2008.01.14: January 14, 2008: Headlines: Vaughn: PCOL Exclusive: Jack Vaughn writes: Inbred Deer in the Fudge Factory
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2008.01.14: January 14, 2008: Headlines: Vaughn: PCOL Exclusive: Jack Vaughn writes: Inbred Deer in the Fudge Factory
Jack Vaughn writes: Inbred Deer in the Fudge Factory
Before President Johnson named Jack Vaughn Peace Corps Director in 1966, Vaughn had spent 15 years in the State Department. Before becoming director, Vaughn had been Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, the single largest bureau in the State Department with more than 600 employees in Washington and 2,000 more abroad in charge of relations with the twenty Latin-American republics as well as Jamaica, Trinidad, and British Guinea. Vaughn's responsibilities also included managing the Alliance for Progress and the office dealing with the Organization of American States. Read an excerpt from Jack Vaughn's unpublished memoirs for an iconoclastic view of American foreign policy towards Latin America in the 1960's under President Kennedy and President Johnson:
Jack Vaughn writes: Inbred Deer in the Fudge Factory
Inbred Deer in the Fudge Factory
Caption: President Kennedy with his Secretary of State, Dean Rusk.
It would rank among the most painful messages President John F. Kennedy would ever receive from a fellow chief of state. Given the source-President Romulo Betancourt of Venezuela-the letter could hardly have been more devastating. It undercut the Alliance for Progress, a highly personalized venture that JFK had rushed into operation to counter Fidel Castro's influence in Latin America. The underlying anger and indignation of the sender were impossible to miss. Betancourt was furious.
Betancourt was denouncing a new brand of Yankee imperialism which he perceived to be colonialism masquerading as an enlightened subsidy to reform most aspects of Latin governments. Beyond its original theory, the Venezuelan leader saw the Alliance for Progress in practice as Kennedy-State Department neo-colonialism-a tyranny of liberal reform.
Betancourt's letter to JFK also called into question both the competence and ethics of the U.S. State Department. (Kennedy, himself, was finding it increasingly easy to agree with the competence part.) So, in effect, an indispensable hemispheric ally was going on record-right in the U.S. President's face-calling his flagship foreign policy project, the Alliance for Progress, a fraud.
But in an attempt to avoid a personal confrontation, Betancourt made it clear that he felt the real culprit was Dean Rusk and Company, not JFK. Still, he must have known that the Alliance for Progress had originated right in the White House. If there was as much arrogance in that program as Betancourt suggested, he should have realized it came at least as much from its grand design (White House) as from its imperial execution (State Department).
For obvious reasons, Betancourt sought to keep his scathing comments to Kennedy out of State Department hands. But at the same time, he had felt it prudent to telegraph his punch to a couple of trusted insider friends. One of these pals was Puerto Rican Governor Luis Munoz Marin, the other, Peace Corps Director, Kennedy in-law, and my boss, R. Sargent Shriver (I was serving as regional Peace Corps director for Latin American at the time).
It was early in 1963, a time when Castro was going for broke in his effort to destabilize the Venezuelan government (his agents were murdering five or six policemen daily in the capital city of Caracas). Venezuela, with its oil and its geographic position, had clearly become international communism's primary target in the hemisphere-once Cuba had been co-opted. Not just Venezuela but Betancourt personally was a prime target of the communist campaign. A few weeks before Shriver and I first met him he had nearly lost both his hands in an assassination attempt.
He knew who his enemies were, how they maneuvered and slithered. After all, he used to be one of them! As a younger man, Betancourt had founded the communist party of Costa Rica, and as a companion piece had married one of the best known communist women in the West. Yet in spite of the Castro-led assault on Venezuela's sovereignty, who was being accused of neo-colonialism? Who was being charged with trying to subvert Venezuelan institutions in the name of imported reform? The U.S. State Department, that's who!
