Friday, January 16, 2015

picking and choosing

"This was the one morally unambiguous crusade of our time....Everyone was secretly a part of it -- the British, French, Canadian, and German intelligence services; even Singapore was doing its part..."

When I read that part of George Crile's book -- I didn't know those other countries helped, too:  the book has more information in it than the movie.  It's always that way; you can only fit so much into a movie.

In the early 1960s, Soviet vs. Free World tension was like a stalemate, a stand-off. 

Twenty years later

the intense, determined, brave (wild? reckless? "unspooled"?) energy of the Afghans fighting for their own country attracted the support of other countries, organized somewhat by Charlie Wilson, for the Afghans' efforts.  They were breaking the stalemate.

Other countries didn't want the Soviets taking more and more countries, turning the world into one big gulag.

Who could have predicted such a thing?  I don't think anyone could.

[excerpt, J.F.K.'s Last Hundred Days, by Thurston Clarke] ------------------- [Kennedy and Khrushchev] had started exchanging letters after the Cuban missile crisis made them the first men in history forced to make decisions that could lead to the instant death of millions of human beings. 

Kennedy had initiated the correspondence by writing to Khrushchev on October 28, 1962, a day after the most perilous moment in the crisis, "I think we should give priority to questions relating to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, on earth and in outer space, and to the great effort for a nuclear test ban." 

When Norman Cousins, who served as an intermediary between them during the spring of 1963, met with Kennedy before leaving for Moscow in April, Kennedy predicted that Khrushchev would say that he wanted to reduce tensions but could see no reciprocal interest in Washington. 

"It is important that he be corrected on this score," he said.  "I'm not sure Khrushchev knows this, but I  don't think there's any man in American politics who's more eager than I am to put Cold War animosities behind us and get down to the hard business of building friendly relations."

Cousins would make several observations about Khrushchev that also applied to Kennedy, among them his description of the Soviet leader as

"a lonesome figure who gave the impression of being gregarious"....

Their correspondence also shows them sharing concerns about the health risks of nuclear fallout and proliferation, and [each leader]

 understanding that the other faced similar pressures from hard-liners within his own government and military. 

Kennedy referred to this in his April 11, 1963, letter to Khrushchev, writing "In closing, I want again to send my warm personal wishes to you and your family.

  These are difficult and dangerous times in which we live, and both you and I have grave responsibilities to our families and to all of mankind. 

The pressures from those who have a less patient and peaceful outlook are very great --

but I assure you of my own determination to work to strengthen world peace."  Two weeks later, Kennedy told Cousins... "One of the ironic things about this entire situation is that Mr. Khrushchev and I occupy approximately the same political positions inside our governments. 

He would like to prevent a nuclear war but is under severe pressure from his hard-line crowd, which interprets every move in that direction as appeasement.  I've got similar problems. 

Meanwhile the lack of progress in reaching agreements between our two countries gives strength to the hard-line boys in both,

with the result that the hard-liners in the Soviet Union and in the United States feed on one another, each using the actions of the other to justify its own position."

Kennedy had witnessed this when Khrushchev sent him two contradictory communications on successive days during the Cuban crisis.  The first was a conciliatory letter,  the second a brusque ultimatum.  The former U.S. ambassador to Moscow Llewellyn Thompson advised him that Khrushchev might have sent the second message to placate hard-liners and recommended ignoring it and responding to the first message.


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