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

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

by Lawrence Freedman
     
 

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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

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. Readers will follow Kennedy as he wrestles with the succession of major conflicts—taking advice, weighing the risks of inadvertantly 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.

Kennedy's Wars offers a dynamic and human portrait of Kennedy under pressure: a political leader shaped by the ideas of his time, conscious of his vulnerability to electoral defeat but also of his nation's vulnerability to nuclear war. Military and Kennedy enthusiasts will find its balanced consideration of the president's foreign policy and provocative "what if" scenarios invaluable keys to understanding his accomplishments, failures, and enduring legacy.

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.

Editorial Reviews

bn.com
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?
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.
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 Kenned 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

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

"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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195152432
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
01/28/2002
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
560
Sales rank:
995,292
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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