In his handwritten cover note to Shriver, forwarding Betancourt's feisty letter, Munoz had penned "Bravo!" and then "Amen."
Kennedy with Brother-in-Law Sargent Shriver
With these blessings, he urged the President's brother-in-law to deliver the letter personally to JFK without delay. Shriver had immediately passed the letter on to me for a quick translation. He hadn't the slightest premonition of the brutal message it contained. Amazingly, there was no senior figure within the Kennedy administration who could have even read Betancourt's letter-least of all Dick Goodwin, that prideful White House phrase-maker, who had come up with the term and some of the concepts of the "Alliance for Progress." But in the end, Dick's Alliance and his efforts to learn Spanish met the same fate. In fact, Goodwin's Castilian caper can be seen as a perfect metaphor, both for the English-only White House staff and the false start of the Alliance for Progress.
The week after writing the President's defining Alliance speech, Goodwin enrolled in one of those intensive Spanish courses offered by the White House. With fanfare and photographer, budding linguist Goodwin made the classroom scene. There were two other students. After 15 minutes of total immersion, Dick suddenly bolted from the class, never to return. The two remaining students, both secretaries, took advantage of the opportunity to say something practical in Spanish. They were taught the phrase, "See Dick run."
One had only to read the first long sentence of Betancourt's letter to grasp the enormity of the gulf separating the President of Venezuela from the White House. It began:
"Dear Mr. President and Friend: The balance of the letter highlighted the least acceptable features of those all-American models that the State Department was trying to impose: the Alliance for Progress reforms. Virtually all Latin governmental agencies and structures had become targets. Of these, judicial reform turned out to be the most ignored; agrarian reform the most catastrophic, and it is not difficult to see why. Based as it was on a kind of theoretical model of the medium-sized American family farm-multi-crop, balanced, self-sufficient, mechanized, and run by well-educated farmers with ready access to agriculture extension agents, this twentieth century University of Wisconsin model bombed throughout the Hemisphere. And in fact, several countries have yet to recover from bungled agrarian reform efforts perpetrated under the Alliance.
Not since the first Texan and Oklahoman roustabouts landed in my country to steal our oil have the people of Venezuela encountered the degree of arrogance and insensitivity displayed by your State Department economists whose latest mission is to instruct us on how we must manage our society and, more pointedly, reform our sovereign institutions to mirror Anglo-Saxon models."
Halfway through my translation of the Betancourt letter, I nervously alerted Shriver to the drama unfolding on my machine. He would presently read the entire Betancourt letter in disbelief. No need for discussion. Sarge and I prepared to leave for the White House immediately. But first, protocol required a phone call-even for brothers-in-law.
When JFK's appointments secretary gave Sarge the rebuff reserved for category "B" and "C" requests-"The President is tied up for the rest of the day"-my boss became the real Shriver. He coldly advised her that the President's favorite Latin American country had fallen into crisis. He went on to say that the Peace Corps was in possession of highly sensitive new information and he advised the secretary that the President could expect us in the Oval Office within five minutes.
Since the Peace Corps building stood only a short block away from the White House, just north across Lafayette Square, we made it to the President's office in about three minutes. He awaited us in his rocking chair. As Presidents usually do, he seemed bigger than life. He half stood and shook our hands.
Compared with his appearance when I had seen him at a Rose Garden ceremony only a few weeks earlier, he seemed remarkably changed-now thin, pale, and with much redder-looking hair. Further, the President came across as brittle and quite dispirited. We depressed him further, I feel sure.
As was his custom when reading, he nervously tapped an eyetooth with the nail of his forefinger and then with his pencil as he very rapidly skimmed my translation of Betancourt's letter. At the end, he just stared blankly and mumbled something I didn't catch. Slowly shaking his head, the President began to re-read the letter; this time much more deliberately. Finally, looking up and out the window, he said, "Thank Christ, Sahge, at least we've got some Peace Corps down theyah," adding, "Haven't we?"
