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Douglas Caddy

JFK vs. The Military

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Posted on Facebook on Feb. 24, 2016 by Myra Bronstein:

JFK's Prime Task Was Bringing The Military Under Control

Excerpts from JFK vs. the Military, Robert Dallek, The Atlantic:

"By persuading the Soviet leader to remove missiles from Fidel Castro’s Cuba and agree to a ban on nuclear tests in the atmosphere, underwater, and in outer space, Kennedy avoided a nuclear war and kept radioactive fallout from the air and the oceans, thereby earning the country’s enduring regard for his effectiveness as a crisis manager and negotiator. But less recognized is how much both of these agreements rested on Kennedy’s ability to rein in and sidestep his own military chiefs.

From the start of his presidency, Kennedy feared that the Pentagon brass would overreact to Soviet provocations and drive the country into a disastrous nuclear conflict. The Soviets might have been pleased—or understandably frightened—to know that Kennedy distrusted America’s military establishment almost as much as they did.

Kennedy’s biggest worry about the military was not the personalities involved but rather the freedom of field commanders to launch nuclear weapons without explicit permission from the commander in chief. Ten days after becoming president, Kennedy learned from his national-security adviser, McGeorge Bundy, that “a subordinate commander faced with a substantial Russian military action could start the thermonuclear holocaust on his own initiative.” As Roswell L. Gilpatric, Kennedy’s deputy defense secretary, recalled, “We became increasingly horrified over how little positive control the president really had over the use of this great arsenal of nuclear weapons.”... They regarded Kennedy as reluctant to put the nation’s nuclear advantage to use and thus resisted ceding him exclusive control over decisions about a first strike.

The NATO commander, General Lauris Norstad, and two Air Force generals, Curtis LeMay and Thomas Power, stubbornly opposed White House directives that reduced their authority to decide when to go nuclear.

The 54-year-old LeMay, known as “Old Iron Pants...shared his subordinate’s faith in the untrammeled use of air power to defend the nation’s security. The burly, cigar-chomping caricature of a general believed the United States had no choice but to bomb its foes into submission. In World War II, LeMay had been the principal architect of the incendiary attacks by B‑29 heavy bombers that destroyed a large swath of Tokyo and killed about 100,000 Japanese—and, he was convinced, shortened the war. LeMay had no qualms about striking at enemy cities, where civilians would pay for their governments’ misjudgment in picking a fight with the United States.

During the Cold War, LeMay was prepared to launch a preemptive nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union. He dismissed civilian control of his decision making, complained of an American phobia about nuclear weapons, and wondered privately, “Would things be much worse if Khrushchev were secretary of defense?” Theodore Sorensen, Kennedy’s speechwriter and alter ego, called LeMay “my least favorite human being.”

The strains between the generals and their commander in chief showed up in exasperating ways. When Bundy asked the Joint Chiefs’ staff director for a copy of the blueprint for nuclear war, the general at the other end of the line said, “We never release that.” Bundy explained, “I don’t think you understand. I’m calling for the president and he wants to see [it].” The chiefs’ reluctance was understandable: their Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan foresaw the use of 170 atomic and hydrogen bombs in Moscow alone; the destruction of every major Soviet, Chinese, and Eastern European city; and hundreds of millions of deaths. Sickened by a formal briefing on the plan, Kennedy turned to a senior administration official and said, “And we call ourselves the human race.”

Cuba

The tensions between Kennedy and the military chiefs were equally evident in his difficulties with Cuba. In 1961, having been warned by the CIA and the Pentagon about the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s determination to export communism to other Latin American countries, Kennedy accepted the need to act against Castro’s regime. But he doubted the wisdom of an overt U.S.-sponsored invasion by Cuban exiles, fearing it would undermine the Alliance for Progress, his administration’s effort to curry favor with Latin American republics by offering financial aid and economic cooperation.

