Published on Monday, May 12, 2003 by the New York Times
Former Writer for Kennedy Laments Hawkish Strategy
by Adam Clymer
WASHINGTON, May 11 — Returning to American University today, where John F. Kennedy gave a noted speech about the "strategy of peace" 40 years ago, his speechwriter Theodore C. Sorensen told this year's graduates that the nation and both its political parties had turned away from "Kennedy's policy of avoiding war and all its horrors."
He added, "It will be the law of the jungle in which every warlord has his own weapons of mass destruction, and the first or biggest bomb wins."
Mr. Sorensen, 75, who is a lawyer in New York, urged the United States to end its hostility to the International Criminal Court and the World Court because that would strengthen the United Nations "as an impartial arbiter, convener, inspector and advocate, as the only multinational, multicultural organization around that can deal with terrorism."
He called on international lawyers and diplomats "to complete the network of treaties that outlaw the use, possession and distribution of weapons of mass destruction." And he called for renegotiations to enable the United States to "amend and accept those treaties which we have rejected, including those on global warming, land mines, biodiversity and human rights."
Finally, he said a world of law could not be achieved "unless we pay equal attention to this century's most important war: the war against global poverty." He said, "Complete health care for all children on earth could be provided for less than half of what was spent on the war in Iraq."
Mr. Sorensen, awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree, recalled listening in 1963 to the speech he wrote during the civil rights movement, the trip to Germany in which the President Kennedy proclaimed "Ich bin ein Berliner" and two developments that arose directly from the Soviet Union's friendly reaction to the speech: the establishment of the hot line from the White House to the Kremlin and the treaty barring nuclear tests in the atmosphere, underwater or in outer space.
While many of his criticisms of particular positions reflected unhappiness with the Bush administration, some criticisms were broader. After complaining that the nation was doing badly at avoiding war, he said:
"Both political parties now compete to sound more hawkish, to criticize as naïve or even unpatriotic those who favor peaceful world cooperation. The long uneasiness with bloodletting and battle that followed Vietnam has been replaced by a new infatuation for war, a preference for invasion over persuasion.
"Under administrations of both parties and in both branches of government, we have turned our backs on Kennedy's emphasis on treaties, including the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty he so eloquently sought here 40 years ago."
Forty years ago, he said, Mr. Kennedy took a political risk in urging the United States "to lead by force of example, not force of arms, by the multilateral use of our diplomacy, not the unilateral use of our weaponry, by sending abroad American food, not American guns, by relying on smart diplomats more than smart bombs."
Comparable political courage was required now, he said, "to reverse course, in J.F.K.'s phrase, away from a strategy of annihilation and back toward a strategy of peace."
He said: "I am not asking for an unrealistic utopia of pure pacifism. The United States would still be a world leader, necessarily, with its preponderance of wealth and might; we would still defend our principles, security and basic interests, but we would be a leader in diplomacy, not warfare; in humanitarian operations, not military."
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company