Shriver responded by stressing how impressed he and I had been both with Betancourt and our early volunteers in Venezuela. Shriver was especially proud of those volunteers serving as university instructors in that Venezuelan Mecca of Marxism, Universidad Central de Caracas. I had been assured by our Embassy that it would be insane to try to place Peace Corps volunteers as instructors at that school-of all universities in Latin American-that it would be tantamount to trying to put them on the faculty of Patrice Lumumba University in Russia. I had relayed the experts' advice to Shriver who reminded me of Indonesian Sukarno's motto in tough times: "Show 'em your teeth, not your tail." President Betancourt agreed with President Sukarno and Sarge.
And against all odds, those Peace Corps instructors of English, American literature and basketball pulled it off. This was Peace Corps at its most daring. This pilot program set a pattern that would help make the Latin American region the Peace Corps' most popular and interesting. And it would keep us head-to-head with the Marxists-which was the challenge of the Ugly American, a 1959 book much taken to heart by American readers and read with delight abroad.
In the process of negotiating Peace Corps projects in Venezuela, President Betancourt had been very impressed with Shriver. Come to think of it, I can't recall any president or foreign minister Sarge ever dealt with who didn't come away feeling Shriver was even more impressive than his illustrious brother-in-law. Among other notable talents, what Sarge had that JFK did not was a professional understanding of how government works. Additionally, although Shriver's management style was a bit spastic, it wasn't chaotic, as was JFK's. Moreover, both Shriver and LBJ understood how to activate a sluggish State Department, a critical little trick Kennedy never mastered.
President Kennedy concurred fully in our assessment of Betancourt's significance in making the Alliance work. He noted that Columbia's President, Alberto Lleras Camargo-Latin American statesman of the century-was the other needed anchor. Along with Betancourt (and possibly Eduardo Frei of Chile), he represented the kind of leadership our hemispheric friends so richly deserved and so seldom got. It was their backing the Alliance for Progress obviously had to have if progress were to be made. With Betancourt out of the Alliance picture most bets seemed to be off.
President Kennedy and Jackie greet schoolchildren during their state visit to Caracas
So what a stunning reversal this message represented for JFK after a little more than a year of silence. It was in December of 1961 when the President had captivated Venezuelans of all walks. And the always chic Jackie had talked the talk in Spanish! What a beautiful pair! JFK's charisma, his solemn commitment to making the Alliance succeed, and his comforting Catholicism were all brilliantly on display to all viewers during JFK's triumphal visit (above). It was venite adoremus time. I had never witnessed such an outpouring of affection and esteem, even for the Pope. President Betancourt told me later the visit had been the high point of his life.
And now, here was the Kennedy-worshipping President Betancourt taking issue with JFK in the most caustic terms. According to the Venezuelan President, nothing had been marshaled under the Alliance. Promises of progress remained unfulfilled. Castro appeared to be steadily gaining ground. And the State Department kept sending down its economists. "So what are we going to do with that goddamned Fudge Factory?" Kennedy wanted to know. He had apparently coined (or renewed) this label for Foggy Bottom some time around the Bay of Pigs feint. But having defined the problem so quaintly, he had seemed strangely reluctant to go beyond definition. He and his staff appeared content to continue sending memos to the Factory and bitching at the diplomats' inability to move things.
McGeorge Bundy, the President's National Security Advisor, blamed weak regional assistant secretaries of state for much of the inaction. He claimed they were just not up to coping with higher level Pentagon and CIA clout. Certainly this was the case with Ed Martin, a bureaucratic type who had never served in Latin America, and was State's point man when the Alliance was launched. I never asked McGeorge if he included his older brother Bill in his negative generalization about the causes of State's inaction. Bill was for an extended period our Far Eastern (Vietnam) Assistant Secretary.
