“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” – John F. Kennedy
“The Eisenhower administration grievously misunderstood and underestimated the most significant historical development of the mid-twentieth century – the force of Third World nationalism…. The Eisenhower administration insisted on viewing the Third World through the invariably distorting lens of a Cold War geopolitical strategy that saw the Kremlin as the principal instigator of global unrest. As a result, it often wound up simplifying complicated local and regional developments, confusing nationalism with communism, aligning the United States with inherently unstable and unrepresentative regimes, and wedding American interests to the status quo in areas undergoing fundamental social, political, and economic upheaval. Rather than promoting long-term stability in the Third World, the foreign policy of the Eisenhower administration contributed to its instability…. In this critical area, then, the Eisenhower record appears one of persistent failure (McMahon, 1986: 457). Notably, in a generally favorable assessment of the Eisenhower foreign policy, John Lewis Gaddis also describes US policy in the Third World as “the administration’s single most significant [failure]” (Gaddis, 1982: 182). The case of Cuba offers a unique opportunity to test McMahon’s thesis. For different reasons, conservatives and liberals argue that US policy in Cuba was a failure. From the conservative viewpoint, we “lost” Cuba to communism on Eisenhower’s “watch;” from the liberal viewpoint, we tied ourselves to a corrupt dictator and antagonized his successor, eventually pushing him into the arms of the Communists. That we failed in Cuba is not a question; the question is how did we fail?
Shortly after the Cuban Revolution nearly thirty years ago, New York Times reporter Herbert Matthews wrote: “I doubt the historians will ever be able to agree on whether the Castro regime embraced communism willingly or was forced into a shotgun wedding” (Matthews, 1961: 96). As one who gave a mighty boost to the revolution when he reported on the front page of the Times that Fidel Castro was alive and well in the Sierra Maestra, and who thereafter forged a strong bond with Castro, Matthews argued that “Castro did not originally want to become tied up with the communists…. he was trapped in 1959-60 by…the massive pressures against him from the United States policies….” (Matthews, 1961: 96).
To this day, analysts on the Left maintain that Castro was not originally a Communist but a nationalist who became a Communist in response to the unwarranted hostility of the Eisenhower administration to his revolution and to his regime. A key point in their argument, and an unassailable one, is that Castro was not a member of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP). Moreover, he had a long history of antagonistic relations with the Party.
The evaluation of our response to the Castro regime remains of interest and significance and not only to historians, for similar questions tend to reappear again and again in new guises. Did the United States push the Sandinistas into the arms of the Communists? Witness the new book by Robert Pastor – Condemned to Repetition: The United States and Nicaragua – in which it is suggested that the Carter and Reagan administrations are, in dealing with Nicaragua, merely repeating the mistakes of the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations in dealing with Cuba (1987).” ~Alan H. Luxenberg Source: Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Spring, 1988), pp. 37-71) http://www.jstor.org/stable/165789?origin=JSTOR-pdf
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Imperialism – The Enemy of Freedom
Senator John F Kennedy July 2, 1957
Mr. KENNEDY: “Mr. President, the most powerful single force in the world today is neither communism nor capitalism, neither the H-bomb nor the guided missile it is man’s eternal desire to be free and independent. The great enemy of that tremendous force of freedom is called, for want of a more precise term, imperialism – and today that means Soviet imperialism and, whether we like it or not, and though they are not to be equated, Western imperialism.
Thus the single most important test of American foreign policy today is how we meet the challenge of imperialism, what we do to further man’s desire to be free. On this test more than any other, this Nation shall be critically judged by the uncommitted millions in Asia and Africa, and anxiously watched by the still hopeful lovers of freedom behind the Iron Curtain. If we fail to meet the challenge of either Soviet or Western imperialism, then no amount of foreign aid, no aggrandizement of armaments, no new pacts or doctrines or high-level conferences can prevent further setbacks to our course and to our security.
I am concerned today that we are failing to meet the challenge of imperialism – on both counts – and thus failing in our responsibilities to the free world. I propose, therefore, as the Senate and the Nation prepare to commemorate the 181st anniversary of man’s noblest expression against political repression, to begin a two-part series of speeches, examining America’s role in the continuing struggles for independence that strain today against the forces of imperialism within both the Soviet and Western worlds. My intention is to talk not of general principles, but of specific cases – to propose not partisan criticisms but what I hope will be constructive solutions.
There are many cases of the clash between independence and imperialism in the Soviet world that demand our attention. One, above all the rest, is critically outstanding today – Poland.
