President Kennedy-Stupid or Evil?

I just listened to NPR-they had a show about the 40th anniversary of the (abortive) “Bay of Pigs” invasion of Cuba. This thing was screwed up from the start-the CIA chose a spot that was surrounded by swamps, and actually turned out to be Castro’s favorite vacation spot! To top things off, the US air cover (fighter planes from the carrier ESSEX) failed to rendezvous with the invasion aircraft (B17s from Nicaragua), because the CIA FAILED TO SYNCHRONIZE the operation! Later, I heard the tape of a conversation between President Kennedy and his brother Bobby (recorded in 1963) wherein they conspired to hide the role of the US Navy from Senator Goldwater’s investigative committee. This was it for me-I never had a very high opinion of Kennedy, but here is comes across a morally bankrupt. And the CIA-how could these fools have screwed up so badly.
So…was pres. Kennedy a complete dunce? And, was the CIA so incompetent? It sounded to me, that a high school student could have come up with a better plan?

My undergraduate political science professor – whose personal politics had a distinctly leftward slant – said that Kennedy was obsessed with going down in history as one of the “great” U.S. presidents. The one thing that seems to make a president “great” is pulling the country through a crisis. Lincoln would not be revered as the “great” president he is today (at least by northerners) if not for the Civil War. FDR would not be revered as “great” today if not for the Great Depression and World War II. So, in shooting for “greatness”, Kennedy went out of his way to find a crisis that he could pull the country through. And what better crisis than having an evil, commie nation (Cuba) right at your back doorstep? He tried to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs (and failed miserably at it) because he thought that defeating Castro would win him a hell of a big laurel in the public eye. Likewise, he let the Cuban missile situation escalate into a crisis, even though he could have nipped it in the bud long before it became a nuclear staring contest with the USSR.

To be fair to JFK the original plan was devised and green lighted by the Eisenhower administration. JFK just changed it to add plausible deniability in case it failed. These changes also made certain it had no chance of working. My vote for the Bay of Pigs is for stupid. I think evil better applies to the assination of Diem. The CIA could rarely be accused of competence, this is just one of the most egregrious examples.

Ah, the good old “any idiot could do better” argument applied to international politics and warfare. Of course we just got a heavy dose of that with the whole Bush and China thing. As it happens, I was just reading about the Cuban Missile Crisis last night, the issues involved were not nearly as simple as Hollywood and your high school history textbook would want you to believe. Honestly, isn’t it slightly absurd to suggest that Kennedy was building major international crises just to bolster his reputation. He knew perfectly well what the stakes were in his climate; I have yet to see any evidence that he was playing around.

First, Kennedy really believed that the US was in a “long twilight struggle” that would literally determine the fate of the human race. It’s easy to sanction morally ahaky actions as justified in the long run when you really believe that “the only rule is to win”.

Secondly, until a long string of embarrassing failures discredited the notion, covert action by our intelligence forces was seen as a politically and militarily “cheap” method of securing American interests around the world. The USSR had used it’s secret police organizations to install communist governments in eastern Europe via various dirty tricks with brutal success following World War 2.

Thirdly, Kennedy did seem to have a taste for the grandiose. His decision in 1961 to send men to the moon (very risky proposition at the time), and his “pay any price, bear any burden” speech come to mind. One oddball theory I’ve read is that Kennedy was suffering from mania as a side effect of cortisone treatments he was having.

And after all is said and done, his true legacy is getting the U.S. involved in the morass that was Vietnam.

It’s either that or double-teaming Marilyn Monroe with his brother :rolleyes:

Can’t you be both stupid and evil? Take a look at the White House right now for proof.