Part of 1960: Kennedy vs. Nixon

A Democrat Looks at Foreign Policy

President-elect John F. Kennedy speaks to reporters outside the White House, 1960.
President-elect John F. Kennedy speaks to reporters outside the White House, 1960. (Abbie Rowe / JFK Library)

The past months have set before our policy-makers a map whose essential features are not unfamiliar to those who have studied or been a part of the events of the past decade, but it is also crowded with new silhouettes. There are new projections, contours and dimensions. International events in recent months have accelerated in pace and have been in a flux not yet comprehended by the leadership of our nation or taken account of in adjustments in the machinery of our foreign policy. To an observer in the opposition party there appear two central weaknesses in our current foreign policy: first, a failure to appreciate how the forces of nationalism are rewriting the geopolitical map of the world--especially in North Africa, southeastern Europe and the Middle East; and second, a lack of decision and conviction in our leadership, which has recoiled from clearly informing both the people and Congress, which seeks too often to substitute slogans for solutions, which at times has even taken pride in the timidity of its ideas.


International events today are subject to a double pull--a search for political identity by the new states and the search for unity among the established states of the world. As Europe draws in upon itself toward a Common Market and greater political integration, Africa, its former colonial estate, is breaking apart into new and emergent states. Through the world today there runs both a tide toward and away from sovereignty. Many Americans view these tendencies with equal favor, reading into the one our own Declaration of Independence and Revolution, into the other the work of our Constitutional builders of a federal state. In fact, of course, we dangerously misread the movements of our time if we set them only in the prisms of our own historic experience. It is easy by a false parallelism to mistake nationalism itself for national salvation, to mistake the assertion of broad unity for its healthy substance.

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