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To the extent that there is any such thing as a Kennedy doctrine, it is generally described as a commitment to containing communism and preventing its spread. This was, of course, the major thrust of American foreign policy before and after Kennedy. However, it was enunciated quite well in Kennedy’s pledge to “pay any price” and “bear any burden” that might be necessary to protect and advance the cause of freedom.
This relatively absolutist doctrine had advantages and disadvantages in the Cuban Missile Crisis. On the one hand, the doctrine helped to bring about the crisis in the first place. If Kennedy had not been so adamant about preventing anything that even appeared to be an increase in communist power, he might have seen that the Soviets’ move was not really that much of a threat to the US. This might have led to a much less confrontational approach to the situation. On the other hand, once the crisis was in full swing, Kennedy’s determination might have been advantageous in that it allowed him to be very firm in his dealings with Khrushchev. This allowed Kennedy to look like the winner in this episode.
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