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

Overview

In his thousand-day presidency, John F. Kennedy led America through one of its most difficult and potentially explosive eras. With the Cold War at its height and the threat of communist advances in Europe and the Third World, Kennedy had the unenviable task of maintaining U.S. solidarity without leading the western world into a nuclear catastrophe.
In Kennedy's Wars, noted historian Lawrence Freedman draws on the best of Cold War scholarship and newly released government ...

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

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Overview

In his thousand-day presidency, John F. Kennedy led America through one of its most difficult and potentially explosive eras. With the Cold War at its height and the threat of communist advances in Europe and the Third World, Kennedy had the unenviable task of maintaining U.S. solidarity without leading the western world into a nuclear catastrophe.
In Kennedy's Wars, noted historian Lawrence Freedman draws on the best of Cold War scholarship and newly released government documents to illuminate Kennedy's approach to war and his efforts for peace. He recreates insightfully the political and intellectual milieu of the foreign policy establishment during Kennedy's era with vivid profiles of his top advisors—Robert McNamara, Dean Rusk, Robert Kennedy—and influential figures such as Dean Acheson and Walt Rostow. Tracing the evolution of traditional liberalism into the Cold War liberalism of Kennedy's cabinet, Freedman evaluates their responses to the tensions in Berlin, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam. He gives each conflict individual attention, showing how foreign policy decisions came to be defined for each new crisis in the light of those that had gone before. The book follows Kennedy as he wrestles with the succession of major conflicts—taking advice, weighing the risks of inadvertently escalating the Cold War into outright military confrontation, exploring diplomatic options, and forming strategic judgments that would eventually prevent a major war during his presidency.

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Editorial Reviews

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There have been many books on the thousand-day Kennedy administration, detailing matters both domestic and global. Here, historian Lawrence Freedman draws on newly released government documents, and the best Cold War research available, to present an authoritative look at JFK's military struggles. Would the young president be able to stay true to his own liberal leanings and keep the country strong and safe militarily? How?
From the Publisher
"Lawrence Freedman's Kennedy's Wars is an elegant work, incisively written, penetrating and dispassionate in analysis—the best account we have of President Kennedy's foreign policy."—Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

"In this superbly researched and elegantly written book, Lawrence Freedman sheds new light on the Kennedy and Johnson administrations' handling of foreign affairs. Freedman's analysis of the brinkmanship of the Cold War and Vietnam is original. While I do not agree with every interpretation, Kennedy's Wars challenges common knowledge about what happened and why and points to lessons we can apply to the future."—Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense, 1961-1968

"Combining remarkable insight into issues of nuclear strategy and a detachment from American controversies and emotions about Camelot, Kennedy's Wars powerfully illustrates both the intricacy and the horror of the Kennedy administration's endless debates over issues such as 'program packages' and the SIOP. It not only evaluates what exactly was at stake; it does so with some of JFK's own coolness." —Ernest May, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

"Freedman brings an erudite and penetrating intelligence to his study of Kennedy's foreign policy.... An excellent treatment of U.S. foreign policy during this dynamic era and an insightful portrait of John F. Kennedy as a leader."—Library Journal

"An admirably rich and careful study."—The Economist

Library Journal
As the author of nearly 20 books dealing with various aspects of nuclear strategy and the Cold War, Freedman (war studies, King's Coll., London) brings an erudite and penetrating intelligence to his study of Kennedy's foreign policy. As the subtitle suggests, Lawrence tackles the major perplexing Cold War issues that confronted Kennedy during his 1000-day presidency. Whether it is the scariness of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 or the frustrations of handling a rambunctious Khrushchev over Berlin, Lawrence provides a solidly researched framework for his discussion of the major points pertinent to each episode. He argues that Kennedy was a Cold Warrior surrounded by men of similar attitude, such as McNamara, Bundy, Acheson, and Rostow, all of whom saw the Soviet Union as a dangerous enemy that could not be trusted. Yet, Lawrence concludes, by the time of Kennedy's death in November 1963, the worst of the Cold War had passed--although the United States did not sense this for several years to come. Lawrence's book is an excellent treatment of U.S. foreign policy during this dynamic era and an insightful portrait of John F. Kennedy as a leader. Highly recommended for all collections.--Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195152432
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 560
  • Sales rank: 1,220,703
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 5.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Lawrence Freedman has been Professor of War Studies at King's College, London since 1982. He has written extensively on nuclear strategy and the Cold War, as well as commentating regularly on contemporary security issues. Elected a fellow of the British Academy in 1995, he was appointed by Prime Minister Tony Blair as Official Historian of the Falklands Campaign in 1997.

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Table of Contents

Preface: Kennedy's Wars ix
Dramatis Personae xiii
Introduction 3
I. The Cold War and How to Fight It
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
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
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
27. The Sino-Soviet Split 249
28. Toward a Test Ban 261
29. The Test Ban Treaty 270
30. Measured Response 276
V. Vietnam
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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