The overriding question for Kennedy at the start of his term wasn’t whether to strike against Castro but how. The trick was to topple his regime without provoking accusations that the new administration in Washington was defending U.S. interests at the expense of Latin autonomy. Kennedy insisted on an attack by Cuban exiles that wouldn’t be seen as aided by the United States, a restriction to which the military chiefs ostensibly agreed. They were convinced, however, that if an invasion faltered and the new administration faced an embarrassing defeat, Kennedy would have no choice but to take direct military action. The military and the CIA “couldn’t believe that a new president like me wouldn’t panic and try to save his own face,” Kennedy later told his aide Dave Powers. “Well, they had me figured all wrong.” Meeting with his national-security advisers three weeks before the assault on Cuba’s Bay of Pigs, according to State Department records, Kennedy insisted that leaders of the Cuban exiles be told that “U.S. strike forces would not be allowed to participate in or support the invasion in any way” and that they be asked “whether they wished on that basis to proceed.”When the Cubans said they did, Kennedy gave the final order for the attack.

Afterward, Kennedy accused himself of naïveté for trusting the military’s judgment that the Cuban operation was well thought-out and capable of success. “Those sons of bitches with all the fruit salad just sat there nodding, saying it would work,” Kennedy said of the chiefs. He repeatedly told his wife, “Oh my God, the bunch of advisers that we inherited!” Kennedy concluded that he was too little schooled in the Pentagon’s covert ways and that he had been overly deferential to the CIA and the military chiefs. He later told Schlesinger he had made the mistake of thinking that “the military and intelligence people have some secret skill not available to ordinary mortals.” His lesson: never rely on the experts. Or at least: be skeptical of the inside experts’ advice, and consult with outsiders who may hold a more detached view of the policy in question.

The disaster at the Bay of Pigs intensified Kennedy’s doubts about listening to advisers from the CIA, the Pentagon, or the State Department who had misled him or allowed him to accept lousy advice.

Vietnam

During the early weeks of his presidency, another source of tension between Kennedy and the military chiefs was a small landlocked country in Southeast Asia. Laos looked like a proving ground for Kennedy’s willingness to stand up to the Communists, but he worried that getting drawn into a war in remote jungles was a losing proposition. At the end of April 1961, while he was still reeling from the Bay of Pigs, the Joint Chiefs recommended that he blunt a North Vietnamese–sponsored Communist offensive in Laos by launching air strikes and moving U.S. troops into the country via its two small airports. Kennedy asked the military chiefs what they would propose if the Communists bombed the airports after the U.S. had flown in a few thousand men. “You [drop] a bomb on Hanoi,” Robert Kennedy remembered them replying, “and you start using atomic weapons!” In these and other discussions, about fighting in North Vietnam and China or intervening elsewhere in Southeast Asia, Lemnitzer promised, “If we are given the right to use nuclear weapons, we can guarantee victory.” By Schlesinger’s account, President Kennedy dismissed this sort of thinking as absurd: “Since [Lemnitzer] couldn’t think of any further escalation, he would have to promise us victory.”

The clash with Admiral Burke, tensions over nuclear-war planning, and the bumbling at the Bay of Pigs convinced Kennedy that a primary task of his presidency was to bring the military under strict control. Articles in Time and Newsweek that portrayed Kennedy as less aggressive than the Pentagon angered him. He told his press secretary, Pierre Salinger, “This xxxx has got to stop.”

Still, Kennedy couldn’t ignore the pressure to end Communist control of Cuba. He wasn’t ready to tolerate Castro’s government and its avowed objective of exporting socialism to other Western Hemisphere countries. He was willing to entertain suggestions for ending Castro’s rule as long as the Cuban regime demonstrably provoked a U.S. military response or as long as Washington’s role could remain concealed. To meet Kennedy’s criteria, the Joint Chiefs endorsed a madcap plan called Operation Northwoods. It proposed carrying out terrorist acts against Cuban exiles in Miami and blaming them on Castro, including physically attacking the exiles and possibly destroying a boat loaded with Cubans escaping their homeland. The plan also contemplated terrorist strikes elsewhere in Florida, in hopes of boosting support domestically and around the world for a U.S. invasion. Kennedy said no.

