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

By Lawrence Freedman | Go to book overview

30

Alleasured Response

CUBA PROVIDED KENNEDY with the opportunity to reduce the risk of total war by reducing tensions with the Soviet Union. At the same time the successful management of the crisis encouraged the view that somehow a breakthrough had been made in the manipulation of force and its relation to diplomacy. McNamara was cited as saying that, after Cuba, "[t]here is no longer any such thing as strategy, only crisis management." 1 During the crisis the administration had tended to ignore the views of the military, which had appeared beside the point because they failed to address the agenda the president had clearly set. A limited action had succeeded as the military clamored for stiffer, more dangerous, and more reckless measures. This led to a new concept of measured response that presupposed the use of proportionate force for purposes of coercive diplomacy rather than a decisive battle. The tendency was already apparent in both defense policy and strategic analysis; more military options made it possible to establish greater control over the course and outcome of a crisis and war itself.

This fed into the debate that was already well under way on flexible response in Europe. The initial reaction to Cuba in Europe was relief that it had not led to something much worse and that the pressure might now be off to raise force levels in Europe. They had to be reminded that Cuba had been a crisis in which the United States had "virtually all military chips" and that there was no reason to suppose that Khrushchev would have backed down so quickly if it had been over Berlin. The administration wanted the Europeans to recognize that the lesson learned was the need for flexible response. 2 But Cuba had highlighted another tension in the alliance. While its management had impressed Europeans and strengthened Kennedy's position as the leader of the alliance, it had also revealed their dependence upon the United States. A war started over

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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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