There is a lot of hype about Obama being the inheriter of the JFK legend.

Both of them seem to embody the idea of hope, and a new start. Obama is charismatic and likable. (I’ve even seen positive comments about liking him on Free Republic, a far right wing site). As for me, it’s hard to tell: All we get is soundbites on CNN International, and the internet reports. Hard to judge from 12,000 miles away. But he seems a likable guy, and if he doesn’t have the art and culture background of JFK, he has the advantage of having lived in many multicultural environments.

But some of us are old enough to remember JFK. One of the big things he did was to reach out to the more moderate Khrushchev to try to stop the constant “do this and we’ll nuke you” scares of the 1950’s.

And the bad news about JFK’s legacy that he was perceived weak by some in the Kremlin.

A lot of people make fun of the bomb scares of the 1950’s, probably because boomers aren’t quite old enough to remember the Suez crisis of 1956: when the nationalization of the Suez canal almost started World war III…

The Suez Crisis increased in intensity on the afternoon of 5 November when the Soviet Union sent diplomatic notes to Britain, France and Israel threatening to crush the aggressors and restore peace in the Middle East through the use of force. President Eisenhower’s reaction to these threats was that “if those fellows start something, we may have to hit ’em—and, if necessary, with everything in the bucket.”

The end result of this, along with expanding Israel and closing the canal, was a decrease in rhetoric and threats of war (i.e. hints that they would nuke the US if they were opposed by either the US or Europe in their aims to spread communism).

Such threats were a real danger in the early 1950’s, and communist expansion had to be taken seriously. For example, as a side issue, this is one reason for the “CIA” intervention into Iran in 1953: one of my Iranian friends said: Mosaddegh was elected, but getting unpopular. The communists hired mobs to demonstrate against him to try to take over, but then the CIA paid the same thugs a higher amount to demonstrate and overthrow him in favor of a US stooge…something to remember when Ron Paul condemns the US for intervening. What would history look like if Iran had become a communist dictatorship in 1953?

But anyway, the threats lessened after the Suez crisis in 1956, which was settled peacefully and enforced by the UN peacekeepers.

Another reason for the decreased threats from the USSR was that Stalin died in 1953, and was replaced by Khrushchev in 1958, a more moderate communist (in comparison to Stalin, which is not saying he was sweetness and light, merely not as aggressive).

Yet when Kennedy, a young man preaching peace and the need for decreasing the dangers of nuclear war, came along, some in the Kremlin welcomed this, but others saw him as young and naive. Hence the willingness to put nukes in Cuba, which would threaten Latin America and shift the balance of power. (see Wikipedia’s anti American rewrite of the crisis).

The result was the Cuban Missile crisis, which almost started World War III, where Kennedy was essentially given the choice to ignore the threat/bluff, which would only encourage aggression in many other places backed by Soviet nukes, or put a line in the sand…luckily Bobby Kennedy and others stopped a Cuban invasion and the blockade was suggested.
He did the latter, and the Kremlin backed down.

The point of all of this is that weakness invites attacks.

There is no question but that the failure of Clinton to make any meaningful strike after several Al Qaeda strikes (Khobar Towers, the USS Cole, attempted assasination of Bush Sr.) was one reason that Osama was willing to strike the World Trade Center on 9-11…afterward, he recognized his error, since Bush retaliated (indeed, some say he overretaliated, but that’s another story).

So if the war in Iraq continues to draw down to a successful end, success meaning a usual bumbling and corrupt government that keeps violence down to a minimum so that most people can live in peace and the US with enough troops there to warn Iran to keep it’s fingers out of there, then Obama will be a good

president.

However, if Obama fails to back a strong response when the enemy of the day starts rattling swords, you could see a collapse of the Pax Americana, leaving a power vacuum.

China will not be able to be a power player until 2020, and Afghanistan shows that NATO is useless, and the UN can’t even keep the peace against armed bullies in the Congo.

So will nice guy, the Charismatic Obama, be another JFK?

And if so, will that be good or bad news?

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket, and she crossposted this on Podkayne’s blog.

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