JFK: U.S. Cannot Solve Every World Problem

By John J. Duncan Jr.


On November 16, 1961, President John F. Kennedy gave one of his most famous speeches at the University of Washington in Seattle. The words he spoke then are even more true today, and I wish every member of Congress and leader in our government would hear them now.

He said, “We must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent nor omniscient – that we are only six percent of the world’s population and that we cannot impose our will upon the other 94 percent of mankind – that we cannot right every wrong or reverse each adversity, and that, therefore, there cannot be an American solution to every world problem.”

Our national debt then was less than one percent of what it is now, and we were not economically vulnerable to China, Japan, or any other nation. And we are now less than four percent of the world population.

It would be good if President Kennedy’s words from this speech could be placed on the walls of every Congressional office and in the White House and State Department.

It is disgusting to me when I hear chickenhawks who have never fought in a frontline war demanding now that we start another war in the Middle East.

I saw Sen. Tom Cotton on television trying to prove how tough he is by demanding “massive retaliation” against Iran. And, as my fellow Focus columnist, Dr. Harold Black, wrote recently, Sen. Lindsey Graham seems to want to bomb everyone.

A few weeks ago, I described Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago as “probably the two most respected experts on U.S. foreign policy”. Several years ago, they wrote a best-selling book entitled “The Israel Lobby.”

They said, “In addition to encouraging the U.S. to back Israel more or less unconditionally”, the Lobby shaped “American policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the ill-fated invasion of Iraq, and the ongoing confrontation with Syria and Iran.” They added that “these policies were not in the U.S. national interest.”

David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. The U.S. officially recognized that country the same day. Since then, the U.S. has sent untold billions of dollars in foreign aid there despite the fact that Israel has been in much better shape financially than we have for many years.

We have spent several billion already to aid Israel in the war with Hamas, and Congress is planning to send at least $14 billion more.

This makes us a partner in what Ron Unz, a Jew, described recently as “the greatest televised slaughter of helpless civilians in the history of the world.”

He added, “What we are now seeing is the deliberate massacre of civilians aimed at driving out the Palestinians living in Gaza and rendering their enclave uninhabitable. Most of Gaza’s hospitals and medical facilities have been eliminated and when the Jordanians established field hospitals in South Gaza, those too were bombarded. Schools, bakeries, and other facilities necessary for continued human existence have also been deliberately destroyed, along with the bulk of the housing stock….”

Columnist Caitlin Johnstone wrote on Nov. 27 that “Israel has done more to damage Israel’s image in the last seven weeks than anti-semites did in the last seven decades.”

Everything Hamas did on Oct. 7 was horrible. As terrible as Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians had been for 75 years, those attacks were not justified and it was very wrong to take hostages.

But while we are now hearing about the cruel treatment of the hostages who have been released, at least they are still alive. More than 14,000 innocent Palestinians have been slaughtered, and thousands more are still buried under the rubble of bombed buildings.

We should have trade and tourism, and cultural and educational exchanges with all other nations. This is the opposite of isolationism.

What isolates us more than anything is our completely one-sided policy toward the Middle East. Have we not learned anything from our disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Most of our foreign interventions, both militarily and economically, have been more about money and power for the Defense Department along with other federal departments and agencies and their contractors.

As President Kennedy said, we cannot solve every world problem. The only people who can bring peace to the Middle East are the people who live there. Our interventions there have only created more hatred and animosity toward us.