Monday, September 16, 2002
Letters to Hoystory: If I keep getting letters of this quality, I'm going to have to start another blog just to publish them. I will say that the quality of the letters I receive are much better than those sent to your average newspaper. This one was from an individual who works for the newspaper that one of my college J-school professors called the foremost predictors of news in the nation.
For reasons which are understandable, this writer wishes to remain anonymous.
A few more thoughts on the wretchedness of that Kristof column:
1. Much as liberals like to posthumously remember Kennedy as an ardent liberal champion, he was in fact an ardent cold warrior. Not unlike Bush, he aggressively warned of the Soviet threat and escalated the fear, scaring elder statesmen in his own party, leaders in Europe and Eisenhower with his inflated rhetoric, which was viewed by many in both parties as the scare tactics of a callow and inexperienced kid trying to win office. At the least, it was hardly the rhetoric of a statesman with a "passion to avoid war." Not unlike Bush, and despite the hindsight-is-20-20 view of Kennedy sycophant Sorenson, he contemplated NOT using the UN, and had doubts about Adlai Stevenson's toughness and the effectiveness of the body. Moreover, just as critics say of Bush's case, you could argue that the threat of the Cuban missiles was more theoretical than real, and that it was ONLY a threat to the U.S., that missiles in Cuba would only have given the Soviets parity to match the missiles we had at their doorstep; I don't agree with this view, but the point is that it's hardly a slam-dunk argument to say that the missiles were inherently and clearly a threat to the U.S. The Kennedy doctrine that no missiles but ours could be allowed in our hemisphere is at least as arbitrary as the doctrine of preemptive war that Bush is advocating -- and the Bush argument in fact seems a good bit compelling after the attacks of last year. Indeed, Kennedy had to carefully shape his argument and case to make it clear to the U.S. and the world that we were not the aggressors and that the Soviets were.
2. Kristof calls war "the first tool" off the shelf. What planet is he on? Did he see the speech? Haven't we tried sanctions, air strikes, diplomacy, arms inspections, etc., for 11 years now? Wasn't Bush at the UN's doorstep offering again the chance to promote alternatives to war yet again? Can't Saddam pick up the phone whenever he wants and get the inspectors back in and destroy his weapons? I love these critics who were complaining all summer that Bush was ready to fight the war alone, and now that he has gone to the UN instead have switched to arguing, essentially, that he just doesn't really mean it. That's about as lame as it gets.
3. Sorenson says Kennedy would have done "everything he could, with U.S. muscle, to get inspectors in there." Um , what exactly is different in Bush's approach? Here's a president providing muscle -- the only muscle i think, except for Britain -- while listing demands, including the return of arms inspectors, to the UN.
4. Kristof mentions the "gracious exit" we gave the Russians at the end of the crisis. Er, we offered Saddam a"gracious exit" 11 years ago, dude, when we let him stay in power if he abided by UN resolutions. He hasn't done so. What does he think JFK would have done if the Russians had agreed to our deal and continued to build the missiles?
I don't mean to make this sound like sheer liberal-bashing. I think Bush has yet to make a fuly coinvincing case for war. What's really dismaying here is the sheer lack of care and poor thought that characterizes this column. THIS is the level of analysis and intelligence that NY Times reporters possess?
I don't know what the letter writer could have been thinking when it came to the last question in his letter. After all, MSNBC's Eric Alterman thinks that the Times editorial page is just getting better and better.