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

By Lawrence Freedman | Go to book overview

24

A Crisis Managed

KENNEDY HAD ACHIEVED his core political objective of removing the missiles. By avoiding making Castro the issue, it was easier to agree to a deal that required a promise not to invade . If the overthrow of Castro had been the issue, he would have found it more difficult to back down. It was this, as much as the more often quoted lesson of allowing Khrushchev to "save face," that made the final deal possible. Moscow was never in any doubt about what was required; the only question was what could they extract from Washington in return. If the crisis had been concluded in less of a panic, then the actual deal might have served as the foundation for a more general reassessment of American relations with Cuba.

The tenuous link between the missiles in Turkey and Cuba had been an enormous distraction, giving both countries an anxious day, which could have had grave consequences if an immediate reprisal to the loss of the U-2 had been authorized. The undertaking to Khrushchev on the removal of the missiles was important as an earnest of Kennedy's goodwill, but as it was not part of the public record, it was irrelevant to the political fallout, domestic and international, of the crisis. Indeed, the assumption was that Moscow had been successfully rebuffed.

By the time of the Cuban crisis, according to one of the architects of flexibe response, "top levels of our government had been permeated by the notion of a program of mounting pressures. It was natural that we started with a quarantine and then move on, gradually." Yet in practice, this strategy of mounting pressures to convince the adversary to back down was followed only for a while and was coming under severe strain as the crisis closed. Events did nothing to discredit the choice of quarantine, which had been started off at a sufficiently modest level for it to be extended further if need be. But with the pace of construction at the missile sites being stepped up, sooner rather than later the president

-218-

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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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