The Kennedy Doctrine
refers to foreign policy initiatives of the 35th President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, towards Latin America
Latin America is a region of the Americas where Romance languages – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken. Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,500 km² , almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface or 14.1% of its land surface area...
during his term in office between 1961 and 1963. Kennedy voiced support for the containment of Communism and the reversal of Communist progress in the Western Hemisphere.
Inaugural address: "Pay any price, bear any burden"
In his Inaugural Address on January 20, 1961, President Kennedy presented the American public with a blueprint upon which the future foreign policy initiatives of his administration would later follow and come to represent. In this Address, Kennedy warned “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”1
He also called upon the public to assist in “a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.”1
It is in this address that one begins to see the Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...
, us-versus-them mentality that came to dominate the Kennedy administration.
Cold War containment
A dominant premise during the Kennedy years was the need to contain communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...
at any cost. In this Cold War environment, Kennedy’s “call for military strength and unison in the struggle against communism were balanced with... [hopes] for disarmament and global cooperation.”2
Another common theme in Kennedy’s foreign policy was the belief that because the United States had the ability and power to control events in the international system, they should. Kennedy expressed this idea in his address when he stated, “In the long history of the world only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom from its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.” 1
The Kennedy Doctrine was essentially an expansion of the foreign policy prerogatives of the previous administrations of Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...
and Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...
. The foreign policies of these presidents all revolved around the threat of communism and the means by which the United States would attempt to contain the spread of it. The Truman Doctrine
The Truman Doctrine was a policy set forth by U.S. President Harry S Truman in a speech on March 12, 1947 stating that the U.S. would support Greece and Turkey with economic and military aid to prevent their falling into the Soviet sphere...
focused on the containment of communism by providing assistance to countries resisting communism in Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...
while the Eisenhower Doctrine
The term Eisenhower Doctrine refers to a speech by President Dwight David Eisenhower on 5 January 1957, within a "Special Message to the Congress on the Situation in the Middle East". Under the Eisenhower Doctrine, a country could request American economic assistance and/or aid from U.S. military...
was focused upon providing both military and economic assistance to nations resisting communism in the Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...
and by increasing the flow of trade from the United States into Latin America. The Kennedy Doctrine was based on these same objectives but was more concerned with the spread of communism and Soviet influence in Latin America following the Cuban revolution
The Cuban Revolution was an armed revolt by Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement against the regime of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista between 1953 and 1959. Batista was finally ousted on 1 January 1959, and was replaced by a revolutionary government led by Castro...
that brought Fidel Castro
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...
to power under Eisenhower during the 1950s.
Alliance for Progress
In his inaugural address, Kennedy talks of an alliance for progress with countries in Latin America. In his Alliance for Progress
The Alliance for Progress initiated by U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1961 aimed to establish economic cooperation between the U.S. and South America.-Origin and goals:...
address for Latin American Diplomats and Members of Congress on March 13th 1961 he expanded on his promises from his inaugural speech. “I have called on all the people of the hemisphere to join in a new Alliance for Progress – alianza para el Progreso – a vast cooperative effort, unparalleled in magnitude and nobility of purpose, to satisfy the basic needs of the American people for homes, work and land, health and schools – techo, trabajo y tierra, salud y escuela.”3
In the address, Kennedy reaffirmed the United State’s pledge of coming to the defence of any nation whose independence was endangered, promised to increase the food-for-peace emergency program and to provide economic aid to nations in need. He requested that Latin American countries promote social change within their borders and called upon all American nations to move towards increased economic integration. “To achieve this goal political freedom must accompany material progress. Our Alliance for Progress is an alliance of free governments – and it must work to eliminate tyranny from a hemisphere in which it has no rightful place. Therefore let us express our special friendship to the people of Cuba and the Dominican Republic – and the hope they will soon rejoin the society of free men, uniting with us in our common effort.”3
Debate over international role of United States
Many have questioned whether Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, and the foreign policy stemming from the vision he expressed in it “describes an appropriate, rational, and prudent role for the United States in the world; whether it is an outline for an era of negotiation and accommodation and friendship; or whether it is a prescription for an untenable globalism, leading inevitably to increased areas of conflict, to a heightening of the arms race, and to American concern with and involvement, to one degree or another, in the affairs of almost every country in the world.”4
While this is an issue that still fuels debate today, it remains clear that Kennedy was deeply involved and committed to every aspect of the foreign policy under his administration. In an interview with the President, William Averell Harriman, a man who served in several posts under J.F.K., noted "President Kennedy was the first President, that I know of, who was really his own secretary of state. He dealt with every aspect of foreign policy, and he knew about everything that was going on."5
Some of the most notable events that stemmed from tenets of JFK’s foreign policy initiatives in regard to Latin America and the spread of communism were:
- The Bay of Pigs Invasion
The Bay of Pigs Invasion was an unsuccessful action by a CIA-trained force of Cuban exiles to invade southern Cuba, with support and encouragement from the US government, in an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. The invasion was launched in April 1961, less than three months...
, April 17, 1961.
- Increase of U.S. involvement in Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...
- Cuban Missile Crisis
The Cuban Missile Crisis was a confrontation among the Soviet Union, Cuba and the United States in October 1962, during the Cold War...
, October, 1962.
- Ratification of Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, July, 1963.