The events that became the Cuban missile crisis triggered Americans’ fears of a nuclear war, and McNamara shared Kennedy’s concerns about the military’s casual willingness to rely on nuclear weapons. “The Pentagon is full of papers talking about the preservation of a ‘viable society’ after nuclear conflict,” McNamara told Schlesinger. “That ‘viable society’ phrase drives me mad … A credible deterrent cannot be based on an incredible act.”

The October 1962 missile crisis widened the divide between Kennedy and the military brass. The chiefs favored a full-scale, five-day air campaign against the Soviet missile sites and Castro’s air force, with an option to invade the island afterward if they thought necessary. The chiefs, responding to McNamara’s question about whether that might lead to nuclear war, doubted the likelihood of a Soviet nuclear response to any U.S. action. And conducting a surgical strike against the missile sites and nothing more, they advised, would leave Castro free to send his air force to Florida’s coastal cities—an unacceptable risk.

“These brass hats have one great advantage,” Kennedy told his longtime aide Kenny O’Donnell. “If we … do what they want us to do, none of us will be alive later to tell them that they were wrong.”

Cold War

In the wake of the missile crisis, Kennedy and Khrushchev both reached the sober conclusion that they needed to rein in the nuclear arms race. Kennedy’s announced quest for an arms-control agreement with Moscow rekindled tensions with his military chiefs—specifically, over a ban on testing nuclear bombs anywhere but underground. In June 1963, the chiefs advised the White House that every proposal they had reviewed for such a ban had shortcomings “of major military significance.” A limited test ban, they warned, would erode U.S. strategic superiority; later, they said so publicly in congressional testimony.

The following month, as the veteran diplomat W. Averell Harriman prepared to leave for Moscow to negotiate a nuclear-test ban, the chiefs privately called such a step at odds with the national interest. Kennedy saw them as a treaty’s greatest domestic impediment. “If we don’t get the chiefs just right,” he told Mike Mansfield, the Senate majority leader, “we can … get blown.” To quiet their objections to Harriman’s mission, Kennedy promised them a chance to speak their minds in Senate hearings should a treaty emerge for ratification, even as he instructed them to consider more than military factors. Meanwhile, he made sure to exclude military officers from Harriman’s delegation, and decreed that the Department of Defense—except for Maxwell Taylor—receive none of the cables reporting developments in Moscow.

“The first thing I’m going to tell my successor,” Kennedy told guests at the White House, “is to watch the generals, and to avoid feeling that just because they were military men, their opinions on military matters were worth a damn.”

Persuading the military chiefs to refrain from attacking the test-ban treaty in public required intense pressure from the White House and the drafting of treaty language permitting the United States to resume testing if it were deemed essential to national safety. LeMay, however, testifying before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, could not resist planting doubts: Kennedy and McNamara had promised to keep testing nuclear weaponry underground and to continue research and development in case circumstances changed, he said, but they had not discussed “whether what [the chiefs] consider an adequate safeguard program coincides with their idea on the subject.” The Senate decisively approved the treaty nonetheless.

This gave Kennedy yet another triumph over a cadre of enemies more relentless than the ones he faced in Moscow. The president and his generals suffered a clash of worldviews, of generations—of ideologies, more or less—and every time they met in battle, JFK’s fresher way of fighting prevailed."

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/08/jfk-vs-the-military/309496/

Edited by Douglas Caddy

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W. Averell Harriman was tasked with negotiating the Limited Test Ban Treaty after John J. McCloy refused to participate. McCloy wanted a comprehensive treaty that was, McCloy felt at the time, available to the World after the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I personally believe this may be the single biggest contributor to the ultimate death of Kennedy.

