Friday, March 2, 2007

Good counsel from former ensign(later President)Kennedy

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.


jodmeister said...

The following is from yesterday's live discussion on Washington with 's National Politcal reporter Lois Romano:

"Toronto: Old politicians make me nervous. How old is Cheney anyway? His increasing bizarre public statements about Iraq -- which bear no resemblance to reality but which he seems to really believe are true -- and this "senior White House official" thing the other day make me wonder if he is suffering from the beginnings of dementia.

Lois Romano: That question is way out of my expertise arena. But I will tell you that many many people who knew Cheney in the '70s and '80s when he worked for Ford and then as a congressman, say this is not the man they knew. While he was always conservative, some have observed that as a younger man he was more practical and open to other ideas." This wouldn't surprise me b/c of Cheney's constant "everything's great" rhetoric.

On another note, it's a shame that JFK and LBJ didn't get along better. With JFK's love for foreign policy and LBJ's for domestic policy, they could have ran like a well-oiled machine. Unfortunately, I'm sure egos would have gotten in the way for this to really work.

buckarooskidoo said...

Very interesting bits from the Post...a lot of people have said that about Cheney, e.g. Brent Scowcroft, one of President Bush 41's advisers and an old hand in US foreign policy.

I think you're right about the boston-austin axis. the jfk camp was planning on dumping lyndon from the ticket in '64, so it's hard to see how they could've become that ideal team.

It's a funny thing, the Presidency...everyone liked Jack Kennedy's style, cool, intellect, and those are important qualities. But Lyndon knew how to work the levers of power that turned proposals into legislative projects that got signed into law. in the end, maybe it's more important to be a slightly shady horse-trader type. put differently, jack kennedy would've been a great king, with lyndon as his prime minister.

german said...

i'll look at a different president. i'd pick ronald reagan. he knew how to explain things to the common person. He did this on rather regular basis using press conferences on the big three networks. explain why they are evil and what we are going to do to stop the evil. you keep the public on your side you can do just about anything. he could negotiate but also he could bomb you. ask momar quaddafy( not sure which spelling he is using now) he was evil at one point but saw the fruits of what that would get him.

german said...

it is sad to his his ship go to the retirement yard though. nothing quite like seeing a president aircaft carrier off the gulf of someplace knowing its a serious matter.

moville said...

Agreed on President RWR, absolutely. Like President Kennedy, President Reagan rejected the advice of his more bellicose associates and advisers in reaching out to Mikhail Gorbachev and partnering with him in ending the Cold War. Everyone told him not to deal with Gorbachev, that Gorbachev would stab him, Reagan, in the back, but Reagan followed the course of conciliation, and together they brought an end to the 45 years of armed standoff between the USA and USSR. Reagan didn't shrink from the use of force, but like Kennedy, he viewed it as a last resort, and achieved his objectives off the battlefield.
Incidentally, Reagan was the final Jeopardy answer last night. The question was who brought off lopsided electoral victories in winning two terms as President...and RR was that man, demolishing carter in l980 and then Mondale, l984. No one else among the two-termers had that kind of success...

moville said...

On the carrier retirement, agreed as well. interestingly, if you remember the missle crisis, jfk imposed a naval blockade on the waters around cuba as a means of intercepting any soviet ships carrying materiel that would assist in the further construction of missle silos. the big question was how the soviet union would react when and if one of their ships was stopped. the ship that made the first stop was...the uss joseph p. kennedy, jr., named for jfk's older brother killed in world war II on that risky explosives mission.