If you believe George Santayana's maxim that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," you might want to pay more attention to this year's elections. There could be serious consequences.
Monday's presidential debate was supposed to focus on foreign policy. It was timed appropriately.
Monday was the 50-year anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's famous speech to Americans about the Cuban missile crisis.
Kennedy told Americans in a televised address of the Soviet placement of nuclear weapons in Cuba, not far from the Florida coast. Kennedy ordered a naval blockade of Cuba and put U.S. strategic forces on alert. Today is the 50th anniversary of Soviet ships being turned away from Cuba.
So what has happened since then? Plenty.
I asked U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, recently about the growing Chinese military presence. That includes building a navy that could compete with the U.S. Navy in policing the world's ports. China has six of the world's 10th largest ports, rated in terms of volume. China is becoming a rival superpower, just as the Soviet Union once was.
Visclosky said his sense is that China is trying to make it too costly for the United States to exert pressure on the Chinese. Meanwhile, the Chinese are engaging in state-sponsored economic espionage. "They're at it 24 hours a day. They're very active," the congressman said.
I bring up the Chinese navy because China bought a Soviet aircraft carrier from the Ukraine and is refurbishing it for modern use.
And that brings us back to the nuclear issue facing the nation — and Indiana — today. U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar has been a champion of nuclear threat reduction. Since Hoosier Republicans voted Lugar out of office by a landslide in May, Russian leader Vladimir Putin has repudiated efforts to reduce the world's supply of nuclear weapons.
Where are those old Soviet-era nukes going to end up now?
With disarmament, they were being used to provide fuel for American nuclear power plants. That's far better than to see that dangerous material sold to anyone with cash, the way the former Soviet aircraft carrier ended up in Chinese hands.
It would have been good for Monday's debate to focus more on saving American lives, the way Lugar did, than to worry only about American wealth.
If you have vivid memories of the Cuban missile crisis, send me a letter or an email. I'd love to read your stories about this Cold War crisis a half century ago.
Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/DougRossNWI and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.