The History of American Foreign Policy Series Part 1

In view of the United States’ participation in current world events, a brief history of U.S. Foreign Policy seemed in order. This is the first installment of a three part series. Enjoy!

As the reins of power changed hands in America, so did the approaches to the Cold War. Harry Truman’s successor, Dwight Eisenhower, began his Presidency at one of the most contentious times in the world’s history. Under Truman’s rule, the objectives were passive aggressive in nature because the goal was to contain the Soviet Union’s influences. However, Eisenhower held more aggressive designs. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles redefined America’s foreign policy as massive retaliation during the Eisenhower years.

Harry Truman
Harry Truman

Likewise, Eisenhower believed a strong military presence would enhance U.S. influence abroad. His belief in the military notwithstanding, Dwight Eisenhower saw himself as a man of peace and sincerely believed that the employment of military force should play a relatively minor role in the implementation of U.S. foreign policy. Furthermore, his goal was to not just prevent the spread of communism, but to also build such a deterring stockpile of nuclear weapons that the Soviets would retreat from their plans of world domination and instead, allow America to proceed and implement its own version of world order. Ironically, it would be Eisenhower who would later warn the nation of political contributions later reciprocated by excessive military spending in the “iron triangle.”

Dwight Eisenhower warned the nation of the dangers of political approval of military spending.
Dwight Eisenhower warned the nation of the dangers of political approval of military spending.

Highly convicted and determined, Eisenhower believed these exceedingly, destructive weapons made military and economic sense. In the end, his desire to strengthen the U.S.’s military force only exacerbated tensions with the Soviets. By projecting strength, confidence, and trust, Eisenhower’s firmness in foreign affairs placed the United States on a collision course with the Soviet Union.

Dwight Eisenhower
Dwight Eisenhower

Surprisingly, the threat of communism in America hit close to home by way of Cuba and was handled poorly by U.S. leaders. Originally, Eisenhower developed a covert operation to eliminate Cuba’s leader Fidel Castro. In short, Eisenhower’s covert operation required the CIA to train 1,400 Cuban insurgents hoping the loathing hatred the newly trained rebels had for Castro would fuel their efforts in overthrowing the regime and propel them to victory. Luckily for Eisenhower, his term as POTUS ended before the fiasco began.

John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy

Whereas, a young newly elected President John F. Kennedy oblivious to the entire ordeal inherited the ill prepared mission. Unfortunately, Kennedy blinked under pressure and abandoned his operatives. When the insurgents landed at the Bay of Pigs, as this disaster is so aptly named, JFK considered the Soviet “blow-back” and decided it was not a good way to christen his Presidency.

John F, Kennedy
John F, Kennedy

Lacking confidence in a plan that was not his own, Kennedy quickly canceled American reinforcements and as a result the plan failed leaving 300 insurgents dead. Castro’s tanks and guns captured the remaining dissidents in this epic failure called the Bay of Pigs, which was nothing short of an embarrassment for America in the eyes of the world. A New York Times editorial stated: “we looked like fools to our friends, rascals to our enemies, and incompetents to the rest”.

Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro

Approximately one year later, the young President Kennedy was tested yet again. His ambivalence during the Bay of Pigs signaled weakness to the Soviet Premier Khrushchev, who decided to test JFK’s nerve again. At that time, the U.S. had missiles in Turkey that were old and fairly useless, but were relatively close the the Soviet Union. Not to be out done, an eager Khrushchev approved the construction of missile sites in Cuba. Considering, the U.S. had been conducting military exercises on several islands nearby, the Russian Premier believe missile sites were good deterrents for further American invasions.

Nikita Krushchev
Nikita Krushchev

Fortunately,this time, Kennedy responded decisively and made an executive decision to block access to Cuba and prevent the Soviet’s from implementing their plan of intimidation. Cool and unwavering, Kennedy did not hesitate as he had done before. He was calm, patient and had even given the Soviets room to retreat. He had not rubbed salt in their wounds, and had allowed them to back away from confrontation. Even though the Soviet Union had gained major concession, the Kennedy administration heralded the engagement as a major victory. This event was called the Cuban Missile Crisis and actually quelled some tensions of the Cold War.

Fidel Castro And Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev
Fidel Castro And Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev

Consequently, the incident momentarily improved the relations between the two nations. For the first time, the Kremlin and the White House established a permanent “hotline” for direct communication. Kennedy called his actions “one hell of a gamble,” and it represented the most dangerous moment of the Cold War. In an address, Kennedy later explained the nature of the crisis and the need for the two super powers to be more conscious and responsible for their actions. We no longer live in a world where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation’s security to constitute maximum peril. Nuclear weapons are so destructive and ballistic missiles are so swift that any substantially increased possibility of their use or any sudden change in their deployment may well be regarded as a definite threat to peace. Kennedy understood the importance of peace.

Kennedy addresses nation after Cuban Missile Crisis
Kennedy addresses nation after Cuban Missile Crisis

This legislation reiterated the need for the use of extreme caution by America’s leaders. It is the purpose of this joint resolution to fulfill the intent of the framers of the Constitution of the United States and insure that the collective judgment of both the Congress and the President will apply to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicate by the circumstances, and to the continued use of such forces in hostilities or in such situations. Which is still relevant today as illustrated by the current U.S. President Barack Obama.

References

American History Series TO BE CONTINUED ON SEPTEMBER 27, 2013

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