Friday, February 07, 2003

Revisiting the Missiles of October-Orrin Judd rips this piece from Adlai Stevenson III and rightly so.
Pundits and officials in Washington have dubbed Secretary of State Colin Powell's attempt to make a case for war against Iraq in the United Nations Security Council an "Adlai Stevenson moment." I couldn't disagree more. My father was Adlai Stevenson, who in 1962, as President Kennedy's representative to the United Nations, presented the Security Council with incontrovertible proof that the Soviet Union, a nuclear superpower, was installing missiles in Cuba and threatening to upset the world's "balance of terror." That "moment" had an obvious purpose: containing the Soviet Union and maintaining peace. It worked, and eventually the Soviet Union collapsed under its own weight. This moment has a different purpose: war. The Bush administration clearly rejects the idea of containing Iraq through committed monitoring by the United Nations, even though this course is the better option.
Stevenson's off base here. It won't be the first time. I remember back in 1978 when he was running for governor of Illinois; he took the claudometer to record levels by blaming his close loss on Republican voting irregularities downstate1. Containment worked in the Cold War because of the Mutually Assured Destruction motif-neither side could start a war because the other side would send the world into the Stone Age if they did. We don't have MAD with Iraq. They can't wipe us out and they know we're unlikely to parking-lot them. That's why we have to take out Iraq rather than wait them out; they have less fear that we'll wipe them out, for we can afford to be merciful with them. End of argument; the door's that way, Adlai 3.0. Not so fast, Orrin. Have a seat.
Mr. Stevenson is exactly right, the question is not whether we just had a Stevenson moment, but whether we'll have a Kennedy moment. The Kennedy moment was when the brothers decided that peace was more important than defeating communism and that the handy pretext for freeing Cuba would not be seized upon. Their failure of will certainly prolonged the agony of the Cuban people and in all likelihood prolonged the Cold War, at great economic expense to the US and at devastating human expense to all those enslaved behind the Iron Curtain.
Does the words "World War Three" mean anything to you? We might have freed Cuba had the Soviets not gone nuclear. We might have destroyed the world as we know it they had. You want to replay history and roll those dice? The stakes were a lot higher in 1962 than they are today. Iraq has some capability to harm us, but can't create a worldwide nuclear wasteland. The stakes of Bush's decision is a lot lower than Kennedy's. If we guess wrong in 2003, a chemical Scud might drop on Tel Aviv. If we guessed wrong in 1962, the US is crispy critters. Yes, the quarantine of Cuba and the removal of the missiles left Castro in Cuba to this day. Not good in 20-20 hindsight. However, if we wound up blowing up the world over the issue, a Communist Cuba and a free Warsaw Pact in 2003 would have looked like Heaven. Kennedy's decision was wiser than Judd makes it out to be, and didn't lead to most of the social pathologies of the last four decades. 1The Democrats had Daley-machine "vote early and vote often" Chicago in their corner, so complaining about voting irregularities downstate was either the height of disingenuousness or total cluelessness.

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