In observance of Presidents’ Day – Remembering a perceived irreconcilable conflict.
Jeff Sachs – “Lessons in Peace Making” seems an appropriate tribute to this Presidents Day.
It was the Cuban Missile Crises of 1962. For any of you Boomers out there, you’ll remember you and your family sitting in front of the black and white Motorola for the 6:00 news, listening to Chet Huntley and David Brinkley painting a picture of mounting doom between two superpowers: the Soviet Union and the United States of America. Escalation of threats and missile escalation seem inevitable when air photography proved soviet arms were strategically placed in Cuba.
The key take away from this great read is that when the majority of decision makers felt that proliferation had reached a point of no return and that peace could not be achieved, President John F Kennedy’s vision was different. According to Sachs, Kennedy understood that tension came from hard liners on each side and that each action of aggression produced an immediate and more severe reaction. Just as interpersonal conflict may easily blossom into an upward spiral. Is there a point where peace becomes impossible?
Not according to Kennedy. Of conflict, Kennedy noted in his famous peace speech that “too many of us think (peace) impossible. Too many think it unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view”. (Our emphasis).
Kennedy’s claim that both the Soviet Union and the U.S. had a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race. This very precious and powerful revelation earned quite an outstanding response from Nikita Khrushchev when he reported to the US envoy that the speech was the finest by any American president since FDR.
Negotiations followed and the result was the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty which was followed five years later by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
We like to use this illustration when conflicts escalate and agreements seem impossible. And on this Presidents Day celebration, we give thanks to the leadership and vision of John F Kennedy.