Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of Liberty.
-- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 19611
Although a war hero, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts for eight years, and a congressmen for six before that, President John F. Kennedy had no background in foreign policy, no special training or education in military strategy, and no in-depth understanding of nuclear matters. Unlike Eisenhower, he needed the expertise of advisors to fill gaps of knowledge in national security matters all presidents should possess before assuming the most powerful position in the world. And yet he deluded himself into believing he could craft his own foreign policy and thus did not require a strong secretary of state and experienced secretary of defense. As a consequence, his selection of career bureaucrat Dean Rusk for the former position was not distinguished. His nomination of Ford Motor Company executive Robert S. McNamara for the latter was one of the worst decisions of his presidency.2
Personnel problems were exaggerated by policy process mistakes. New National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy persuaded Kennedy to throw out the NSC Planning Board and the Eisenhower administration's admittedly tedious and time-consuming process of drawing up policy papers. Reorganizing the NSC to clear out dead wood was a good idea. Replacing Basic National Security Policy documents as the ultimate statement of American policy with National Security Action Memoranda (NSAMs), which were too often slapped together with little foresight was not. The NSAMs did nothing to require interested agencies, particularly the JCS, to agree on new approaches to major strategic issues and failed to define what was vital to American national security. As we have seen, Eisenhower and his advisors often muddled together true vital interests with lesser ones. Eisenhower himself always managed to make a