Sunday, May 18, 2008

JFK and Khruschev: Then, Mr. Chairman, there will be a war. It will be a cold, long winter

A long clip frm an excellent post by Dean Barett.
Barack Obama continued to display his surprisingly flimsy grasp of American history yesterday. “This whole notion of not talking to people,” began the longtime community organizer. “It didn't hold in the '60s, it didn't hold in the '70s ... When Kennedy met with (Soviet leader Nikita) Khrushchev, we were on the brink of nuclear war."

There’s only one problem with this analysis – Khrushchev and Kennedy met in the first months of Kennedy’s term. The Cuban Missile Crisis didn’t happen until 16 months later. Furthermore, if we really want to dig into the history, many historians believe that the Vienna Summit between the two leaders did much to trigger the Cuban Missile Crisis. Khrushchev, relying on the Bay of Pigs fiasco and what he later saw at Vienna, determined that his American counterpart was a weak sister who could be bullied.

Since Obama obviously knows nothing about the Vienna Summit, he surely doesn’t know that in some circles it’s viewed as a cautionary tale regarding the inherent risks of diplomacy with malevolent regimes (or “talking to people” as Obama prefers to think of such activities). Besides, Kennedy at Vienna was quite frankly a much tougher and more hard-headed leader than one can imagine Obama being. At one point, Kennedy responded to Khrushchev’s blustering by declaring, “Then, Mr. Chairman, there will be a war. It will be a cold, long winter.”


Picture via Hugh Hewitt.

4 comments:

Dr Bermangolu said...

"Since Obama obviously knows nothing about the Vienna Summit, he surely doesn’t know that in some circles it’s viewed as a cautionary tale regarding the inherent risks of diplomacy with malevolent regimes (or “talking to people” as Obama prefers to think of such activities)."

We can call this today's money quote. Obama "obviously knows nothing" about the Vienna summit. But "some circles" (note, not all circles) felt that...

Here's what really happened. We did diplomacy with a government far more hostile and far more heavily armed than Iran. And guess what? We didn't go to war with Russia. Eventually their regime fell. THAT'S the lesson, not some neo-con rewrite of history.

Bill Baar said...

There’s only one problem with this analysis – Khrushchev and Kennedy met in the first months of Kennedy’s term. The Cuban Missile Crisis didn’t happen until 16 months later.

It was JFK's fumbling with Khrushcehve that prompted the almost nuke war.

I think it was that preceived weakness that lead JFK to ramp up in Vietnam instead, were we sure did fight a war.

I recall the nuke war drills as a kid in school. I have a pretty vivid recollection of the time as I suspect a young one like yourself Doc does not...

Dr Bermangolu said...

Your speculation about Viet Nam is wrong, but then so is your estimate of my age. I'm older than you are. I remember watching Eisenhower on television when he was president. Do you?

Bill Baar said...

We didn't have a TV then.