JFK and RFK
Throughout his tenure as president, JFK seemed to me quite unprepared to reach out and shake someone. When bureaucratic violence was needed he would call on hatchet man Bobby. And by the time the furor over the Bay of Pigs fiasco had lessened somewhat around June of 1961, the Kennedy brothers had managed to offend most of the senior State Department staff, but especially Rusk and his deputy, Chester Bowles. That fact alone may have accounted for much of State's slowness to react to White House initiatives and ideas and ranting and raving.
By the time we emerged from our depressing meeting with JFK, I had figured out that there were two problem areas where our President had fallen behind: (1) his overestimation of the State Department's capabilities, and (2) a misunderstanding of his Alliance for Progress' fundamental flaw.
As early as 1950, shortly after the CIA had been created and foreign aid had become so institutionalized, the U.S. State Department had become broadly dysfunctional. It had been dismembered. Several other federal agencies had become empowered and had accordingly expanded as a result of the Cold War; they had usurped most of the State's principal functions or had become aggressive new rivals in the gathering of intelligence, formulating of foreign policy, negotiating, coordinating and reporting. What was worse, those few traditional functions of State which had stayed relatively intact were freely duplicated by others. Meanwhile, the State Department continued to expand. But its expansion came only in a bureaucratic sense, new embassies bringing to it more paper, people and protocol. State proudly discovered it had over 30 assistant and deputy assistant secretaries of state. Who could doubt that somewhere in that layered mass lay raw power and refined positions?
But in the real world, State's pre-Cold War functions were increasingly dominated by the NSA, CIA, DIA, Pentagon, NSC, and the massive foreign aid agency. Some made the case that at least seven other mini-State Departments were functioning somewhere between the Washington Beltway and the Rand Corporation in the far West. But Kennedy never seemed to understand the cause for the weakness of dulled diplomatic instruments at his disposal the way his successor did. He kept pulling Rusk's chain and McNamara growled. He insisted on consolidating all foreign aid but the Peace Corps refused to be amalgamated. No respect from his own brother-in-law!
The second major source of JFK's frustration was of his own making. He confused a public relations ploy (the Alliance) with a serious and practical strategy. As the pressure built to do something fast after the Bay of Pigs, he opted to do something as unrealistic as it was imperialistic: reform the nations of Latin America by external fiat-and fast! Many billions of dollars later, if there is a net to all of this today, it would probably be bigger and more bureaucratic Latin governments as well as a certain lingering cynicism over how the U.S. arrives at its policies for Latin America.
Kennedy with his Cabinet
Few administrators in the Twentieth Century have come to power in Washington with a more restricted understanding of foreign environments and people than the Kennedy group. They knew only Europe. The Near and Far East, Africa and Latin America were zoos out there for the New Frontier, hardly places to spend one's junior year abroad. But what this group of gurus around Kennedy did show us was real perseverance. That group of speech writers and historians down from Harvard never stopped trying to be policy makers.
Howard J. Wiarda, a friend and professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, got it right in an article in Foreign Policy in the mid 1980's:
"The Alliance's architects were among the most able people in the U.S. government. Yet for all their experience, competence, and technical expertise in their respective fields, they lacked the most important prerequisite for success: detailed knowledge of Latin America. They knew history, economics, and development theory, but they did not understand how programs that sounded wonderful on paper would actually work or be received in Latin America. The Alliance for Progress, spawned in the Bag of Pigs, never worked. It never possessed the necessary mutual ingredients for working. It was essentially what President Betancourt and Howard Wiarda had said it was. But, beyond arrogance, it stressed very unrealistic strategies and goals. Hastily assembled in Washington to "reform" Latin America before Castro got there, it ended up with only one surrogate success: it was able to extend and piggyback on the masterpiece of Nelson Rockefeller begun in 1942 as part of FDR's Good Neighbor Policy.
