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

By Lawrence Freedman | Go to book overview

18

Searching for Missiles

FROM AUGUST 1962 the policy debate on Cuba had acquired a new focus and become altogether more serious. For over a month the question of Castro's overthrow had been displaced by perplexity on the meaning of substantial deliveries of men and equipment from the Soviet Union. These threatened to aggravate what was already a difficult issue for an administration just months away from important midterm elections.

At the start of 1962 opinion polls suggested that of all foreign policy issues, Cuba was the only one where the administration got a negative rating (of 62 percent). By September the mood had hardened. Of those with an opinion about Cuba, over 70 percent wanted action of some sort, and though few wanted war, many were prepared for tough action, including proposals to "starve them out." 1 Raids by rebel groups against targets in Cuba were praised by the press and set as an example for the U.S. government to emulate (though the government had to deny any actual support for the groups). Liberal as much as conservative columnists were encouraging an anti-Castro uprising.

The administration policy was caught by the logic of deniability. It was hoping that the economic squeeze on Cuba, plus covert operations, might produce an uprising, but if one failed to materialize, then at least some officials recognized that the logical course would be to reach an accommodation with Castro. Thus McGeorge Bundy, skeptical about covert action, asserted to John McCone that policy toward Cuba had to be resolved. Bundy thought the choices were either direct military action, which he considered "intolerable," or learning "to live with Castro, and his Cuba," and adjust policies accordingly. 2 The polls indicated just how difficult this would be. The suspicion that Cuba was being turned into a Soviet base was not going to make it any easier.

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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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