James Carroll invokes Obama and JFK’s American University speech to argue for nuclear disarmament: “The abolition of all nuclear weapons, starting with our own, must be at the top of the new president's agenda.”
I can’t speak for Obama, but those words, “starting with our own” are a distortion of Kennedy’s passionate yet pragmatic plea for peace: “Our primary long range interest in Geneva…is general and complete disarmament, designed to take place by stages, permitting parallel political developments to build the new institutions of peace which would take the place of arms.” Kennedy concludes: “We do not want a war. We shall be prepared if others wish it.”
This is a far cry from the reckless unilateral disarmament that Carroll advocates.
At American University, Kennedy did not shy from blunt criticism of the Soviet Union: “The Communist drive to impose their political and economic system on others is the primary cause of world tension today.” Fortunately, he says, both the Soviets and the Americans share a “mutual abhorrence of war.” As Sting phrased it, “The Russians love their children too.” Today however we are faced with an enemy that straps explosives to one-year old babies.