What innovations did the Kennedy administration bring to US foreign policy in 1961? In what areas did his foreign policy build on the past?
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When John F Kennedy resumed power, the US foreign policy was based on containment implying that the major aim of the US was to contain the influence of communism in the world. However, Kennedy was the view that things had changed and the US was supposed to work closely with the Soviet Union in restoring peace and stability in the world. Even though he wanted to work with the Soviet Union, the aggression of the USSR, and the threats posed by Cuba changed his reasoning. While in office, Kennedy introduced another diplomatic aspect, which was related to supplying relief food to the third world countries. The major foreign policy was related to the increasing American troops in Vietnam. He was following up on his predecessor’s policies aimed at achieving greatness for the state. Kennedy believed that by helping the third world financially, the US would have an opportunity of distributing its democratic values.
In 1961, he created the Peace Corps, which was an organization charged with the responsibility of sending volunteers to the third world. Through the organization, several American citizens were deployed in various parts of the world to help in building roads, developing the healthcare system, improving the education system, and offering advisory services aimed at improving the economies of the third world. In the same year, Kennedy declared that he would implement the policy developed by Eisenhower, which was popularly referred to as the Bay of Pigs. This was an attempt by the US government to help political dissidents in Cuba. The US government promised to offer technical support to rebel soldiers in Cuba, but the program failed terribly when Cuba adopted communism (Gaddis 14).
Which of the authors on the Cuban Missile Crisis – Dallek or Paterson – do you find more convincing? Do you see the crisis as Kennedy’s finest hour or the culmination of an errant obsession gone wrong?
The Cuban Missile Crisis was the most challenging incident in Kennedy’s presidency. On October 16, 19962, the US government, through military intelligence found out that the USSR had accumulated missiles in Cuba. The first option was to destroy the missiles. Some military generals believed that invading Cuba was the best option. However, Kennedy came up with a disappointing option. Kennedy suggested that the best way was to engage the USSR in talks to prevent the occurrence of the world war. He instructed his military to close all the borders and declared war on any foreign power that crossed the border. Dallek notes that Kennedy was always in control of his government even during the Cuban missile crisis. He notes that Kennedy was logical, forceful, and acted pleasantly. In other words, the leadership styles of Kennedy were known during the Cuban missile crisis (Merrill and Paterson 67).
Some individuals claim that he should have committed US troops to the war in Cuba. However, this was very dangerous because he was assured of mutual destruction. Before the crisis, the two superpowers had accumulated weapons in equal measures. Therefore, they were mutually assured of destruction. The US could have encountered more casualties because of distance. He convinced the USSR to back down by promising to withdraw weapons in East Europe. From a realist perspective, Kennedy did what was right for the American people. American people could not have gained anything from the war but instead, they could have lost a lot. A state can only intervene militarily if national interests would be achieved. The interest of the American people at the time was peace and prevention of life. These interests could not have been achieved by engaging in war.
Gaddis, Lewis. Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of American National Security Policy during the Cold War. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.
Merrill, Dennis, and T. Paterson. Major Problems in American Foreign Policy, Volume II: since 1914. 7th ed. Boston: Wadsworth, 2010. Print.