Friday, September 13, 2002

What Would Kennedy Do?

Nicholas Kristof cites the Cuban Missile Crisis as an example of facing a threat to America that had to be ended. He praises Kennedy for avoiding war and diplomatically ending the crisis. This is curious, except for the desire by some to run to the Oracle of Kennedy for guidance in every crisis. It is the “What Would Kennedy Do?” school—a secular religion with members every bit as committed as any religious believer.

But let’s look at what Kennedy reacted to. The Soviet Union placed offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba. They believed it would be a counter-weight to our nuclear weapons in Turkey and elsewhere pointed at Mother Russia; and believed the weapons would deter an American attack on Cuba.

So where was the imminent threat to our people that led our president to run the risk of nuclear war? It was judged at 50-50 at the time. He contemplated invasion (which the military favored—were they right then because of their uniforms the way they--the few who have spoken against war, anyway--are given God-like status today by opponents of war?) and carried out an act of war (a blockade called a “quarantine”) to keep the Soviets from pointing those weapons at us. This is lauded now by Kristof.

My memories are not clear on this, but I dare say that given Soviet and Chinese veto powers, we did not get Security Council approval for our actions. In addition, there was no evidence that the Soviets planned to launch those weapons at us. Yet today, opponents of war argue Saddam’s nuclear threat is not imminent. His efforts to deter us are understandable. Yeah. We’ll discount everything he has done and said, and trust him. We are to wait until he has nuclear weapons before we run another risk of nuclear war to end the threat. Luckily for us today, we do not have to rule out invasion to end Saddam’s threats to us the way we had to in the Cuban Missile Crisis because we feared nuclear war. Saddam does not have nuclear weapons yet.

And remember one more thing about our victory. We did not end the Soviet desire to point missiles at us. We made them withdraw the nuclear missiles, but the Soviets just built long range missiles able to strike us from the Soviet Union and put them on submarines too. The desire to keep us under a nuclear threat did not end for another three decades. Likewise with Saddam, he desires to harm us and use his ability to harm us to give him freedom of action in the future. Leaving him in power will allow him to develop a weapon and delivery system able to blackmail us into leaving him alone to carry out his evil plans. Even if we inspect or bomb, we can only delay the realization of his dream. I won’t take that chance. I bet Kennedy wouldn’t have either.