Research Paper: Cold War and JFK

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[. . .] American foreign policy was not the sole responsibility of the U.S. President. The CIA had essentially been operating in numerous countries and pulling strings long before Kennedy arrived and it had no intention of stopping with Kennedy in office. These were like two different wings of the same government—and they were neither aligned nor even on the same page. Kennedy and the CIA, by 1963, were pursuing entirely different aims—and that was part of the problem for other nations. The President might say one thing (or, as in Kennedy’s case, two things—as he often felt the need to satisfy both extremes of his country, the conservative hawkish crowd and the dovish liberal crowd), but the other half of the government—the covert operations half—would demonstrate another entirely (Weiner, 2007). This was why nothing positive came out of the Vienna Summit. Kennedy himself concluded that it was a failure, and he had to accept responsibility for this as he had not gotten his own government totally under control.

And though Kennedy would go on to continue to demonstrate to different attitudes when it came to his stance towards the Soviet Union (calling for peace, for example, at American University weeks before embarrassing the Soviets on the world stage with his speech at the Berlin Wall in 1963), he still pursued his main objective of disarmament. The problem was that the CIA also continued to pursue its aims of covert operations, regime change, destabilization, and espionage. The Bay of Pigs Incident was not an isolated one, and the fact that it had led directly to the Cuban Missile Crisis was an example of how CIA activity caused escalation to occur.

And that was why Kennedy’s and the U.S.’s relationship with the Soviets over Berlin was so strained. The Soviets did not trust America or Western influence and it was trying to operate a command economy. It needed total control over its area of influence and it could not tolerate Western agencies interfering—thus the wall went up in Berlin, the point where East and West diverged in the post-War world. Kennedy’s relationship with West Berliners was good—especially considering his 1963 speech, which showed that he not only supported their plight but that he also identified as a Berliner. He indicated that their city was a symbol of the need to stand up for freedom and democracy. It was a symbol of the two great forces in the world clashing—the Communist force, which wanted total control and isolation, and the American, capitalistic free market, free society force which celebrated liberalism and choice. Kennedy wanted to show his support for the Berliners in 1963, though he was still relatively conflicted in his approach to these issues, as even Khrushchev acknowledged: listening to Kennedy was like listening to two different people—you never knew which would show up, the peace president or the tough, assertive, aggressive president (Stone & Kuznic, 2012).

In conclusion, JFK’s role in the Cold War prior to 1963 was conflicted, just like his rhetoric, and just like his actions in the year of his assassination. He had two different fronts to which he had to appeal—the assertive front, represented by his generals, and the softer, peaceful front, represented by his voters. He himself wanted a safer world, one where the threat of nuclear annihilation was not looming over the heads of one and all—but he was prepared to maintain the status quo if he could not reach an agreement with Khrushchev. Fortunately, they did achieve détente at last—but there was still a long way to go before the Cold War would actually end.

References

Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961–1963, Volume VI, Kennedy-Khrushchev

Exchanges. (1963). Retrieved from https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1961-63v06/d9n

Glass, A. (2009). JFK and Khrushchev meet in Vienna. Retrieved from

https://www.politico.com/story/2009/06/jfk-and-khrushchev-meet-in-vienna-june-3-1961-023278

Stone, O. & Kuznick, P. (2012). The untold history of the United States. NY: Gallery.

Weiner, T. (2007). Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA. NY: Random House. [END OF PREVIEW]

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Cold War and JFK.  (2018, April 30).  Retrieved November 21, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/cold-war-jfk/6070102

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" Cold War and JFK."  30 April 2018.  Web.  21 November 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/cold-war-jfk/6070102>.

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" Cold War and JFK."  Essaytown.com.  April 30, 2018.  Accessed November 21, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/cold-war-jfk/6070102.