Tag Archives: John F. Kennedy

On Trump’s North Korea Crisis (2017) and Kennedy’s Cuban Missile Crisis (1962).

By John P. Walsh, dated August 9, 2017

In addition to Twitter, the media tells us that U.S. President Donald J. Trump loves to watch a lot of TV. I hope he has seen this film: Virtual JFK (2008). “Does it matter,” the film’s narrator states, “who is president on issues of war and peace? Can a president make a decisive difference in matters of war and peace? Can a president decisively lead his country into war or keep his country out of war? Or are the forces that drive nations into conflict far more impersonal (and) out of the control of any human being, even a president?”

In 2014 nine nations around the world—including North Korea—have around 16,300 nuclear weapons. Estimates are that North Korea’s arsenal today may be about 20 warheads or higher. In descending order of warhead amounts, the other nuclear states are Russia (8,000 warheads), the U.S.A. (7,300), France (300), China (250), the UK (225), India and Pakistan (about 100 each) and Israel (80). According to the National Security Archive, the last tactical nuclear weapons left Cuba in December 1962. For a rogue state such as North Korea to possess nuclear weapons is dangerous and unpredictable to the region and world.

Like JFK in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the U.S. must use its military and moral strength to seek and find a conclusion so that North Korea changes course on their nuclear weapons peacefully. Exactly what that change should look like is an important debate not explored here, but the U.S. must NOT and NEVER start or provoke a nuclear war to achieve it. Kennedy prepared for nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but always carefully did not pull the trigger. There can be no close analogy between Cuba in 1962 and North Korea in 2017. Cuba is 90 miles off American shores and North Korea about 6,500 miles from the Continental U.S. In the Cuban Missile Crisis, those were clearly Russian nukes. The Cold War by the early 1960’s was a well-worn competitive geopolitical game that hadn’t yet completely played out. The Russians built a wall in Berlin in 1961; Kennedy quarantined Cuba in 1962. In 2017 what is the multiplicity of sources Trump can hold accountable for the North Korean weapons deployment in addition to the rogue regime? China? Russia? Iran? If Pyongyang is today as remote and obscure as the Kremlin was in Kennedy’s time, today’s political and military equations are even more tangled and complicated.

Any calculations for war must include those who may or will get killed – and how many. Is American “hyper” power any good if its allies are casualties on a massive scale? No nuclear exchange must result with a hermit kingdom dictator who is not a friend of the U.S. or its allies in the region – especially if war may incalculably spread. If the U.S. has allies in the true meaning of the word then an attack on them by North Korea (or China or Russia) is equal to an attack on the homeland – otherwise what’s the point of the U.S. having allies at all? We must protect our allies in the region to the highest degree so to defend and preserve our esteemed alliances. In this dangerous politico-military crisis there are ramifications with severe strong risk for the U.S. as a global power and markedly in that part of the world. North Korea must somehow stand down for there to be success from the perspective of the U.S and its allies.

Similar to the Cuban Missile Crisis that endured for 13 straight days—the Korean crisis has gone on arguably for over 60 years — patience and cool-headed leadership joined to a perfect calibration of carrot and stick (preferring the carrot) should serve as worthwhile qualities so to craft a necessarily peaceful and successful outcome. “Because of the ingenuity of science and man’s own inability to control his relations one with another,” said JFK in 1961 in Virtual JFK, “we happen to live in the most dangerous time in the history of the human race.” The film states that experienced military advisers believed that whenever Americans committed military force – they won the conflict. But as frequent and strong pressure by many advisers is put on Kennedy to commit the U.S. to a war, the president time and again chose to avoid both conventional and nuclear war.  It may not be remembered today but after the failure of the Bay of Pigs in 1961, there was talk of John Kennedy’s impeachment for incompetence. Many in his own Democratic party wouldn’t support him because they had convinced themselves he wasn’t a serious political leader.

In 2017 the defeat of 33-year-old Kim Jong-un’s nuclear threat short of war will not be simply a victory for the status quo but a step forward in terms of American leadership in that part of the world. An actual war, unless it could be completely nonnuclear, contained, and successful – which is improbable – cannot be in any civilized people’s self-interest. Of course if Kim started a nuclear war, which is hopefully very remote but possible, war will come, as Trump said plainly on August 8, 2017, with “fire and fury.” In October 1962 Kennedy’s speech to the nation on the Cuban Missile Crisis included this “fiery” rhetoric: “Third: It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.” JFK concluded with the overall purpose of his actions: “Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right – not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere, and we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved.” In 2017 we may look for a resolution to the North Korea crisis where history repeats itself.

All through the Cold War Kennedy looked into the face of strategic MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) without blinking and then chose to evoke the better angels of our nature. At the United Nations in his first year as president (September 25, 1961) Kennedy exhorted the world’s representatives: “Together we shall save our planet – or together we shall perish in its flames. Save it we can.  Save it we must. Then shall we earn the eternal thanks of mankind and, as peacemakers, the eternal blessing of God.” President Trump would do well to aspire to the same.

