country would survive. President Kennedy thus initiated arms-control negotiations with the Soviet Union that led to the Limited Test Ban Treaty, an emergency hotline between Washington and Moscow, and, ultimately, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
If there is to be a negotiated solution that stops Iran short of a nuclear bomb, the United States will be required to take uncomfortable steps. These will include offering Iran a security assurance if and when it gives up its nuclear weapons program. Despite valid concerns about the nature of the Islamic Republic, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrotein a 2004 publication entitled "Iran: Time for a New Approach," "Iran is not on the verge of another revolution . . . The durability of the Islamic Republic and the urgency of the concerns surrounding its policies mandate that the United States deal with the current regime rather than wait for it to fall."
John F. Kennedy was a fallible chief executive. He was ineffective and timid in his domestic policy, especially regarding civil rights. But I do believe he made all the right calls in international affairs after the disaster at the Bay of Pigs--letting the Berlin Wall stand as a testament to the failure of the Soviet system, opting for a diplomatic solution to the missle crisis, seizing the initiative with Khrushchev to sign the treaty against nuclear testing in the atmosphere. President Bush could do a lot worse than take his posthumous counsel.