I cannot seem to shake a feeling that there is a tie to the failure of the first Limited Test Ban Treaty that was to be signed at the Paris Summit, the U-2 incident that led to the failure of the Paris Summit, to Lee Harvey Oswald's defection to Soviet Union and the downing of the U-2. All may coincide with John J. McCloy's disdain for both treaties.

Jim Root

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W. Averell Harriman was tasked with negotiating the Limited Test Ban Treaty after John J. McCloy refused to participate. McCloy wanted a comprehensive treaty that was, McCloy felt at the time, available to the World after the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I personally believe this may be the single biggest contributor to the ultimate death of Kennedy.

I cannot seem to shake a feeling that there is a tie to the failure of the first Limited Test Ban Treaty that was to be signed at the Paris Summit, the U-2 incident that led to the failure of the Paris Summit, to Lee Harvey Oswald's defection to Soviet Union and the downing of the U-2. All may coincide with John J. McCloy's disdain for both treaties.

Jim Root

sometimes i think that the U-2 affair was a joint soviet-american hardliner project.

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That is a very interesting thesis Mr. Root.

But the problem is its hard to get good information on the actual facts about the U2 shoot down.

After doing some reading on it, and looking at the different interpretations of the raw material, I came to the conclusion that somehow there was an attempt to disguise the whole thing, from the American side especially. This goes even as far as Oswald's role in it, including whether he was on hand for one of Power's appearances in pubic in Moscow.

Edited by James DiEugenio

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Posted on Facebook on Feb. 24, 2016 by Myra Bronstein:

JFK's Prime Task Was Bringing The Military Under Control

Excerpts from JFK vs. the Military, Robert Dallek, The Atlantic:

"By persuading the Soviet leader to remove missiles from Fidel Castro’s Cuba and agree to a ban on nuclear tests in the atmosphere, underwater, and in outer space, Kennedy avoided a nuclear war and kept radioactive fallout from the air and the oceans, thereby earning the country’s enduring regard for his effectiveness as a crisis manager and negotiator. But less recognized is how much both of these agreements rested on Kennedy’s ability to rein in and sidestep his own military chiefs.

From the start of his presidency, Kennedy feared that the Pentagon brass would overreact to Soviet provocations and drive the country into a disastrous nuclear conflict. The Soviets might have been pleased—or understandably frightened—to know that Kennedy distrusted America’s military establishment almost as much as they did.

Kennedy’s biggest worry about the military was not the personalities involved but rather the freedom of field commanders to launch nuclear weapons without explicit permission from the commander in chief. Ten days after becoming president, Kennedy learned from his national-security adviser, McGeorge Bundy, that “a subordinate commander faced with a substantial Russian military action could start the thermonuclear holocaust on his own initiative.” As Roswell L. Gilpatric, Kennedy’s deputy defense secretary, recalled, “We became increasingly horrified over how little positive control the president really had over the use of this great arsenal of nuclear weapons.”... They regarded Kennedy as reluctant to put the nation’s nuclear advantage to use and thus resisted ceding him exclusive control over decisions about a first strike.

The NATO commander, General Lauris Norstad, and two Air Force generals, Curtis LeMay and Thomas Power, stubbornly opposed White House directives that reduced their authority to decide when to go nuclear.

The 54-year-old LeMay, known as “Old Iron Pants...shared his subordinate’s faith in the untrammeled use of air power to defend the nation’s security. The burly, cigar-chomping caricature of a general believed the United States had no choice but to bomb its foes into submission. In World War II, LeMay had been the principal architect of the incendiary attacks by B‑29 heavy bombers that destroyed a large swath of Tokyo and killed about 100,000 Japanese—and, he was convinced, shortened the war. LeMay had no qualms about striking at enemy cities, where civilians would pay for their governments’ misjudgment in picking a fight with the United States.

