Crazy over Cuba

As this important volume demonstrates,  the overriding requirement of the era was not guts but wisdom. On that score, the Kennedys and their lieutenants flunked.

Issue: Winter 1998-1999

U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, vol. X (Cuba, 1961-1962) (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1997), 1120 pages, $57.

Within weeks of coming to power in January 1961, the administration of John F. Kennedy had "changed the face of American foreign policy." Such at least was the view of presidential special assistant, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Indeed, according to Schlesinger, the hallmarks of the new administration--"the soberness of style, the absence of Cold War clichés, the lack of self-righteousness and sermonizing, the impressive combination of reasonableness and firmness, the generosity to new ideas, the dedication to social progress, the tough-minded idealism of purpose"--had transformed America's image abroad. Having awakened from the long national nightmare of the Eisenhower era, the United States was "emerging again as a great, mature, and liberal nation."

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