President John F. Kennedy, a Democrat – after being tested by the Cuban Missile Crisis and the threat of nuclear war – said it best in a speech to the graduating class at the American University in Washington, D.C., on June 10, 1963, … just days before his assassination.
“Nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war,” he said. “To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy – or of a collective death-wish for the world.”
It’s a simple message, but one the new Democrats of 2023 and especially Joe Biden fail to grasp.
Kennedy’s speech has never been more important than right now. His words were spoken for our time.
This is why it is not wise to escalate the war in Ukraine with Russia and, perhaps, turn it into a world war involving China. That’s what we are facing today.
Ukraine has no strategic importance for America. It is a war that has some strategic importance for Europe, but none for the U.S. Moreover, Ukraine is one the most corrupt nations in the world. It was part of the old Soviet Union as recently as 1991. Now much of it is rubble. Most importantly, we cannot sustain this war “for as long as it takes.” We’re not the policeman for the world. We are a sovereign nation. We should choose our wars carefully. We have not done so recently.
We don’t have the money. In fact, we’re broke. Our military is in shambles. We are not prepared for the real challenges ahead – including an imminent one with China, which is intending to take over Taiwan. We’re not prepared for it – and we’re not really preparing for it.
More importantly, we are not united as a nation in purpose. Instead, we’re stumbling into a world war.
This is no time to provoke a nuclear power, or to tempt another great power, or risk a confrontation with an adversary who must choose “either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war.”
Just as JFK warned, going that route in this age of nuclear weapons “would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy – or of a collective death-wish for the world.”
He said some other things in his 1963 speech that were important and relevant:
“‘There are few earthly things more beautiful than a university,’ wrote John Masefield in his tribute to English universities. … He did not refer to spires and towers, to campus greens and ivied walls. He admired the splendid beauty of the university, he said, because it was ‘a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see.'”
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Kennedy continued: “I have, therefore, chosen this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived – yet it is the most important topic on earth: world peace. What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children – not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women – not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.”
Listen to more of his words of wisdom.
“I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age when great powers can maintain large and relatively invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces. It makes no sense in an age when a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all the Allied air forces in the Second World War. It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn.
“Today the expenditure of billions of dollars every year on weapons acquired for the purpose of making sure we never need to use them is essential to keeping the peace. But surely the acquisition of such idle stockpiles – which can only destroy and never create – is not the only, much less the most efficient, means of assuring peace. I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary rational end of rational men. I realize that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war – and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task.”
Remember, this thoughtful and sober speech was delivered by a Democratic president. How refreshing! There’s more:
“With such a peace, there will still be quarrels and conflicting interests, as there are within families and nations. World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor – it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement. And history teaches us that enmities between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever. However fixed our likes and dislikes may seem, the tide of time and events will often bring surprising changes in the relations between nations and neighbors. So let us persevere. Peace need not be impracticable, and war need not be inevitable. By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all peoples to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly toward it.
“No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue. As Americans, we find communism profoundly repugnant as a negation of personal freedom and dignity. But we can still hail the Russian people for their many achievements – in science and space, in economic and industrial growth, in culture and in acts of courage.”
He warns about things many of us, living in the 21st century, have never experienced firsthand:
“Among the many traits the peoples of our two countries have in common, none is stronger than our mutual abhorrence of war. Almost unique among the major world powers, we have never been at war with each other. And no nation in the history of battle ever suffered more than the Soviet Union suffered in the course of the Second World War. At least 20 million lost their lives. Countless millions of homes and farms were burned or sacked. A third of the nation’s territory, including nearly two thirds of its industrial base, was turned into a wasteland – a loss equivalent to the devastation of this country east of Chicago.
“Today, should total war ever break out again – no matter how – our two countries would become the primary targets. It is an ironic but accurate fact that the two strongest powers are the two in the most danger of devastation. All we have built, all we have worked for, would be destroyed in the first 24 hours. And even in the Cold War, which brings burdens and dangers to so many nations, including this nation’s closest allies – our two countries bear the heaviest burdens. For we are both devoting massive sums of money to weapons that could be better devoted to combating ignorance, poverty, and disease. We are both caught up in a vicious and dangerous cycle in which suspicion on one side breeds suspicion on the other, and new weapons beget counter-weapons.
“So, let us not be blind to our differences – but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
Does this sound like Joe Biden? Does it sound like any Democrat today? Listen further:
“We must, therefore, persevere in the search for peace in the hope that constructive changes within the Communist bloc might bring within reach solutions which now seem beyond us. We must conduct our affairs in such a way that it becomes in the Communists’ interest to agree on a genuine peace. Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy – or of a collective death-wish for the world.”
“Our interests converge, however, not only in defending the frontiers of freedom, but in pursuing the paths of peace. … The Communist drive to impose their political and economic system on others is the primary cause of world tension today. For there can be no doubt that, if all nations could refrain from interfering in the self-determination of others, the peace would be much more assured.”
When was the last time we heard talk like this about Communism from a Democrat? It’s been a long time.
And when did we hear wisdom like this? “All this is not unrelated to world peace. ‘When a man’s ways please the Lord,’ the Scriptures tell us, ‘he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.’ And is not peace, in the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights – the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation – the right to breathe air as nature provided it – the right of future generations to a healthy existence?”
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