Thursday, July 17, 2008
Yet One More Reason I Deplore Pacifism
I've just finished reading William Manchester's Death of a President, which chronicles, in a little over 600 pages, the events surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy on Friday, November 22nd, 1963 up to and including the state funeral that was held on the following Monday.
One passage in particular struck me. Of the state funeral, Manchester remarks on the predominant role the military played throughout the proceedings. The italics are mine.
"It was ironic that John Kennedy, whom the world knew as a man of peace, and whose proudest achievements had been the Test Ban Treaty and the successful conclusion of the Cuban confrontation without bloodshed, should be buried as a warrior, but there really was no other way; if he must go in glory, and clearly he must, the troops were indispensable. There were no splendid traditions, no magnificent farewells, for a hero of peace." (p. 594)
Manchester would have been among the first to admit that Kennedy would not have shied away from bloodshed if it had been absolutely necessary. The myth that Kennedy was a unilateral and unwavering pacifist is just that: a myth.
Fortunately, the Cold War remained cold. At the end of the day, the communists wanted to avoid an all-out nuclear confrontation just as much as the Americans did. Can the same be said, I wonder, for Islamist governments who sanction suicide bombings as "martyrdoms"? I think not. John Kennedy, and perhaps his brother Robert, (assassinated almost five years later by an enraged Muslim who was mad at--what else?--the state of Israel), would probably have agreed.
My personal belief regarding the assassination of JFK is that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. All data points toward Oswald being an absolute loser at everything--even in his failed attempts at defecting to communist Russia. The conspiracies which emerged and took hold in the public consciousness following the assassination were simply the result of two disparate, but intertwining, strands of partisan thought:
1) Because the assassination took place in Texas, the Left blamed the Right.
2) Because the assassin was a self-proclaimed Marxist, the Right blamed the Left.
Both lines of thought, unlike Oswald's bullet, miss the mark entirely. Oswald was an isolated loser who sought a perverse greatness by violently forcing himself out of obscurity and into the national spotlight. Politics couldn't have been further from his mind when he squeezed the trigger.
Either way, whether coming from the Left or from the Right (though predominately from the Left) the mythology of a purely pacifistic Kennedy, though understandably sating in our current time of looming bloodshed, must be revealed for the falsity it is. This is nothing but impractical presidential folklore. Since JFK's name is so often evoked in this current presidential campaign, it is imperative to put history into context and separate the idealized myth from the pragmatic leader.
Just as Ronald Reagan was the last true conservative, John F. Kennedy was the last true liberal.
Since then, and especially now, everything surrounding the office of the presidency has devolved into a meaningless donkey and elephant show.
Very soon, if the hour has not already passed, Americans will have to make a clear choice between globalization and nationalism.
The tenets of pacifism only apply to one.
Posted by Will Franken at 8:35 PM