"Their abstract, theoretical, developmentalist scheme was largely irrelevant to countries whose politics were essentially personalistic, not institutionalized, and dominated by family and patronage ties and by clique and clan rivalries that defied neat ideological categories. This gap between general theory and Latin American reality proved to be the Alliance's fatal weakness.
"The arrogance at the base of the Alliance also manifested itself in the presumption that the United States knew what was best for Latin America. This belief stemmed partly from the myth of Latin American incompetence. It also derived from the missionary, proselytical tradition in U.S. history and from the axioms contained in the new literature on development, which seemed to provide an intellectual cachet to the reformist impulses of American academics and policy-makers."
At the start of World War II, FDR asked Nelson Rockefeller to design a program aimed at thwarting Nazi inroads into Latin America. By the end of the war Rockefeller's Institute of Inter-American Affairs had done just that. Major new projects emphasizing training and collaborative management were launched in agriculture, health, sanitation and education in over a dozen countries. Their almost instant success made Nelson Rockefeller the most credible U.S. politician in Latin America. The Latins may have loved or worshipped or admired the FDR's and JFK's but they believed Rockefeller because his approach to development carried a sense of mutuality they had never experienced before from the North.
So it was the presence of these tried, true, functioning and joint activities throughout the Hemisphere when Kennedy arrived with his Alliance that gave it an apparent head start. Projects, patterns and people were already in place. Fresh Alliance money gave everyone a quick boost. And then the Alliance economists appeared with their planning, massive loans and pre-packaged macro solutions. And Nelson's way was pushed aside, paving the way for the total failure of the Alliance for Progress almost as fast as it had appeared.
A Vietnamese Monk burns himself to death in Saigon in October 1963
For me, the two most fascinating questions coming out of a tragically-curtailed Kennedy regime, revolve around Vietnam and Latin America. Could, or would, JFK have reversed his dead-end and unsuccessful policies in these two critical areas had he been blessed with a second term? Or another year? I continue to guess not; arriving at that conclusion by remembering Kennedy's stubborn streak, his reaction to Betancourt's letter, and his growing reliance on his even more stubborn younger brother on foreign policy issues. JFK did absolutely nothing, either about his arrogant and ill-conceived Alliance for Progress' false starts, or his arrogant and under-gunned Fudge Factory, or our relentlessly creeping boondoggle in the boondocks of Southeast Asia.
One weekend on a Venezuelan beach years later, I would have a very friendly and relaxed few hours to revisit the Alliance question with ex-President Betancourt. He jokingly confessed to having blundered. He said he should have directed his famous letter to all Latin American and Caribbean presidents as well. "They felt precisely the way I did," added Betancourt. "The Alliance wasn't working, and it could not succeed because it required something we didn't have: the ability to start over under the leadership of someone like Nelson Rockefeller. Unfortunately, Lyndon Johnson didn't have the daring to scrap it." Betancourt had these and other great thoughts that day. His country misses him desperately these days.
I think LBJ got discouraged very early about the Alliance. I also felt that our intervention in the Dominican Republic may have put the Alliance on hold for good. There was really very little heard about it after that crisis. We suddenly stopped using the term in our budget presentations to Congress. Once deleted, nobody ever seemed to miss it. Especially the Latin Americans.
In terms of the Fudge Factory, the approaches of Kennedy and Johnson were quite different. In crisis or controversy, President Johnson would send no memos. He would just move in on the State Department. Rather, he would blast in at all levels. His objective was to compensate for State's known weakness: good field, no hit. In many respects, LBJ made a wonderful secretary of state. He made an even better desk officer.
During the Dominican Republic crisis in the Spring of 1965, as well as on several occasions during the Vietnam flare-ups, LBJ, unannounced, became de facto secretary of state, assistant secretary, desk officer, two or three ambassadors, and press secretary combined. With no formalities, Johnson just set up his telephone command post and began to launch rockets at all stationary targets. He kept on the pressure and pushed action in every direction-but never sent a memo. When taking over a division or two of the State Department for a short period he would like to boast, "Now there is no pecking order. I am the only pecker." There are many diplomats, foreign and domestic, who thought he was quite right. With his capacity to work two ten-hour shifts a day (he "slept" from midnight to 4 AM), Johnson was a one-man reinvigorated State Department masquerading as Teddy Roosevelt.
