Kennedy and Flexible Response Research Paper

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Kennedy and Flexible Response

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So many of the issues that plagued the U.S. during our JFK period case study exist now to this day, in fact even more so now. While the negative fallout from Vietnam brought about a curtailment of federal infringements upon civilian constitutional rights and foreign adventures, this has not been the case in the wake of post 9/11 incarnations such as the PATRIOT Act and a general loss in democratic liberties since the Al-Qaeda. Despite reversals in Iraq and Afghanistan, much less fervor and interest have manifested themselves in issues of empire and damage to the constitution. Certainly, to understand such issues, one must know how the government processes of the national security state evolved and remained in the background (despite setbacks to them) to be engaged on and after 9/11 (e.g., continuity of government in a shadow manifestation). These issues and institutions such as the CIA, NSA and covert operations are now more firmly ensconced than ever. Indeed, new security institutions such as the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA raise even new constitutional issues such as secret prisons, detention with trial and preventive detention and a number of other thorny constitutional issues. Indeed, the issues of the Cold War almost look innocent compared to our day. By examining the early days of the national security state and the constitutional issues that it impacted upon, we can better understand the new unfolding tensions with countries such as China and anticipate the constitutional issues (and violations) that are likely to arise in the future.

This author's thesis is that given the current rise in tensions with Russia and China, a similar atmosphere now exists as did in the Cold War. By examining the constitutional issues that existed then, we can prevent or reverse national security curbs on individual constitutional freedoms that are justified in the name of national security.


Research Paper on Kennedy and Flexible Response so Many of Assignment

In this essay, the author will examine the empirical question of whether or not the doctrine of flexible response worked during the Kennedy Administration to respond globally to communist expansion, especially to guerrilla warfare. With the resurgence of Cold War tensions with Russia and China, it would do well to remember earlier days in an earlier Cold War. The central question is whether the tension between America's democratic institutions and its duties as a superpower can be balanced off against each other. In the proposal section, the author will propose a similar examination of the period in the wake of 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to see if the same issues exist now and if we have learned anything, especially with regard to extraordinary impositions upon civilian constitutional rights.

Flexible Response and Constitutional Questions

After World War II ended, two super powers dominated the world system, the U.S. And the U.S.S.R. However, as the 1960s approached, it became clear that the preponderance of the U.S. In nuclear weapons was not enough to deter the U.S.S.R. Regional conflicts such as Korea proved this decisively. For this reason, Kennedy's doctrine of unconventional warfare provided the flexibility to avoid a nuclear World War III. Unfortunately, while it may have averted a nuclear showdown, it ultimately failed with the U.S. loss in the rice paddies of Vietnam which grew from a covert to an overt conflict of the Cold War.

The Cuban Missile Crisis

In 1959, Fidel Castro won his guerrilla war against the Cuban regime of Fulgencio Batista and then put his own dictatorship in place and turned to the U.S.S.R. For arms and aid in rubles (Roskin & Berry & Larson, 2012, 201-202). The failure of the 1961 Bay of Pigs landing convinced Castro that a second attack was virtually inevitable. Thus, he approved Khrushchev's plan to deploy missiles to the island in the summer of 1962. When the U.S. expressed alarm at the deployment in October of 1962, the Russians protested that they were just providing Cuba with a deterrence to more U.S. attacks (Wiersma & Larson, 1997, 1-3).

