Statement by Senator John Kennedy on the Need to Have Limited War Options, 29 February 1960


Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 2, p. 798


Senator John F. Kennedy, Congressional Record, February 29, 1960, p. 3582:

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"But both before and after 1953 events have demonstrated that our nuclear retaliatory power is not enough. It cannot deter Communist aggression which is too limited to justify atomic war. It cannot protect uncommitted nations against a Communist takeover using local or guerrilla forces. It cannot be used in so-called brush-fire peripheral wars. In short, it cannot prevent the Communists from gradually nibbling at the fringe of the free world's territory and strength, until our security has been steadily eroded in piecemeal fashion-each Red advance being too small to justify massive retaliation, with all its risks.

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"In short, we need forces of an entirely different kind to keep the peace against limited aggression, and to fight it, if deterrence fails, without raising the conflict to a disastrous pitch.

"And our capability for conventional war is insufficient to avoid the hopeless dilemma of choosing between launching a nuclear attack and watching aggressors make piecemeal conquests."


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