I was fortunate enough to be Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs during one of President Johnson's most energetic diplomatic power grabs. It occurred after we had landed Marines (one last time!) in Santo Domingo. Throughout that bloodshot and tortured episode during the Spring of 1965, I remember only one series of events with any clarity. It began with my daily wake-up call from the White House. Every morning for several weeks I would be discovered in bed by that unwelcome call before 5 AM from the acting secretary of state, a.k.a. Lyndon Baines Johnson.
He did not speak the same language as other secretaries I had listened to. "Goddamn it Vaughn" was the customary lead in. On his more charitable days, it was "Goddamn it boy." After that posture-improving little salutation came the bad part. It was a kind of half-whispered, huskily threatening checkoff system with me as the check list. In two minutes or less, LBJ could bring back the entire preceding day's activities in their worst light. In so doing, he would recount and bring under humiliating scrutiny my learning disabilities and apparent highly suspicious loyalty. Piling on criticism of my gross mishandling of the media, pathetic performance on a TV talk show, and faint-hearted lobbying of Congress, my President made me want my Marine drill instructor back. Without fail, his parting show was, "Where is that goddamned White Paper you and Sayre are supposed to be writing for me?" Bob Sayre, my Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary, and I had been assigned a daunting task. It was to spell out convincingly over several hundred pages those steps the U.S. had taken diplomatically with the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations to stave off intervention by U.S. troops. As a matter of fact, Sayre and I had been the only U.S. diplomats to take any lobbying action with the OAS before the invasion. Unfortunately, even with very wide margins, abundant filler adjectives and other creative literary padding, the best we could come up with, by fifth draft, was a dozen pages. LBJ was about to see a new kind of White Paper.
President Johnson (right) with Secretary of State Dean Rusk (center, right)
I was in no position to know how Secretary of State Rusk reacted to his President just stepping in at critical times to take over his functions ad interim in extremis. I can only surmise that Dean sort of liked it. At least for the moment, it hinted at State's glory return to original power, even though in a limited sector. It also meant that, for once, Rusk could outvote McNamara, with LBJ's help, at their Tuesday foreign policy power lunch for three.
If Kennedy scorned the State Department as a ponderous and feckless bureaucracy, there was little evidence he personally disliked its senior career officers. This was not the case with LBJ. Long congressional leadership and oversight had convinced him there were many pompous and questionable career U.S. diplomats, ones he could do without. Not surprisingly, LBJ favored foreign service officers who had the good luck to be born in Texas. In any case, he preferred them from the South and West.
If the senior career service had any doubts as to where LBJ stood on diplomatic behavior and values, a startling clarification would occur one day in his conference room. To spotlight his concerns for the rapidly sinking Alliance for Progress, it had become customary for U.S. ambassadors in Washington on consultation to meet with the President. One day LBJ called me to change the procedure. In the future, he said, he would prefer to see them "in bunches," as he put it.
The first bunch to form came some weeks later. It was a handsome, chalk-striped, grey-haired bunch. Five U.S. ambassadors were in town at the same time. I set up a half-hour presidential meeting. Our visitors were all career officers. The session was short and devastating. I doubt they ever recovered. I haven't.
The "Johnson Treatment"
With no preliminaries of Texas talk, the President began the meeting by telling a story. It concerned his purchase of a ranch in Texas. One of the high points of his life, said LBJ, came that day when he first rode on horseback all the way around his new property. Suddenly, he had come across a large herd of deer. Saying he was so concerned that either dogs or northern hunters ("It's sometimes difficult to tell the difference between them") might kill his very own Johnson deer, he decided to go even further in debt to put a cyclone fence around his property. Unfortunately, his protective measure backfired. Years later, on a ride around his ranch, he had again come across the herd of deer. To his dismay, he discovered how runty and sickly, obviously inbred, they had become. Looking around the room, the President concluded, "Just like you career foreign service officers."
