However, Kennedy's initial actions at the helm of the US Government were major mistakes, which brought the US to the brink of war. Luckily, he learned his lesson before it was too late. In an effort to secure a working relationship with Khruschev, Kennedy, through back channels with the Soviets, proposed a meeting between he and Khruschev. As the meeting was being clandestinely planned and then overtly conducted, Kennedy made three critical mistakes. First, he ordered the Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba, but when the CIA's insurgent forces met heavy resistance, failed to continue the support. The men were easily defeated. The world knew he had started a war, and then backed down.
Secondly, in preparation for a meeting with Khruschev in Vienna, Kennedy, again through back channel means, attempted to secure agreements on a nuclear test ban. "Kennedy inadvertently communicated to Khruschev a number of important things about himself: that in the aftermath of Cuba, he was nervous that Vienna be perceived as a success; that in order to come home with a deal, he was willing to make deep compromises; ...that, rather than acting decisively according to his convictions, he preferred to seek political cover; and that he was willing to deceive the American people, who at his instigation were to be told that the offer of ten inspections had come from the Soviet negotiators rather than from him. In sum, he bared his vulnerabilities to an opponent well able to take advantage of them."[Leaming, 293].1 Only days prior to leaving for the meeting, JFK attempted on two different occasions to schedule a private meeting with the Soviet Premier, without the presence of their respective negotiating teams. Yet both communications went unanswered. It seems Khruschev was not impressed and felt Kennedy weak and unimpressive.
At Vienna, JFK only reinforced Khruschev's opinion of him. "Kennedy, persuaded that no topic could be more important than the need to avoid accidental war, doggedly returned to [the topic] after lunch. Long possessed of the ability to charm others by mocking himself, he offered as an example of a great power's miscalculation his own recent blunder in Cuba. Through the years, most people had found Jack Kennedy's ability to laugh at himself irresistible - but not Khruschev. To Kennedy's immense frustration, Khruschev, completely impervious to his charm, perceived any confession of ones own mistakes as evidence of weakness."[Leaming, 303] 1 Kennedy left Vienna with no agreements from Khruschev, and only a demand that the US leave Berlin.
The ultimate effects of Kennedy's well meaning, but ignorant blunders were profound. The Berlin Crisis would engulf Europe as the Soviet negotiations with East Berlin led to the complete closure of ground access to the beleaguered and surrounded Berlin. Only this time, unlike in Cuba and the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy stood firm. He called up National Guard and reserve units and increased the size of the military. He initiated over flights into Berlin, which kept the isolated people and US forces there supplied. Eventually the East Germans and the Soviets backed down. Later, again tested by Khruschev, Kennedy stood firm. The Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. Many speculate Khruschev's placement of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba, only 90 miles off the coast of Florida, was a result of the weak image Khruschev formed in his early dealings with JFK. However, in the end, Kennedy learned the lesson, stood firm, and the Soviets backed down and removed the missiles from Cuba.
Barrack Obama's actions on the world stage reflect a similar naivety. He has made numerous mistakes communicating weakness to people who desire our downfall. His speeches, from his initial video on Arab TV in the first week in office, to speeches in Egypt, Strasburg, and Prague were viewed as apologies for America's mistakes. While President Obama meant them as a self-deprecating effort to connect with people, whom he wanted a dialogue, much like Kennedy did with Khruschev, the reception from those people has been just the opposite.
But President Obama has taken it a step further. His Speech in Prague included a promise to zero the US Nuclear arsenal. That speech was made four hours after Kim Jung Il, the President of North Korea, fired a missile over our ally Japan, halfway to the US, all while diplomats from Iran carefully watch. Further, only one week after Putin and Chavez agree to a deal on nuclear energy, President Obama, on the insistence of the Russians, cancels the deployment of a missile defense system in Poland and Czechoslovakia.8 He does this on the exact date of the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland.
His indecisiveness on Afghanistan has communicated tremendous weakness. The commander in the field has communicated we need more troops and casualties mount. Meanwhile the president failed to act. As the media pressed on the issue, the White House finally articulated that a plan was forthcoming, and the delay was due to a desire on the President's part to have an exit strategy. There are a number of issues here that embolden our enemy. First, the fact that we need an Afghanistan surge is a plus in their column. That the president is willing to leave a commander with inadequate resources while soldiers are dying at an increased rate communicates Mr. Obama may be more concerned about perception than the lives of soldiers. It is hard to explain away the delay. Lastly, that no increase could happen without a clear-cut exit strategy communicates a lack of commitment to the cause or vision. Send the troops to help those already down range and plan the exit strategy as they get there. But send the troops! The leaders of Iran, North Korea and Venezuela are not ignorant. Like Khruzchev, they are connecting the dots.
Further, Obama's handling of legal issues as it relates to the GWOT is communicating weakness. His insistence of the Senate to delay investigating the perpetrator of the Fort Hood massacre, and his insistence not to label it an act of terror, despite the man's yelling Allah Akbar as he gunned down US Soldiers is a compelling indictment of the President. While Obama found it easy to assume the Boston Policeman was a racist, assuming this self-professed "Soldier of Allah" was a terrorist was somehow a rush to judgment? Further, the movement of the 9-11 terrorists for trial in New York City gives the enemy the message they have nothing to fear from Barrack Obama and the United States. I wont go into how this trial allows terrorist lawyers access to our nations greatest secrets through the judicial process of discovery. Maybe I'll blog on that later.
Some might ask how I can be so sure the enemy sees Obama as weak? Well the headlines indicate it almost daily. Here are some Headlines from this past week:
"Iran to build 10 uranium sites in defiance of the UN"2
"Chavez welcomes Ahmadinejad to Venezuela."3
"Iranian lawmaker: Iran could leave Nuclear Treaty."4
"Should China Treat North Korea as an Ally"5 This is a UPI Asia article that details a recent trip by the Chinese Defense Minister, 22 Nov 09, where he articulated a commitment to military cooperation.
While the incident with regard to North Korea's Missile launch occurred in April, it is important to note North Korea's response one week after Obama announced he would destroy our Nuclear Weapons - "North Korea Vows to Restart Nuclear Program"6
Yet, even our allies are beginning to see the weakness and it's impact on our national security, as well as their own. Bob Ainsworth is Britain's Defense Secretary. Mr. Ainsworth recently criticized the administration for its delay, an unprecedented move from one of our staunchest allies. "A 'period of hiatus' in Washington - and a lack of clear direction had made it harder for ministers to persuade the British public to go on backing the Afghan mission in the face of a rising death toll, he said."7 The last thing we need is further erosion of allied support in the war zone. The Taliban is a threat to the world. We need the world's support to continue to box them into the remote desert regions of Waziristan. And the world needs a resolute leader in Washington to continue its support of the US.
It is my desire to see Obama learn the lessons of Statecraft. His apologies, like those of President Kennedy to Premier Khruschev were weak and ineffectual. In fact, they led to the opposite response. Should Iran, the supporter of numerous suicide bombings of US interests over the years, Khobar Towers and the Beirut Marine Barracks to name a few, develop nuclear weapons, the Cuban Missile Crisis will pale in significance to the trouble we will face. Obama needs to, like Kennedy, realize that some bullies need to be intimidated. Further, while the world may sometimes fret over our doing so, in the end, a strong America gives them a sense of security and safety. Our President needs to learn fast.
Mark Green MD 30 NOV 09
1Leaming, Barbara, Jack Kennedy, Education of a Statesman, W. W. Norton: 2006.