“You can’t put lipstick on a pig” describes the reality behind the so-called legend of Camelot and JFK. In “JFK, Warmonger: His foreign policy was worse than George W. Bush’s“, Justin Raimondo removes the lipstick from the proverbial pig.
‘Fifty years is long enough to mold history into mythology, but in the case of John Fitzgerald Kennedy it only took a decade or so. Indeed, long before Lyndon Johnson slunk off into the sunset, driven out of office by antiwar protestors and a rebellion inside his own party, Americans were already nostalgic for the supposedly halcyon days of Camelot. Yet the graceless LBJ merely followed in the footsteps of his glamorous predecessor: the difference, especially in foreign policy, was only in the packaging.
While Kennedy didn’t live long enough to have much of an impact domestically, except in introducing glitz to an office that had previously disdained the appurtenances of Hollywood, in terms of America’s stance on the world stage—where a chief executive can do real damage quickly—his recklessness is nearly unmatched.
As a congressman, Kennedy was a Cold War hardliner, albeit with a “smart” twist. After a 1951 trip to Southeast Asia he said the methods of the colonial French relied too much on naked force: it was necessary, he insisted, to build a political resistance to Communism that relied on the nationalistic sentiment then arising everywhere in what we used to call the Third World. Yet he was no softie. While the Eisenhower administration refused to intervene actively in Southeast Asia, key Democrats in Congress were critical of Republican hesitancy and Kennedy was in the forefront of the push to up the Cold War ante: “Vietnam represents the cornerstone of the Free World in Southeast Asia,” he declared in 1956, “the keystone to the arch, the finger in the dike.”
As Eisenhower neared the end of his second term, Democrats portrayed him as an old man asleep at the wheel. This narrative was given added force by the sudden appearance of a heretofore unheralded “missile gap”—the mistaken belief that the Soviets were out-running and out-gunning us with their ability to strike the United States with intercontinental ballistic missiles.
This storyline was advanced by two signal events: the 1957 launching of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to go into orbit around the earth, and the equally successful testing of a Soviet ICBM earlier that summer. That November, a secret report commissioned by Eisenhower warned that the Soviets were ahead of us in the nuclear-weapons field. The report was leaked, and the media went into a frenzy, with the Washington Post averring the U.S. was in dire danger of becoming “a second class power.” America, the Post declared, stood “exposed to an almost immediate threat from the missile-bristling Soviets.” The nation faced “cataclysmic peril in the face of rocketing Soviet military might.”
The “Gaither Report” speculated that there could be “hundreds” of hidden Soviet ICBMs ready to launch a nuclear first strike on the United States. As we now know, these “hidden” missiles were nonexistent—the Soviets had far fewer than the U.S. at the time. But the Cold War hype was coming fast and thick, and the Democrats pounced—none so hard as Kennedy, who was by then actively campaigning for president. “For the first time since the War of 1812,” he pontificated on the floor of the Senate, “foreign enemy forces potentially had become a direct and unmistakable threat to the continental United States, to our homes and to our people.”
To arms! The Commies are coming!
It was all balderdash. Barely a month after Kennedy was sworn in, this was acknowledged by Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara: there were “no signs of a Soviet crash effort to build ICBMs” he told reporters, and “there is no missile gap today.” Kennedy’s apologists have tried to spin this episode to show that Kennedy was misled. Yet Kennedy was briefed by the CIA in the midst of the 1960 presidential campaign, by which time the CIA’s projection of Soviet ICBMs had fallen from 500 to a mere 36. Kennedy chose to believe much higher Air Force estimates simply because they fit his preconceptions—and were politically useful.‘