Chapter 30: The Turbulent Sixties, 1960-1969 (#1)


Kennedy Intensifies the Cold War



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Kennedy Intensifies the Cold War

  • John F. Kennedy – was determined to succeed where he believed Eisenhower had failed

    • sought to warn the nation of its peril and lead it to victory in the Cold War

    • gave foreign policy top priority

  • immediate dangers

    • unresolved Berlin crisis

    • developing civil war in Vietnam

    • emergence of Fidel Castro as a Soviet ally in Cuba

    • and his own personal priorities

  • Dean Rusk – an experienced but unassertive diplomat

    • his appointment showed that Kennedy planned to be his own secretary of state

  • Robert McNamara – took over as secretary of defense

    • New Frontiersman – shared a hard-line view of the Soviet Union – belief that American security depended on superior force and the willingness to use it

  • Flexible Response

    • first goal – build up the nation’s armed forces – nuclear striking power

      • augmented conventional military strength

      • $6 billion jump in the defense budget

    • expanded the Special Forces unit at Fort Bragg, North Carolina – insisted they adopt a distinctive green beret as a symbol of its elite status

    • instead of responding to communist movies with nuclear threats, the US could now call on wide spectrum of force – ranging from ICBMs to Green Berets

      • new strategy of flexible response

      • danger was that such a powerful arsenal might tempt the new administration to test its strength against the Soviet Union

  • Crisis Over Berlin

    • first confrontation came in Germany

      • steady flight of skilled workers to the West through the Berlin escape route weakened the East German regime dangerously – Soviets believed they had to resolve this issue quickly

    • Kennedy – called the defense of Berlin “essential” to “the entire Free World”

      • series of arms increases, including $3 billion more in defense spending

      • called more than 150,000 reservists and national guardsmen to active duty

    • Khrushchev – settled for a stalemate

    • Soviets sealed off their zone of the city

      • began the construction of the Berlin Wall - stop the flow of brains & talent to the West

        • Checkpoint Charlie – where the American and Soviet zones met

    • Berlin – like Germany and all of Europe – remained divided between East and the West

  • Containment in Southeast Asia

    • the US and Russia were locked in a struggle for the hearts and minds of the uncommitted in Asia, Africa, and Latin America

    • new policy of nation building

      • financial and technical assistance designed to help Third World nations achieve economic modernization and stable pro-Western governments

        • formation of the idealistic Peace Corps

        • ambitious Alliance for Progress

        • economic aid program for Latin America

    • American decision to back Ngo Dinh Diem – prevented the holding of elections throughout Vietnam in 1956, as called for in the Geneva accords

      • Diem – sought to establish a separate government in the South with large-scale American economic and military assistance

    • the communist government in North Vietnam, led by Ho Chi Minh – was directing the efforts of Vietcong rebels in the South

    • president decided against sending in combat troops in 1961 – he authorized substantial increases in economic aid to Diem

      • number of American advisors in Vietnam grew

      • flow of supplies and the creation of “strategic hamlets” fortified villages designed to protect the peasantry from the Vietcong, slowed the communist momentum

    • Diem – failed to win the support of his own people

      • Buddhist monks set themselves aflame in public protests against him

      • even Diem’s own generals plotted his overthrow

    • the fate of South Vietnam would be determined not by America – but by the Vietnamese

    • Kennedy – raised the stakes by tacitly approving a coup that led to Diem’s overthrow and death on November 1, 1963

      • resulting power vacuum made further American involvement in Vietnam almost certain



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