Bibi draws a red line; recalls JFK backbone in Cuban missile crisis


In his speech before the U.N. General Assembly last Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called upon the United States and other world powers to draw a red line beyond which Tehran’s leaders will not be allowed to advance their nuclear program without facing the threat of force.

“I believe that, faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down,” Netanyahu said.

He also analogized the potential strategy of sending Iran the message that there exists a red line beyond which it would face a credible military threat to U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s decision to impose a naval blockade to prevent the Soviet Union from placing missiles in Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis.

I got into a spirited discussion on Facebook this week about this analogy, which I maintain has great psychological truth. Here is what I wrote:

If you set aside the labels (hawks, Dems, Repubs, etc.), there is an analogy here. The psychological truth is: you can’t appease a bully. Not because of some “hawkish” philosophy or ideology or pride, but because it is not sound security policy. Jack Kennedy was a Democrat, and he understood this truth about how the world works. He did keep his cool, yes, and allow the Russians to save face, yes. But at essence, his was not a policy of appeasement. Some advisers (Stevenson I think) and much of the U.S. public thought Kennedy should just let the Soviets place the missiles in Cuba. Quite frankly, I don’t think the unacceptability of that was as clear cut as this is (after all, the Soviets were not openly declaring they planned to destroy or attack the U.S., and a case could have been made for just letting them put the missiles there). But with the blockade … Kennedy sent the Russians a clear signal. THAT is Bibi’s point, I think. Hopefully it will not be necessary to use force. But if there is to be any hope of Iran’s backing down, it is necessary for the world, led by the United States, to send a clear signal. Ironic yes, but unity backed by the credible threat of force–and a clear message from the world that Iran will not be allowed to go nuclear– at this point is the best hope of avoiding war or the alternative–an emboldened Iran that has the means to terrorize the world on a bigger scale.

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