Barack, McCain, Kennedy and Cuba, history repeats, we hope?
Was thinking about the Kennedy administration after all this talk of the cult of personality and the charisma effect and so on and it got me thinking about how Kennedy, with his brother, averted what we now know to be an almost certain nuclear war. They did this against the wishes of the military and the pentagon, the state department, basically the whole Washington establishment outside of their direct appointments.
It got me wondering how John McCain might have reacted in similar circumstances. Would he have had the vision, the idealism, the hunger for peace to forge ahead with diplomacy in the face of an overwhelming hunger for war? The Kennedys even went so far as to contact Moscow directly and asked the Russians not to inform Americas own embassy about it, for fear of domestic ‘enemies’ in the pentagon might get wind of it and try to trigger a war.
Would McCain do that?
I mentioned yesterday that there seemed at this moment to be a lot of analogues between our present time and the 60’s. James Hoffa runs the Teamsters, a charismatic young orator is running for the whitehouse, America is mired in a foreign war that saps it’s strength.
Perhaps we need to remind ourselves of that other fact of the sixties; that it took a man of great ‘doveish’ courage and conviction to save the world from a nucleor holocaust.
Right now in Washington and Israel there is a lot of talk about Iran, and how ‘we cannot allow’ Iran to develop nuclear capabilities. The idea of a nuclear strike has been mooted. Just think for a moment what might happen if McCain wins the whitehouse and we discover Iran has a bomb. Or has been secretly accelerating the program to build one. And Israel wishes to make a ‘premtive strike’ on Iran, perhaps on Terahn herself. Would McCain have to courage, or the inclination to stand up for peace, for diplomacy?
Or in Korea, or Pakistan, a muslim nation already possesed of nuclear weapons. Kennedy was a great speaker, and a great idealist, but he also managed to achieve greatness, in averting a terrible nuclear war, and in putting a man on the moon, a feat so far unmatched in the 40 odd years that have past scince.
When we look at the candidates and wonder, ‘who will be better for national security’ we should not simply ask ourrselves who would be more ready to send troops into battle or fire missles at targets, we should also ask ourselves who is most likely to be wise enough to avoid sending troops into battle, who would be wise enough to refrain from firing the missles. Because the consequences of a miscaculated show of force can be dire. We saw this in Vietnam, we see it in Iraq, we cannot se it, except in out imagination, when we think about the Cuban missile crisis, because cool heads, wise minds, and visionary men prevailed over a climate of fearmongering and hawkish sentiment.
Castro is leaving the stage, his small country thumbed it’s nose at the greatest power of the west for fifty years, now we will see where to next for Cuba, but we also wait to see where to next for America, and it is a stark choice.
When Robert Macnammara the former secretary of defence met Castro he asked him the question that had been haunting him for 30 years, would he have fired those missiles? Yes came Castro’s unhesitating reply, he would have, and America would too.
Castro was wrong about Kennedy’s America, but he was not wrong by much, would he be wrong about McCain’s America?
There are now more nuclear weapons and more nuclear armed states than where even imagined back in the sixties, there are more, much more, conventional weapons too, the ubiquitus AK-47 Kalashnikov and the rocket proppelled grenade seem to render sustained occupation of counties the size of places like Afganistan almost impossible, even for the greatest military the world has ever seen.
Histroy repeats, yes, but always it seems on a more complex, dangerous and terrible scale, here we are again with America mired in a fight against a nbulous enemy, vacilating between two great defences; its principles, or it’s power. Which will it choose?
If we are to learn from the history of Vietnam and the Cuban missile crisis we need to think long and hard about what might have happened with a different president in the whitehouse at that crucial moment of time, perhaps a president with less eloquence and less belief in the ideals of peace and true freedom might have decided differently, and perhaps the missles might have been fired and a tragedy worse than a hundred 9/11s might have unfolded on the soverign soil of America, and then rebounded and amplified across the globe.
That terrifying vision was averted by a man of vision, a man of high ideals, a man of eloquence. Perhaps there are parts of history worth repeating, indeed vital to repeat, like the electing of officials who can save us from fear and the terrible consequence of bad descicions.
I can’t vote in the American election, though I live, here in Australia, firmly within it’s cultural sphere, but I hope very much that the American people, like they did when they elected a young JFK, can choose eloquence over hard-mindedness, peace over war, and hope over fear. Who knows, they might just save the world again.