Commentary by Daniel T. Zanoza, Executive Director
Perhaps the greatest historic misnomer today regards the presidency of John F. Kennedy. Historic revisionists say Kennedy had a successful administration--even though he had little or no experience in foreign affairs.
In reality, the Kennedy presidency possibly represented the most dangerous period in American history. From its inception, Kennedy quickly learned the world was not a place of cordial state dinners and visions of Camelot.
One of Kennedy's first important duties included a summit meeting held in Europe with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Kennedy entered the meeting with the rambunctious Communist Party leader with an air of confidence. But the summit meeting turned into a disaster for the 43 year-old President and he left a beaten man who, in the midst of a very hot Cold War, had ratcheted up the possibility for confrontation between the two world powers to the highest level since World War II.
However, Kennedy's inexperience became even more evident during the Bay of Pigs fiasco where the island of Cuba was invaded by CIA-aided Cuban nationals. It was another day of infamy for the United States as Kennedy called off CIA air cover for the pro-American invading Cubans and many of them were captured or killed on beaches just 90 miles from the coast of Florida.
By this time, the Soviet Union knew they were dealing with a political novice. Kennedy might have been well-honed in the skills of America's wheelings and dealings in smoke-filled back rooms, but his acumen regarding the hard real world was grossly lacking and the wrong people knew it. Khrushchev quickly took advantage of Kennedy's naiveté and installed strategic missiles which had the potential of attacking American cities from the island of Cuba. In just two short years, Kennedy's inexperience had put the world on the brink of World War III.
Historians all agree Khrushchev would have never taken such provocative steps if Eisenhower or Truman were still in the White House. But the Soviet Prime Minister saw weakness and he took advantage of it.
There have been many stories on the subject of the Cuban missile crisis. In essence, the situation was resolved because Kennedy agreed to pull American-manned Jupiter missiles out of Turkey. In return, Fidel Castro dismantled the missile sites in Cuba and Kennedy was portrayed as a hero to the American public when, in reality, his lack of knowledge regarding foreign affairs could have wiped out mankind.
That is why it is extremely dangerous when some say Barack Hussein Obama's lack of experience will not be a factor in his ability to lead our nation. But, in this case, Obama lacks experience in domestic issues and foreign affairs as well.
It is possible America finds itself in a world that is more dangerous today than the one which met John F. Kennedy in January of 1961 when he took office. China is building up its military at an exponential rate and it still has its sites on Taiwan. Some say the Chinese are waiting for a time to call America's bluff regarding our nation's treaty with Taiwan and when that comes would a Barack Obama have what it takes to deal with the situation? Russia--under Vladimir Putin--is also flexing its muscles and many military experts believe the former Cold War is heating up once again. Then, of course, there is America's war against terror.
These are all daunting challenges waiting to face the next President of the Unites States. Will that man or woman be up to the task? Or will the Unites States essentially roll the dice on its future? Is Barack Obama the answer and, more important, can Americans afford not to ask that question?
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