The Secretary of State, in his morning news conference, speaking on this subject, suggested that, if people want to do something about the examples of colonialism, they should consider such examples as Soviet-ruled Lithuania and the satellite countries of Czechoslovakia, Poland, and others.
I agree with him. For that reason, within 2 weeks I hope to speak upon an issue which I think stands above all the others; namely, the country of Poland.
There are many cases of the clash between independence and imperialism in the Western World that demand our attention. But again, one, above all the rest, is critically outstanding today – Algeria.
I shall speak this afternoon of our failures and of our future in Algeria and north Africa – and I shall speak of Poland in a later address to this body.”
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In 1957 Kennedy was already the “radical” visionary that became president in 1960.~WW
JFK: ORDEAL IN AFRICA
By Richard D. Mahoney
In July 1960, John F. Kennedy received a letter from Africa congratulating
him on winning the Democratic Party’s nomination for the upcoming American
presidential election. A plea for help accompanied the congratulation.
“Everywhere there are more and more [unintelligible word] Communists! Everywhere
Western prestige has slipped. So for heaven’s sake change the image of America
before its too late!”1 The Democratic nominee had already established a
reputation across Africa as a sympathetic supporter of African nationalism, who
if elected would realign Washington’s priorities toward the continent. Once in
office, Kennedy indeed made changing the image of America in the Third World a
top priority of his administration.
-Introduction by Philip E. Muehlenbeck
By 1958 Kennedy had become the chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations
African subcommittee and continually pressed the White House with the importance
of initiating contact with African nationalist leaders. “Call it nationalism,
call it anti-colonialism, call it what you will, the word is out and spreading
like wildfire in nearly a thousand languages and dialects – that it is no longer
necessary to remain forever in bondage.”15 “After all,” Kennedy mused, “it was in
our schools that some of the most renowned African leaders learned…the virtues of
representative government, widespread education, and economic opportunity. These
are the ideas and ideals that have caused a revolution.”
–JFK: ORDEAL IN AFRICA – http://www.jmu.edu/history/mhr/wm_library/2004_-_1_Philip_E._Muehlenbeck.pdf
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JFK’s Embrace of Third World Nationalists
November 25, 2013
Exclusive: The intensive media coverage of the half-century anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s murder was long on hype and emotion but short on explaining how revolutionary JFK’s foreign policy was in his extraordinary support for Third World nationalists, as Jim DiEugenio explains.
Who Was Gullion?
The man Kennedy chose to be his ambassador to Congo was Edmund Gullion, who was the one who had altered Kennedy’s consciousness about Third World nationalism. There are some writers who would maintain that perhaps no other person had as much influence on the evolution of Kennedy’s foreign policy thinking as did Gullion. Yet, Gullion’s name is not in the index to either of Dallek’s books on Kennedy.
Edmund Gullion entered the State Department in the late 1930s. His first assignment was to Marseilles, France, where he became fluent in the French language and was then transferred to French Indochina during France’s struggle to re-colonize the area after World War II.
Kennedy briefly met Gullion in Washington in the late 1940s when the aspiring young politician needed some information for a speech on foreign policy. In 1951, when the 34-year-old congressman flew into Saigon, he decided to look up Gullion. In the midst of France’s long and bloody war to take back Indochina, one that then had been going on for five years, Gullion’s point of view was unique among American diplomats and jarringly candid.
As Thurston Clarke described the rooftop restaurant meeting, Gullion told Kennedy that France could never win the war. Ho Chi Minh had inspired tens of thousands of Viet Minh to the point they would rather die than return to a state of French colonialism. France could never win a war of attrition like that, because the home front would not support it.
This meeting had an immediate impact on young Kennedy. When he returned home, he began making speeches that highlighted these thoughts which were underscored by the Viet Minh’s eventual defeat of the French colonial forces in 1954. In criticizing the U.S. Establishment’s view of these anti-colonial struggles, Kennedy did not play favorites. He criticized Democrats as well as Republicans who failed to see that the United States had to have a positive appeal to the Third World. There had to be something more than just anti-communism.
For instance, in a speech Kennedy gave during the 1956 presidential campaign for Adlai Stevenson, the then-Massachusetts senator said: “The Afro-Asian revolution of nationalism, the revolt against colonialism, the determination of people to control their national destinies. … In my opinion, the tragic failure of both Republican and Democratic administrations since World War II to comprehend the nature of this revolution, and its potentialities for good and evil, had reaped a bitter harvest today — and it is by rights and by necessity a major foreign policy campaign issue that has nothing to do with anti-communism.”
By Jim DiEugenio