During the Cold War, LeMay was prepared to launch a preemptive nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union. He dismissed civilian control of his decision making, complained of an American phobia about nuclear weapons, and wondered privately, “Would things be much worse if Khrushchev were secretary of defense?” Theodore Sorensen, Kennedy’s speechwriter and alter ego, called LeMay “my least favorite human being.”

The strains between the generals and their commander in chief showed up in exasperating ways. When Bundy asked the Joint Chiefs’ staff director for a copy of the blueprint for nuclear war, the general at the other end of the line said, “We never release that.” Bundy explained, “I don’t think you understand. I’m calling for the president and he wants to see [it].” The chiefs’ reluctance was understandable: their Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan foresaw the use of 170 atomic and hydrogen bombs in Moscow alone; the destruction of every major Soviet, Chinese, and Eastern European city; and hundreds of millions of deaths. Sickened by a formal briefing on the plan, Kennedy turned to a senior administration official and said, “And we call ourselves the human race.”

Cuba

The tensions between Kennedy and the military chiefs were equally evident in his difficulties with Cuba. In 1961, having been warned by the CIA and the Pentagon about the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s determination to export communism to other Latin American countries, Kennedy accepted the need to act against Castro’s regime. But he doubted the wisdom of an overt U.S.-sponsored invasion by Cuban exiles, fearing it would undermine the Alliance for Progress, his administration’s effort to curry favor with Latin American republics by offering financial aid and economic cooperation.

The overriding question for Kennedy at the start of his term wasn’t whether to strike against Castro but how. The trick was to topple his regime without provoking accusations that the new administration in Washington was defending U.S. interests at the expense of Latin autonomy. Kennedy insisted on an attack by Cuban exiles that wouldn’t be seen as aided by the United States, a restriction to which the military chiefs ostensibly agreed. They were convinced, however, that if an invasion faltered and the new administration faced an embarrassing defeat, Kennedy would have no choice but to take direct military action.

The above JFK fan-fiction is factually incorrect.

It was well understood before BOP D-day that under no circumstances would Kennedy order direct US military involvement.

The Pentagon understood this, the CIA understood this, the State Dept. understood this, the National Security Council understood this, and JFK understood this.

It was a consensus decision as this memo shows:

https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1961-63v10/d66

<quote on, emphasis added>

On March 16, 1961, CIA officials outlined for President Kennedy the revisions to the Zapata plan that the President had called for on the previous day. The President's appointment book indicates that the meeting took place in the White House from 4:15 to 5:23 p.m. The meeting was attended by Vice President Johnson, McNamara, Rusk, Mann, Berle, Dulles, Bissell, McGeorge Bundy, William Bundy, and Gray. (Kennedy Library, President's Appointment Book) Although not listed in the appointment book, it is clear from his subsequent debriefing on the meeting that Admiral Burke also attended. According to Gray's notes on the meeting:

“At meeting with the President, CIA presented revised concepts for the landing at Zapata wherein there would be air drops at first light with the landing at night and all of the ships away from the objective area by dawn. The President decided to go ahead with the Zapata planning; to see what we could do about increasing support to the guerrillas inside the country; to interrogate one member of the force to determine what he knows; and he reserved the right to call off the plan even up to 24 hours prior to the landing.” (Summary notes prepared on May 9, 1961, by General Gray; Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, Subjects, Taylor Report)

On March 17 Admiral Burke provided the JCS with additional details about the discussion of the revised Zapata plan. According to Burke, the President wanted to know what the consequences would be if the operation failed. He asked Burke how he viewed the operation's chance of success. Burke indicated that he had given the President a probability figure of about 50 percent. President Kennedy also inquired what would happen if it developed after the invasion that the Cuban exile force were pinned down and being slaughtered on the beach. If they were to be re-embarked, the President wanted to know where they could be taken. According to Burke's account of the meeting: “It was decided they would not be re-embarked because there was no place to go. Once they were landed they were there.” In the course of the discussion, it was emphasized that the plan was dependent on a general uprising in Cuba, and that the entire operation would fail without such an uprising. (Review of Record of Proceedings Related to Cuban Situation, May 5; Naval Historical Center, Area Files, Bumpy Road Materials)

<quote off>

The Zapata operation was a 50-50 proposition reduced to zero chance of success by the failure of 8 camouflaged B-26s to take out all of Castro's air force D-day-2.

