JFK’s Vision of Enduring World Peace

Hello. Tad Daley here with the Center for War/Peace Studies.

I wanted to pass along a new essay on The Huffington Post, co-authored by former U.S. Senator Harris Wofford and me, which endeavors to tell “the story of young congressman John F. Kennedy joining in a legislative initiative to advance no less than the solution to the problem of war.”

Although it is almost wholly forgotten today, for a very brief historical moment following the dawn of the nuclear age, many of the leading pioneers of the effort to put the nuclear genie back in the bottle declared that the way to do it was to set out to establish no less than a world republic, in an effort to abolish not only nuclear weapons but all standing military forces, and to replace “the war system” with enduring world peace through enforceable world law. Some of the figures who embraced that vision were Albert Einstein, Walter Lippman, Leo Szilard, E.B. White, Bertrand Russell, Clare Booth Luce, Oscar Hammerstein II, Winston Churchill, and even five-star General Hap Arnold in his final statement as head of the U.S. Army Air Forces in the Federation of American Scientists book ONE WORLD OR NONE.

Indeed, this Big Idea became such a significant component of the postwar international policy debate that in 1949, a House concurrent resolution proclaimed “that it should be a fundamental objective of the foreign policy of the United States to support and strengthen the United Nations and to seek its development into a world federation.” That resolution was co-sponsored by nearly a quarter of the members of both chambers of Congress. Including a young representative named John F. Kennedy — and a whole lot of other names you will recognize.

Believe me, I was pretty surprised when I came across this in my researches. I didn’t know that anything like this had ever been proposed by a single member of the U.S. Congress. Did you?

You may know that Harris Wofford is both a former U.S. Senator and a former aide in the Kennedy White House (and met JFK before he was even elected to Congress in 1946). You may not know that when the two of them met, teenage Wofford was serving as the founder of the “Student Federalists” – with chapters on hundreds of high school and college campuses nationwide – and was plugging away on a book called Road to the World Republic. The accompanying adult organization, the United World Federalists, with some 700 chapters of its own, was led by a bright young man who would serve first as a mentor to Wofford and later as a mentor to me, future U.S. Senator Alan Cranston.

It may sound like a ridiculous aspiration today. It’s certainly not an objective on the mainstream political radar screen today. But it seems to Wofford and Daley that at some point we ought to expand our political imaginations, to look beyond the international crises du jour, to ask whether the state sovereignty system must forever remain the central organizing principle of global politics, and to consider the optimal structures of world order we ought to endeavor to build in the decades and even centuries to come.

We hope you will check out our essay. We hope you will comment upon it right there at the Huffington Post site. And we hope you will click on the buttons there for Facebook and Twitter and etc., and tell your own online universe whether you like it — or you don’t!

Many thanks.


Tad Daley on behalf of myself and Harris Wofford

Posted in Abolishing War