Kennedy's Wars: Berlin, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam

By Lawrence Freedman | Go to book overview

13

Removing Castro

THE CUBAN REVOLUTION of late 1958, when Fidel Castro marched into Havana and overthrew the old dictator Fulgencio Batista, was a curiosity. Castro's allegiances at the time were by no means clear; his later claim to long-standing Marxist-Leninist sympathies was retrospective. He had come to power as the only available leader of a broadly based coalition, having received some support from liberal opinion in the United States. However, this support dispersed as Castro clashed with U.S. economic interests and showed no interest in elections. It was feared that Cuba would trigger similar uprisings throughout the Americas and so extend Soviet influence. As Latin America was the United States' natural sphere of influence, any communist foothold appeared as an affront. When the foothold was Cuba, so close to the coast of Florida, and personalized by such a charismatic and bombastic figure as Fidel, the affront was all the greater.

Senator Kennedy had acknowledged the sense of injustice that had led so many Cubans to turn against Batista and the extent to which the United States had treated the country as a colony, apparently more "interested in the money we took out of Cuba than . . . in seeing Cuba raise its standard of living for its people." 1 The Eisenhower administration had hardly made it easy for Castro to come to terms with the United States, supposing he had been inclined to do so. Its drive to deflect the regime from communism only served to confirm it on this course. An early readiness to admit that there were injustices to be rectified might have served as a basis for some sort of accommodation with revolutionary Cuba. However, as Castro's policy became more stridently anti-American a series of tit-for-tat moves led to a complete breakdown in relations, and a sympathetic approach became an impossible position for any ambitious politician to hold.

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Kennedy's Wars: Berlin, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface: Kennedy's Wars ix
  • Dramatis Personae xiii
  • Introduction 3
  • I - The Cold War and How to Fight It 11
  • 1 - Liberal Anticommunism 13
  • 2 - Beyond Massive Retaliation 18
  • 3 - The Third World Alternative 27
  • 4 - Policies and People 32
  • II - Berlin and Nuclear Strategy 43
  • 5 - The New Strategy 45
  • 6 - To Vienna and Back 51
  • 7 - The Berlin Anomaly 58
  • 8 - A Contest of Resolve 66
  • 9 - The Wall 72
  • 10 - Tests and Tension 79
  • 11 - Flexible Response 92
  • 12 - Berlin to Cuba 112
  • III - Cuba 121
  • 13 - Removing Castro 123
  • 14 - A Deniable Plan 129
  • 15 - An Undeniable Fiasco 139
  • 16 - Still Castro 147
  • 17 - Mongoose 153
  • 18 - Searching for Missiles 161
  • 19 - The Options Debated 170
  • 20 - Blockade 182
  • 21 - Military Steps 193
  • 22 - Political Steps 203
  • 23 - The Denouement 208
  • 24 - A Crisis Managed 218
  • 25 - Aftermath 225
  • 26 - Back to Square One 238
  • IV - Alliances and Detente 247
  • 27 - The Sino-Soviet Split 249
  • 28 - Toward a Test Ban 261
  • 29 - The Test Ban Treaty 270
  • 30 - Alleasured Response 276
  • V - Vietnam 285
  • 31 - Counterinsurgency 287
  • 32 - Laos 293
  • 33 - Commitment without Combat 305
  • 34 - Deciding Not to Decide 313
  • 35 - The Taylor Report 322
  • 36 - Decisions 330
  • 37 - The Influence of Laos 340
  • 38 - In the Dark 356
  • 39 - Coercion and Clients 367
  • 40 - Diem's Assassination 382
  • 41 - Kennedy to Johnson 398
  • Conclusion 415
  • Acknowledgments 421
  • Notes 423
  • Bibliography 489
  • Index 507
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