Of the non-plussed ambassadors present, Johnson then asked, "How many of you are on a first-name basis with any school principals or superintendents, small-town mayors, labor union leaders, village priests, or medium-sized ranchers in the countries where you are accredited?" There was diplomatic silence, embarrassment and hurt. LBJ closed the short meeting with a little lecture about the futility and fraud of public servants staying forever on capital city cocktail circuits at taxpayer expense. Not surprisingly, there was no further diplomatic bunching at the White House in Johnson's time. Those Texas types all seemed to want to ride up alone.
Hopalong Lyndon himself would ride up alone to command the Dominican Republic intervention from the White House in 1965. Not from the Situation Room in the basement, mind you. His intervention was run right from LBJ's office and cabinet room.
Near the end of that island skirmish, a few of the President's older Caribbean friends were overheard comparing him to Bolivar. He needed that flattery to blunt the liberal and academic outcries roaring in from across the land.
In fact, he had never explained publicly his motives nor his invasion rationale very convincingly. What it came down to was LBJ's refusal to gamble against even minuscule odds of the D.R. becoming another Cuba. If perceived odds were only ten percent, that would be an unacceptable risk in the President's judgment. In my personal view, and based mainly on British and Israeli intelligence, Castro was prepared to go all out to pick off Santo Domingo. He just got a late start.
"Chato" Aleman, the Panamanian Ambassador in Washington at the time, had the best definition for the early fighting. He compared the Dominican struggle to Castro's early campaign by calling Santo Domingo "Un downtown Sierra Maestra." U.S. strategy consisted of immediately surrounding rebel forces within the capital city and keeping them there. Consequently, the revolt could not easily spread to the interior and was soon smothered. Daunted by the steadily thickening clouds over Vietnam, the President would try to make the most of his quick Dominican triumph. He called it his finest foreign policy achievement. But even if it were, in effect it cost him the support of his party's liberal wing.
LBJ and JFK
Overblown or not, Johnson's successful actions as Commander in Chief contrasted in virtually every sense with the confused and indecisive way JFK and crew had dealt with the Bay of Pigs misadventure four years earlier. Admittedly, any point by point comparison between the two invasions should take into account the sharp differences between the invading forces. Kennedy's assault troops were a cabal of pirate mercenaries recruited, paid, "trained" and "led" by the CIA. LBJ's troops were elite army units and marines. But in terms of central leadership and focus of decision-making, LBJ made Kennedy's Cuba venture look even more surreal than it was.
In fairness to the in-coming Kennedy foreign policy academics and speech writers, it should be stressed that they had inherited the Bay of Pigs decision, with its apparently unstoppable momentum, from the previous Administration. Problem was, for the longest time they were very tentative in stepping up to their inheritance. Even after the inauguration, they seemed unable to face up to the fact that the Cuba invasion clock was ticking.
The holdover Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (the position I would hold at the time of the Dominican intervention) during the early January period was the veteran Thomas Mann. As the senior regional diplomat, it fell to him to bell the cat. It was his responsibility to turn over the Cuban "folder," with all its top secret action documents, to Dean Rusk and company. The folder contained all the latest critical information policy-level people would need, were they interested.
But Tom Mann told me he was unable to persuade any White House newcomer to take the folder off his hands, much less sign for it. That meant that all during this critical period after elections in November 1960 and through December and on into January 1961, the CIA obviously was getting little guidance or questioning from on high. But that is just the way the Central Intelligence Agency has always preferred to play it, as a shadow State Department but with nobody ever knowing where the buck really stops. Meanwhile, the fudge hardened for Jack…
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