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Sorensen and Schlesinger Wrong on How JFK Would Handle Iraq


The New York Times gave considerable space on its December 4 Op-Ed page to ruminations by Theodore Sorensen and Arthur Schlesinger about what JFK might have done about Iraq.

While these distinguished and highly articulate members of the Kennedy Administration are understandably determined to keep alive the Kennedy flame, they are asking us to rewrite history.

The War in Vietnam has come to be remembered as Richard Nixon's War. But it was really John F. Kennedy's War, intensified by Lyndon B. Johnson.

JFK got us into Vietnam in a big way, and it's disingenuous to speculate that he would have gotten us out painlessly. Remember his (Sorensen's) line? About "Pay any price, bear any burden"?

If he had lived, Kennedy would have run against Barry Goldwater, and there's no way -- NO WAY -- he would have campaigned in 1964 on a platform of withdrawing from Vietnam, no matter what Sorensen and Schlesinger would have us believe.

Kennedy's accomplishments as President were minimal, leaving aside his charisma and Jackie. We all still want to believe in Camelot. Sorensen and Schlesinger were knights in Camelot.

The War in Iraq is a disaster. But it is not yet a disaster of the magnitude of the War in Vietnam. It does have some similarities. For example, it has a totally contemptible Secretary of Defense, although not yet on the scale of Robert McNamara, the most contemptible public figure in modern American history. And it has Administration figures, including the President, who constantly lie to us about the reality on the ground, not to mention the rationale for the war (WMD as Tonkin Gulf) as well as its so-called "progress."

To suggest that what Kennedy would have done in Iraq could be instructive to President Bush, considering JFK's history on Vietnam, is not only perverse, it's obscene.

Sorensen and Schlesinger have done a major disservice to history as well as to the national debate that's beginning to boil on Iraq.