Originally published in The Atlantic on 6/6/2013
"Some say that it is useless to speak of peace... until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. I hope they do. I believe we can help them do it. But I also believe that we must reexamine our own attitudes, as individuals and as a Nation, for our attitude is as essential as theirs," said former President John F. Kennedy as he stood at American University on June 10, 1963. The rarely discussed reset of U.S.-Soviet relationship that followed Kennedy's speech has significant implications when it comes to both present-day U.S.-China relations and the restarted Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Kennedy's "Strategy for Peace" speech was delivered at the height of the Cold War, only eight months after the Cuban Missile Crisis had pushed the world to the brink of nuclear war. He called for a change in how the two superpowers related to one another and emphasized the need for the United States to reexamine its hostile orientation towards the Soviet Union. Going beyond just changing drastically the tone that had previously been adopted when discussing the U.S.S.R., Kennedy added a major unilateral move. He announced that the US would stop all nuclear tests in the atmosphere. Although there is no evidence that President Kennedy proceeded on the basis of a particular theory of international relations, in effect the announcement served as an experiment highly relevant to an issue debated among IR experts at the time. Most IR experts viewed negotiations as an essential tool of diplomacy. Unilateral concessions were considered a show of weakness and were often criticized that they amounted to appeasement. A few theorists (including Charles Osgood and myself) argued that limited unilateral moves would elicit similar responses and would serve to improve the context which, in turn, was necessary to allow for productive negotiations.
Read the rest here.