The operation should have been called off then -- Friday night -- but Rusk and everyone else let it go on.

The military and the CIA “couldn’t believe that a new president like me wouldn’t panic and try to save his own face,” Kennedy later told his aide Dave Powers. “Well, they had me figured all wrong.”

This is a totally self-serving remark by an adept politician who didn't take responsibility for not calling off the operation Friday night given the initial failure to knock out Castro's planes.

Meeting with his national-security advisers three weeks before the assault on Cuba’s Bay of Pigs, according to State Department records, Kennedy insisted that leaders of the Cuban exiles be told that “U.S. strike forces would not be allowed to participate in or support the invasion in any way” and that they be asked “whether they wished on that basis to proceed.”When the Cubans said they did, Kennedy gave the final order for the attack.

Right. It was completely understood by all parties that there would be no direct US involvement.

Admiral Burke called Kennedy during the operation to offer an air craft carrier to support the invasion but this face-saving gesture was turned down.

Deputy CIA director Charles Cabell called Kennedy at 4am the morning of D-day to beg for direct US support but this face-saving gesture was also turned down.

Kennedy didn't "stand up" to the Pentagon -- he stood up for the policy of non-intervention to which they all had agreed, including the Pentagon and CIA.

Afterward, Kennedy accused himself of naïveté for trusting the military’s judgment that the Cuban operation was well thought-out and capable of success. “Those sons of bitches with all the fruit salad just sat there nodding, saying it would work,” Kennedy said of the chiefs. He repeatedly told his wife, “Oh my God, the bunch of advisers that we inherited!” Kennedy concluded that he was too little schooled in the Pentagon’s covert ways and that he had been overly deferential to the CIA and the military chiefs. He later told Schlesinger he had made the mistake of thinking that “the military and intelligence people have some secret skill not available to ordinary mortals.” His lesson: never rely on the experts. Or at least: be skeptical of the inside experts’ advice, and consult with outsiders who may hold a more detached view of the policy in question.

The disaster at the Bay of Pigs intensified Kennedy’s doubts about listening to advisers from the CIA, the Pentagon, or the State Department who had misled him or allowed him to accept lousy advice.

The State Department was the heavy in the failure of the BOP.

It was Rusk who complained to Kennedy about the Cuban plans as soon as he took office.

It was Rusk who complained about the size of the "false flag" air fleet which failed to take out Castro's air force after Rusk got Kennedy to cut it in half.

When the D-day -2 attack on Castro's planes failed to take them all out -- the BOP mission was doomed.

Kennedy should have recognized this fact and cancelled the mission himself, but Rusk gave it the go ahead.

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Cliff,


Your link and post are interesting. So to summarize, the administration from the outset never planned to send the military in and perhaps almost called off the whole thing, if not for Rusk wanting to go ahead with the BOP?


Also, I'm curious, but what do you mean by "face-saving?" I'm not defending Kennedy here, but if a group of people are sitting around planning something and it blows up in their faces, someone in the group has to take the fall and there's definitely going to be finger pointing. Kennedy was just two months into his administration when the plans for BOP were shown to him. Perhaps he knew about if before he was elected, perhaps not.


Hindsight for all of us is 20/20, but coming up with a plan to overthrow a tiny country sounds like a pretty dumb thing to do, but they went ahead with it anyway. At the same time, didn't he get up in front of the country and take the blame for the failure of it?

