John F. Kennedy's Presidency Questions and Answers

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What was Kennedy's policy toward Vietnam? How was such policy consistent with his policy toward Cuba?

President Kennedy believed in the principle of self-determination for all nations, including Vietnam and Cuba, which put him at odds with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his more hawkish advisors. His unwillingness to invade Cuba twice is evidence of this conviction. Whether he would have withdrawn from Vietnam had he lived, as is implied by NSAM 263, or ultimately escalated the conflict, as President Johnson did, will never be known.

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Coming to power during the height of the Cold War in 1960, no one was more cognizant of the importance of anti-communist rhetoric as part of one's public posture than JFK. However, it has become clearer with the passage of time that Kennedy's true convictions were partly hidden for this reason.

But they were also partly in evidence, especially during the failed Bay of Pigs operation in April of 1961 when he remained adamant in his refusal to provide air support for the Cuban 2506 Brigade, since he believed that in doing so, he would drag the United States into a full-scale war with Cuba. More than a year later, he would again refuse to invade during the Cuban Missile Crisis after the Soviet Union had installed nuclear warheads on the island, and the fate of the world hung in the balance.

Kennedy's decision not to invade or take...

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