November 1, 2009

AND YOU WONDER WHY DEMOCRATS LOOK AT THE UR AND SEE JFK?:

Weak will, high wall: On President Kennedy's failure in the face of barbed wire. (Donald Kagan, November 2009, The New Criterion)

The twentieth anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall is a happy reminder of the great events to which it was the precursor: the collapse of the Soviet Union and the liberation of the people of Eastern Europe that came with it. We must not forget, however, that, in the 1940s and 1950s, the belief was widespread that nuclear war between the superpowers was likely, if not inevitable. Demands for unilateral disarmament and various forms of concession and appeasement were common on the left and even in more respectable quarters. For a period of time, retreat, styled as “détente,” was the preferred policy. It was only when the expansion of Soviet power under cover of such Western weakness led to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that Americans returned to the more realistic approach of the Truman administration that this remarkable and unprecedented achievement became possible. But the long struggle that brought success was not easy, nor was adherence to the successful policy continuous. The memory of the great days when the Wall came down should not lead us to forget the grimmer days when it was erected, the policies that brought it about, or the dangerous consequences that followed its construction. [...]

Khrushchev’s threats about Berlin made a powerful impression on Kennedy. Since the end of the war, some four million people, perhaps one-fifth of the population, had fled the economic misery and political oppression of Communist East Germany and escaped to the West. By 1961, the Communists had tried to close off all escape routes, but Berlin, divided between Western and Eastern zones with a subway train connecting them, provided a loophole. After the Vienna meeting, Berlin became an even greater obsession with Kennedy. He knew that the defense of the city and access to it was an inescapable test of American will as well as its commitment to NATO and Western Europe. But Berlin’s geographical position well within Soviet-controlled East Germany made it seem difficult to stand firm in a crisis without risking a nuclear confrontation. “We’re stuck in a ridiculous situation,” he told his aide,

"It seems silly for us to be facing an atomic war over a treaty preserving Berlin as the future capital of a reunited Germany when all of us know that Germany will probably never be reunited."


Even more appalling was his betrayal of our Cuban friends in the missile kerfuffle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 1, 2009 8:08 AM
blog comments powered by Disqus
« THE APOLOGIST AND THE UNICORN RIDER: | Main | DOES SAM TANENHAUS READ THE TIMES?: »