Friday, September 28, 2012

Listening In

Tuesday, November 12, having difficulties in Latin America or the Alliance for Progress. The Argentines threatening to expropriate our oil. The Brazilians, the Brazilian [João] Goulart, ignoring the Alliance for Progress. Obviously, both playing a very nationalist game. And then the rumor that the Dominican Republic may break relations with us. They're irritated with the United States for not recognizing and making their lot more difficult. All this is, indicates a rising tide of nationalism and a lessening of their dependence upon the United States. In addition, they have a radical left who [unclear] at home, so that our lot becomes more difficult.

John F. Kennedy dictated that privately on November 12, 1963, only ten days before he was assassinated. It's part of a series of recordings he made, including conversations, that are in the new book Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy. Very cool book, which includes quite a lot on the Cuban Missile Crisis.
That particular quote is interesting for a number of reasons.

  • Latin America was weighing on his mind. He did personal dictations on issues that he was really concerned about. We tend to view the Cuban Missile Crisis as a US-Soviet problem, and he had a lot of other global problems on his plate, but clearly he saw serious problems on the horizon in Latin America that required his attention.

  • The concerns are so similar to today, though fortunately we don't have the Cold War framing it. But the "lessening of dependence" and fear of "a radical left" are echoed all the time now.

  • LBJ rightly is criticized for his aggressive stance toward Latin America, but JFK was thinking about the same problems. JFK was unhappy about Goulart and had a wary eye on the DR. He almost certainly would've followed the same path in Brazil (strong support for the coup). Would he have invaded the DR? Given how shaken he was by Cuba, it's entirely possible.

The book comes with CDs, and for the excerpt above he sounds incredibly tired, talking slowly and without enthusiasm.


Randy Paul 8:19 AM  

Kennedy's fatigue may have been a symptom of his Addison's disease.

On a side note, I was a first grader living in Miami during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I remember it vividly: we were looking at the possibility of turning our hallway into a fallout shelter. We were walked home from school by the National Guard.

I thought it was kind of cool, however: given the likelihood of being cut off from civilized society during the possible war, I was given a bunch of new toys.

Justin Delacour 1:30 PM  

There's an interesting book by the historian Michael Grow that explores what factors motivated U.S. presidents during the Cold War to intervene in Guatemala, Cuba, British Guiana, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Nicaragua, Grenada and Panama. It focuses mostly on the desires of presidents to (1) show U.S. resolve in the Cold War and (2) preempt accusations by the other party (as well as more conservative elements within their own parties) that they lacked such resolve. It's an account that places much greater focus on domestic politics than previous studies of the subject. Pretty interesting. Here's the link:

Greg Weeks 10:03 PM  

In fact, I reviewed that book for a journal and then used it in my US-Latin American relations graduate seminar.

Justin Delacour 2:44 PM  

Yeah, I guess I should have figured you'd already read it.

Borges de Garuva 5:46 PM  

The concern is quite similar... Mmmmmmm. The question is: should the countries of Latin America reduce their "lessening of dependence" in order to keep calm the USA president? Fear of "a radical left"? Hello! The truth is that in 1964 the United States government supported a military coup d'État and almost caused a civil war in Brazil. Now, the concerns MUST be all different. I'll buy the book.

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP