I’m a history buff, and to those of you who listen to Common Cents, this comes as no great revelation. I firmly believe that those who do not heed the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat the failures and miss the successes of those who came before us. History is accumulated wisdom, as experience is “the greatest teacher.”
This is why the Scriptures are so clear regarding the importance of honoring our elders, for God knows that those who have lived life – experiencing defeat and triumph – can impart the wisdom of their hard-learned lessons to the next generation. Thus, the most successful individuals and, by extension, nations, are those that have studied the past as a guide to the future.
That’s exactly why I believe the wisdom of this day, October 22nd, should be imparted to those running for President this year. It was 50 years ago today when President John F. Kennedy confronted the encroachment of Communism into our hemisphere during the Cuban Missile Crisis. At the height of the Cold War, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev teamed up with Cuba’s thug-dictator Fidel Castro to threaten the safety of free peoples everywhere. Following Castro’s bloody ascent to leadership of that imprisoned island, he teamed up with the Communists to place missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads in Cuba. This was an existential threat to the United States, and the actions of the Soviets escalated the Cold War to the brink of Armageddon.
The Soviet Union had planned to bring these missiles into Cuba under a cloak of secrecy, hoping that the United States would not learn of their existence until it was too late to confront their installation. Khrushchev knew that, once the missiles were in place and operational, the United States would have to tip-toe around the nuclear arsenal sitting 90 miles off our own coast. Fortunately for the cause of freedom, American heroes like South Carolina native, and Clemson graduate, Rudolf Anderson were on the alert. Anderson, an Air Force pilot who flew reconnaissance aircraft, was on duty during the Cuban Missile Crisis – flying over the island nation to photograph the placement of missile launch sites aimed at America.
Upon discovering that they were discovered, Communist soldiers in Cuba fired a surface-to-air missile at Major Anderson’s aircraft, shooting down his U2 spy plane and killing the South Carolinian.
Thus, on October 27th, 1962, Major Anderson became the only American casualty of the Cuban Missile Crisis, giving his life to preserve the cause of liberty. He and his fellow U2 pilots had given President Kennedy the information he needed to call the Soviets to the carpet, and to uncover their concerted effort to turn Cuba into an offensive missile base against America and her allies. Had this discovery not been made until after the missiles were operational, there would have been little that the President and his team could have done to push back against Soviet aggression in the Western Hemisphere.
The lesson of October 22 is that totalitarianism cannot be trifled with, lest the totalitarians sense weakness and act with more aggression. Once President Kennedy had confirmation that the Soviets were placing missiles in Cuba, he took to the television to tell a candid world that the Soviet Union was escalating the Cold War, and threatening the peace and security of the all peoples. Such clarity of purpose, and commitment to American interests, put the Soviets on notice that the American President was committed to peace, but not at the price of freedom. This forced Nikita Khrushchev to rethink his strategy of Soviet expansion in America’s backyard.
The actions of President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis, particularly his willingness to take his message public on October 22, 1962, should serve as a model on how to address the gathering threat of a nuclear Iran. Iran has made unambiguously clear that they want to wipe Israel from the face of the Earth, and ensure that America’s streets run with blood. When a group of fanatics makes these kinds of threats, while seeking nuclear weapons, sitting idly by hoping for a change of heart is not a strategy; it is suicide. Just like the situation in Cuba in October, 1962, once Iran goes Nuclear there are limited options in dealing with the threat. The prospect of a nuclear-armed enemy must be confronted before they are in a position to back up their rhetoric with nuclear war.
President John F. Kennedy was a great proponent of freedom and American interests, and he clearly stood-down any threat to human liberty. Such clarity is needed in Washington today, as the storm clouds gather far across the sea. Nevertheless, while President Obama shares a party label with President Kennedy, doesn’t share Kennedy’s convictions. I pray that a President Romney will have the same clear-eyed clarity to defend freedom as John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Only then can we preserve this great nation and the heritage of human liberty that defines it. This commitment to future freedoms will honor the sacrifice of those who have given their all to give us this great heritage, notably people like Major Rudolf Anderson of Greenville, South Carolina.