Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Are We Ready For the Mistakes Of J.F.K., Again

We've seen it all before. In 1960, the electorate got behind a young, dynamic, and good-looking candidate named John F. Kennedy. His speeches moved this country. At that time, he was destined to be the "first" Catholic President. But aside from all that fluff, he had little experience; and in the world of foreign affairs, it showed.

One of the things that JFK gets praise for was the Cuban Missile Crisis. But, that crisis, in my mind and the minds of some historians, was a crisis of his own making. It came about because the then-Premier of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, saw weakness in John F. Kennedy. He saw weakness when Kennedy miserably failed to properly implement the Bay of Pigs invasion by not supporting that invasion with the proper military backup. The way Kennedy handled the post-Bay of Pigs Invasion negotiation for prisoners was also seen as being weak. Khrushchev saw even more weakness during the earliest meetings with Kennedy. And, that belief was never more evident when Nikita Khrushchev stated this now famous line: "We will bury you!" Khrushchev would never have put missiles in Cuba if he had thought Kennedy was strong. Much of the false memory of this event seems to imply that Kennedy, through his strength and determination, simply made Khrushchev back down and come to his knees. However, Khrushchev only conceded pulling the missiles out of Cuba after we agreed to remove our missiles from the borders of Turkey.

Like Kennedy, Barack Obama feels that we can "talk" to our enemies. Kennedy made this a centerpiece of his Administration when, in his Inaugural Address, he said: "Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate..." Barack Obama has quoted this famous line and made it clear that he, too, will talk to our enemies like Ahmadinejad of Iran. But, "talking" is seen by a dictatorial aggressor like Khrushchev and Ahmadinejad as a form of weakness. To an Ahmadinejad or a Khrushchev, "talks" with the mighty United States give them a sense of power; a sense of equality, or even, superiority. In their minds, the fact that the United States is "talking" to them must mean that the U.S. fears them. It's an adrenaline rush!

Just like Kennedy talking to Khrushchev while Khrushchev was preparing to put missiles into Cuba, you can expect the same kind of goings on from an Ahmadinejad or a Hugo Chavez or a Kim Jong Il, while Obama talks and talks his head off and tries to make nice with these, our enemies.

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