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One wonders what the hell the desired long-term strategy in SE Asia could have been, and how it may have changed over time. LBJ refused to use nuclear weapons - and advertised it in his TV commercial against Goldwater. As a last resort in the peace talks, Nixon held the threat over Hanoi's heads with his "madman strategy," but in his last days suffered staffers alerting the military to refuse any nuclear orders by the president. Neither successor seems to have been prodded and goaded into nuclear action by the military, as was JFK.

The common wisdom is that Vietnam was planned as a ten year ground-air war that would profit the defense industry and allow the US to leech resources, including opium, out of SE Asia. How does the LeMay-Lemnitzer nuclear quick victory fit into that strategy? There are times when it seems that the JSOC were as much off the track of the financial objectives as JFK was. If the money powers wanted an Orwellian state of constant war for constant profit, the JSOC in the Kennedy admin seemed bent on repeating the conclusive defeats they inflicted in WW II.

+++++

(Edit: Two days later.) Was all the nuclear strategy by the JSOC a series of feints intended to get Kennedy to commit to conventional ground-air war?

Edited by David Andrews

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Cliff,
Your link and post are interesting. So to summarize, the administration from the outset never planned to send the military in and perhaps almost called off the whole thing, if not for Rusk wanting to go ahead with the BOP?

Yes the administration never intended to commit US forces but I don't see any indication the Zapata operation was

almost called off.

It should have been called off D-day-2 when the half-fleet of disguised B-26s failed to take out all of Castro's planes.

W. Averell Harriman blamed Rusk for not calling it off.

Also, I'm curious, but what do you mean by "face-saving?"
Actions taken for purposes of appearance in an attempt to appease an aggrieved constituency.

Dep DCI Charles Cabell called Kennedy at 4am the morning of D-day not with any hope of getting the President to

contravene established US policy, but so he could tell his people that he did his best.

I'm not defending Kennedy here, but if a group of people are sitting around planning something and it blows up in their faces, someone in the group has to take the fall and there's definitely going to be finger pointing.
I suspect that was the point of the whole exercise.
Allen Dulles had enemies, men who'd been trying for years to get him fired from the CIA.
Is it a co-incidence that two of Dulles' top opponents were Robert Lovett and Joe Kennedy a/k/a JFK's kitchen cabinet?
Dean Rusk and McGeorge Bundy owed their jobs to Lovett and Joe Sr.
The primary consequence of the failed Operation Zapata was the firing of Dulles, Cabell and Richard Bissell.
Why assume that wasn't the primary intended consequence once Dean Rusk took over State?
Kennedy was just two months into his administration when the plans for BOP were shown to him. Perhaps he knew about if before he was elected, perhaps not.
Hindsight for all of us is 20/20, but coming up with a plan to overthrow a tiny country sounds like a pretty dumb thing to do, but they went ahead with it anyway. At the same time, didn't he get up in front of the country and take the blame for the failure of it?
Generally speaking, yes. But I've never seen a quote where he cops to failing to call the whole thing off himself Friday night, D-day-2.
Edited by Cliff Varnell

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Dallek is a really bad source on JFK's foreign policy to start with.

He wrote two books that supposedly dealt with the subject. The second one is the one quoted above.

Dallek is kind of like the NY Times official biographer of JFK simply because his books are so shabby and shallow.

One of the most shocking things about his work is that in about 1400 pages of text on Kennedy, he never once mentions his meeting with Edmund Gullion in Saigon in 1951. In my opinion, and the opinion of writers like Thurston Clarke, and Richard Mahoney, and Philip Muelhenbeck, if it were not for that meeting, Kennedy's foreign policy would not have been what it was, that is a reversal of Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles.

Kennedy never forgot Gullion, and when he became president, he brought him into the White House. He ended up being the point man on Congo in 1963 for the UN intervention there. No surprise, he left in 1964 when he saw what Johnson was up to in Africa.

Dallek is an MSM hack on Kennedy.

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