Sunday, May 18, 2008

Is Barack Obama Another John F. Kennedy?

Barack Obama on Saturday remarked:
"If George Bush and John McCain have a problem with direct diplomacy, led by the president of the United States, then they can explain why they have a problem with John F. Kennedy because that's what he did with Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev...."
However, contrary to Barack Obama's affinity for negotiating with tyrants, John F. Kennedy's foreign policy towards communist dictators and tyrants was certainly not pacifistic by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, he ardently supported regime change in both Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

The 1961 "Bay of Pigs Invasion", an unsuccessful attempt by armed Cuban exiles in southwest Cuba to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro, was planned and funded by the United States during John F. Kennedy's Presidency.

The invasion failed partly due to Kennedy's decision to alter crucial elements of the operation to make it appear as if the Cuban exiles had planned it, so that his administration could claim "plausible deniability" and avoid responsibility for the invasion as a U.S. operation.

Kennedy ended up canceling a series of air strikes designed to finish off Castro's air force. He also changed landing sites.

The cancellation of the air strikes, the change of the landing sites, and ultimately, the lack of U.S. air cover and support during the invasion, sealed the fate of the mission and the lives of many of the men of the invasion force.

The invasion was a total failure and Kennedy was severely embarrassed by it. - Source

In June 1961, only a few weeks after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, Kennedy met with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at a summit in Vienna where they discussed the future of Berlin.

Khrushchev, emboldened by his impression of Kennedy as young, naive, and weak [as a result of the botched Bay of Pigs invasion], adopted a blunt and confrontational stance toward the American delegation. Kennedy was badly outmatched by Khrushchev, and shortly after the summit, the Soviets built the Berlin Wall, which remained intact until the end of the Cold War.

After the Vienna Summit, Khrushchev told his assistants that he wondered whether anyone who had abandoned the Cuban invading forces on the beaches would have the will to launch a nuclear attack. And Kennedy himself later said about the Vienna summit: "Worst thing in my life. He [Khrushchev] savaged me," and "I think I know why he treated me like this, he thinks because because of the Bay of Pigs... I had no guts."

In the aftermath of the botched Bay of Pigs invasion and the Vienna Summit debacle, the Soviet Union began building missile sites in Cuba. On October 14 an American U-2 flight photographed the missile sites. Kennedy, realizing it was imperative for him to respond strongly this time around, deployed a naval task force of nineteen ships to prevent missiles from entering Cuba. He also threatened to sink any ship interfering with the "quarantine" of Cuba

Between October 24-27, when U.S. and Soviet strategic forces were on "red alert" [missile sites cocked for firing, submarines deployed, bombers loaded with H-bombs flying into position], an American air strike against the missile sites, to be followed by an invasion of Cuba, had been ordered to begin if Khrushchev did not agree to remove the missiles from Cuba by October 28. Khrushchev finally relented and removed the missiles from Cuba.

Larry Gilman describes Kennedy's handling of the Cuban missile crisis as follows:
"U.S... policymakers had verified, as they believed, that "showing resolve" (threatening to use military force) was more effective than diplomacy, the United Nations, or international law—with the proviso that the U.S. should be more willing to commit conventional (non-nuclear) military forces in a crisis, in order to keep back from the nuclear abyss."
Conclusion: While Kennedy did engage in diplomacy with Khrushchev, it was primarily the threat of military force that convinced Khrushchev to pull his missiles out of Cuba.

If anything, Kennedy's lack of resolve and forcefulness during the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Vienna Summit may have actually fueled the Cuban Missile Crisis.

It is also important to note that in September 1962, both the Senate and the House overwhelmingly voted to sanction the use of force, if necessary, "to prevent the creation or use of an externally supported offensive military capability endangering the security of the U.S."

In Barack Obama's view, this kind of "tough talk and saber rattling" only serves to strengthen the enemy. But ultimately, it was this kind of "tough talk" that eventually resolved the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The reader should also take note that the Bay of Pigs invasion was not the only incident in which John F. Kennedy attempted to effect regime change abroad.

November 1961 Kennedy deployed a US naval task force with 1,800 US Marines off the Dominican coast, in an effort to oust Dominican leader, Rafael Trujillo Jr. from power. Kennedy favored Joachim Balaguer as the temporary ruler of the Dominican Republic. As Kennedy remarked at the time: "Balaguer is our only tool. The anti-communist liberals are not strong enough. We must use our influence to take Balaguer along the road to democracy." As a result of the US Marine deployment, Trujillo and his supporters left the country.

The "Kennedy Doctrine", as defined by Wikipedia, "refers to foreign policy initiatives of John F. Kennedy towards Latin America, during his term in office between 1961 and 1963. Kennedy voiced support for the containment of Communism and the reversal of Communist progress in the Western Hemisphere."

While Kennedy did display a lack of resolve during the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Vienna Summit - a weakness which may have been the catalyst for Russia's decision to deploy nuclear missiles to Cuba - the reader can see for himself that unlike Barack Obama, Kennedy sought to remove tyrants from power, while Obama seeks to coddle them.

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