Friday, July 11, 2008

January 18, 1963

Economist and Prof. James K. Galbraith reports that, weeks before his death, President John F. Kennedy spoke to friends about wanting to get out of Vietnam after the 1964 election. You'll recall, too, that the former president acknowledged he was "rethinking" his commitment of 15,000 troops to the troubled region in what was to be his last press conference on Nov. 12, 1963. Below is an excerpt from Kennedy's January 18, 1963 State of the Union Address; one that is instructive to those in power today who push for the military option, an attack on Iran:

"Threats of massive retaliation may not deter piecemeal aggression--and a line of destroyers in a quarantine, or a division of well-equipped men on a border, may be more useful to our real security than the multiplication of awesome weapons beyond all rational need.

But our commitment to national safety is not a commitment to expand our military establishment indefinitely. We do not dismiss disarmament as merely an idle dream. For we believe that, in the end, it is the only way to assure the security of all without impairing the interests of any. Nor do we mistake honorable negotiation for appeasement.

While we shall never weary in the defense of freedom, neither shall we ever abandon the pursuit of peace. In this quest, the United Nations requires our full and continued support. Its value in serving the cause of peace has been shown anew in its role in the West New Guinea settlement, in its use as a forum for the Cuban crisis, and in its task of unification in the Congo.

Today the United Nations is primarily the protector of the small and the weak, and a safety valve for the strong. Tomorrow it can form the framework for a world of law--a world in which no nation dictates the destiny of another, and in which the vast resources now devoted to destructive means will serve constructive ends.

In short, let our adversaries choose. If they choose peaceful competition, they shall have it. If they come to realize that their ambitions cannot succeed--if they see their "wars of liberation" and subversion will ultimately fail--if they recognize that there is more security in accepting inspection than in permitting new nations to master the black arts of nuclear war--and if they are willing to turn their energies, as we are, to the great unfinished tasks of our own peoples--then, surely, the areas of agreement can be very wide indeed: a clear understanding about Berlin, stability in Southeast Asia, an end to nuclear testing, new checks on surprise or accidental attack, and, ultimately, general and complete disarmament."