Pat Buchanan has just published an article on President Kennedy’s Peace Speech at American University on June 10, 1963, just a few months before he was assassinated on November 22. It’s an article worth reading, as it shows the relevance of Kennedy’s vision for America even today.
Imagine any U.S. president today calling for a normal, peaceful, and harmonious relationship with Russia, China, North Korea, and Cuba. He would immediately be skewered by the Pentagon, the CIA, and their assets within the mainstream press.
Yet, that was precisely what Kennedy did at the very height of the Cold War, when the Pentagon, the CIA, and the mainstream press were claiming that the United States was in grave danger of being subjugated by an international communist conspiracy that was emanating from Moscow. In his Peace Speech, Kennedy was bringing an end to that conspiracy nonsense.
Kennedy was asking us to recognize that the world consists not only of democrats but also of autocrats, dictatorships, military regimes, monarchs and politburos, and the goal of U.S. foreign policy was not to convert them into political replicas of the USA. Kennedy was willing to put our political model on offer to the world, but not to impose it on anyone: “We are unwilling to impose our system on any unwilling people — but we are willing and able to engage in peaceful competition with any people on earth.”
Imagine a U.S. president today saying what Kennedy declared in his Peace Speech:
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….
Second: Let us reexamine our attitude toward the Soviet Union…. 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….
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
Third: Let us reexamine our attitude toward the cold war, remembering that we are not engaged in a debate, seeking to pile up debating points…. Our interests converge, however, not only in defending the frontiers of freedom, but in pursuing the paths of peace….
Finally, my fellow Americans, let us examine our attitude toward peace and freedom here at home. The quality and spirit of our own society must justify and support our efforts abroad…..
As part of his new vision for America, Kennedy entered into the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the Soviets, over the vehement objections of the Pentagon and the CIA. He also ordered a partial pull-out of U.S. troops from Vietnam and told close aides that he would effect a total pull-out after he won the 1964 election, a position that was anathema to the Pentagon and the CIA. He entered into personal negotiations with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to bring an end to the Cold War and establish normal relations with the Soviet Union. On the day he was assassinated, Kennedy’s personal emissary was having lunch with Cuban leader Fidel Castro to explore normalizing relations with Cuba.
Needless to say, Kennedy’s new vision for America did not sit well with the Pentagon and the CIA, who were convinced that his policies were naive and dangerous to the extreme. In their eyes, what Kennedy was doing was an even graver threat to “national security” than Mohammad Mossedegh’s and Jacobo Arbenz’s policies in Iran and Guatemala in 1953 and 1954. In the eyes of the Pentagon and the CIA, Kennedy was setting the nation on a course that would end up with a communist takeover of the United States, no different, from their perspective, from the course that the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende, would take ten years later.
Needless to say, Kennedy’s vision would also threaten future decades of ever-increasing budgets and power for the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA, along with their ever-growing army of “defense” contractors.
With Kennedy’s murder, the national-security establishment’s vision for America prevailed. The Cold War continued and embroiled the United States in the Vietnam War, which cost the lives of 58,000 American men. The Cold War later morphed into the “war on terrorism,” which led to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Through it all, the winner has been the U.S. national-security establishment, which, over the decades, has solidified its power, influence, and money within the U.S. federal governmental structure. Today, woe to anyone within the federal government and the mainstream press who dares to question the official decades-old national-security state position establishing Russia, China, North Korea, and Cuba as grave threats to U.S. “national security.” And, of course, unlike Kennedy, no president today would dare to challenge this entire racket.