Kennedy made it clear that the U.S. would retaliate against Russia if the nuclear weapons were not removed. At this time U.S.S.R. backed down, but since the end of the Cold War, the height of the U.S. intelligence failure going into the Missile Crisis. Military intelligence miscalculated that there were 10,000 Soviet troops in Cuba backed up by 100,000 Cubans. However, the Soviets actually had 43,000 combat troops and Castro had called 270,000 Cuban soldiers. D-day of an American invasion would have been made up of 1080 air sorties and 180,000 troops landing on Cuban beaches. Additionally, Khrushchev had also given Soviet generals in Cuba permission to use tactical nuclear weapons on Cuban shores if the Kremlin could not to be reached in the event of war with the U.S. If U.S. forces had invaded, the outnumbered Russians would have used their battlefield nuclear weapons and the U.S. would have retaliated against the U.S.S.R. with nuclear weapons. Thankfully, diplomacy saved the day. On the positive side, it resulted in the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and in the establishment of a hot line between Moscow and Washington to make sure that the lack of direct communication of October, 1962 would never happen again (ibid., 28-29). In the wake of the crisis, the need for a more flexible response in U.S. policy was evident and he now was left with the flexible response option of covert warfare against Castro along with economic embargo (Roskin & Berry, 2012, 202).

The Post Crisis Environment -- the Nexus of Covert Action, the National Security State and Diplomacy

While J.F.K. engaged the Russians on the diplomatic front, he continued warfare against Castro in a covert fashion outside of constitutional boundaries. The administration considered and carried out a number of operations against the Castro regime. A number of these operations have come to light due to the declassification of documents at the National Security Archive at George Washington University from the Kennedy administration due to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. J.F.K did not approve of all of them. Although a part of the U.S. Cuban Project anti-communist initiative, one ridiculous idea that was rejected outright was Operation Northwoods, a planned series of false-flag actions drawn up by the Joint Chief of Staff in 1962 that was meant to be a part the larger Operation Mongoose, which will be explicated below (Lemnitzer, 1962, 5). The proposal called for the CIA to commit acts of terrorism in and out of the U.S. The terrorist acts were to be blamed on Cuba to create public support in the U.S. For a war against the island. The plan was drafted and signed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Lyman Lemnitzer and sent to Secretary of Defense McNamara (ibid., 7-12).

As mentioned above, Northwoods was just one part of Mongoose (the Cuban Project), an ongoing initiative against Castro, of which a number of projects were initiated. After the success of the Cuban Revolution and the adoption of communism by Fidel Castro, the U.S. government was determined to undercut the Cuban government and install one more in line with U.S. policy. A special committee was put together to search for ways to overthrow Fidel Castro after the Bay of Pigs Invasion failed. The committee was part of a Kennedy incentive to keep pressure on communism in Cuba, the nearest communist nation. While it would simply start as an intelligence gathering initiative to improve poor U.S. intelligence gathering procedures, it was meant to begin covert operations as well and begin to function in concert with U.S. economic and diplomatic measures against Cuba (such as actions at the Organization of American States (OAS). The OAS actions were backed up by CIA sponsored demonstrations against Castro throughout Latin America on January 22, 1962. Other actions included sabotage, military actions and activities against Cuban television ("Program review by," 1962). As set out explicitly in the Operation Mongoose memo, the covert action was not just a program by itself, but was a part of the diplomatic strategy and employed covert action as a part of the administration's doctrine of flexible response, elements of which (the embargo against Cuba for instance) are still in effect today against the island nation five decades later. As we shall see in the period after 9/11, the constitutional issues are as well.

Vietnam and the Unraveling of Covert Warfare and Diplomacy

While covert and diplomatic pressure against Cuba have remained constant, the experience in Vietnam experience was to be very different for the administration. In of May 1961, Kennedy deployed 400 Green Beret (U.S. Army Special forces) troops to South Vietnam's Central Highlands to train Montagnard tribesmen in counterinsurgency tactics. J.F.K. additionally tripled the level of military and foreign aid to South Vietnam (Anderson, 1999).

Kennedy believed it was critical to support the South Vietnamese regime as the previous Eisenhower administration had with a small U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) numbering some 740 soldiers who provided training and logistics assistance to… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Kennedy and Flexible Response.  (2012, March 5).  Retrieved April 12, 2021, from

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"Kennedy and Flexible Response."  5 March 2012.  Web.  12 April 2021. <>.

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"Kennedy and Flexible Response."  March 5, 2012.  Accessed April 12, 2021.