NOTES:

Nine nuclear nations – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/nine-nations-have-nuclear-weapons-here-is-how-many-each-country-has-a6827916.html

about 20 warheads – http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/791436/north-korea-nuclear-weapons-kim-jong-un-how-many

Last Cuba warheads removed – http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB449/

Iran and North Korea – http://thediplomat.com/2016/04/the-iran-north-korea-connection/

fire and fury – https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/09/world/asia/north-korea-trump-threat-fire-and-fury.html?_r=0

United Nations speech – https://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Research-Aids/JFK-Speeches/United-Nations_19610925.aspx

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

Walter Cronkite, “the most trusted man in America,” gives advice to today’s news media on what would be his 100th birthday. (Photographs).

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Walter Cronkite, early CBS.

By John P. Walsh, November 4, 2016.

November 4, 2016 is American newsman Walter Cronkite’s 100th birthday. The CBS News anchor died in 2009 at 92 years old. Employed with CBS News since 1950, Cronkite anchored the CBS Evening News from April 1962 to March 1981.  Walter Cronkite lived by professional journalistic standards that appear to be largely out of favor in 2016. In times at least as exhilarating and turbulent as our own, the mustached newsman came nightly into Americans’ living rooms for decades and became lionized as “the most trusted man in America” in viewer polls. This was not, in Cronkite’s case, any hollow accolade. Because of its greater accuracy and depth in reporting, Cronkite’s broadcast was, after 1967 until his retirement, the top-rated news program on television. Since grade school I’ve been a news junkie and along with Cronkite’s broadcast I frequently tuned in the nightly newscasts of Howard K. Smith at ABC (originally at CBS) and John Chancellor at NBC in those same years. To quote this year’s Nobel laureate in Literature: The Times They Are a-Changin’. For 2016 I can report an obvious dismal conflation of journalism and partisan American politics at Cronkite’s own diverse and venerable network and other important media outlets which appears very ill-fitted to Cronkite’s inveterate viewpoint for the duty to objective journalism. What would centenarian Walter Cronkite say about over-the-top media bias as practiced in 2016? In honor of Walter Cronkite’s 100th birthday, here are 20 Cronkite quotations germane to the topic:

“I am in a position to speak my mind. And that is what I propose to do.”

“Our job is only to hold up the mirror – to tell and show the public what has happened.”

“In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story.”

“There is no such thing as a little freedom. Either you are all free or you are not free.”

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Walter Cronkite in October 1960.

“Success is more permanent when you achieve it without destroying your principles.”

“I think it is absolutely essential in a democracy to have competition in the media, a lot of competition, and we seem to be moving away from that.”

“Objective journalism and an opinion column are about as similar as the Bible and Playboy magazine.”

“There’s a little more ego involved in these jobs than people might realize.”

“I am neither a Republican nor Democrat. I am a registered independent because I find that I cast my votes not on the basis of party loyalty but on the issues of the moment and my assessment of the candidates.”

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Walter Cronkite anchored the top-rated news broadcast from 1967 to 1981 when the mustached newsman retired.

“I regret that, in our attempt to establish some standards, we didn’t make them stick. We couldn’t find a way to pass them on to another generation, really.”

“I think that being liberal, in the true sense, is being non-doctrinaire, non-dogmatic, non-committed to a cause but examining each case on its merits. Being left of center is another thing; it’s a political position. I think most newspapermen by definition have to be liberal. If they’re not liberal, by my definition of it, then they can hardly be good newspapermen. If they’re preordained dogmatists for a cause, then they can’t be very good journalists.”

“If that is what makes us liberals, so be it, just as long as in reporting the news we adhere to the first ideals of good journalism – that news reports must be fair, accurate and unbiased.”

“It is not the reporter’s job to be a patriot or to presume to determine where patriotism lies. His job is to relate the facts.”

“It is a seldom proffered argument as to the advantages of a free press that it has a major function in keeping the government itself informed as to what the government is doing.”

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Walter Cronkite at Huế in central Vietnam following the Tet Offensive, 1968.

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Walter Cronkite reporting on a NASA event.

“The ethic of the journalist is to recognize one’s prejudices, biases, and avoid getting them into print.”

“I don’t think people ought to believe only one news medium. They ought to read and they ought to go to opinion journals and all the rest of it. I think it’s terribly important that this be taught in the public schools, because otherwise, we’re gonna get to a situation because of economic pressures and other things where television’s all you’ve got left. And that would be disastrous. We can’t cover the news in a half-hour evening event. That’s ridiculous.”

“Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy.”

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Walter Cronkite interviews President John F. Kennedy on September 2, 1963 where it was the president who brought up the subject of Vietnam.

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Walter Cronkite greets President Ronald Reagan for a March 3, 1981 interview at the White House.

“Putting it as strongly as I can, the failure to give free airtime for our political campaigns endangers our democracy.”

“We cannot defer this responsibility to posterity. Time will not wait.”

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Walter Cronkite (November 4, 1916, Saint Joseph, MO – July 17, 2009, Manhattan, New York City).

“And that’s the way it is…”

 

SOURCES:

http://likesuccess.com/author/walter-cronkite

http://nlcatp.org/32-famous-walter-cronkite-quotes/

http://www.azquotes.com/author/3422-Walter_Cronkite

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by an means, electronic  or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.