In his thousand-day presidency, John F. Kennedy led America through one of its most difficult and potentially explosive eras. With the Cold War at its height and the threat of communist advances in Europe and the Third World, Kennedy had the unenviable task of maintaining U.S. solidarity without leading the western world into a nuclear catastrophe. In Kennedy's Wars, noted historian Lawrence Freedman draws on the best of Cold War scholarship and newly released government documents to illuminate Kennedy's approach to war and his efforts for peace. He recreates insightfully the political and intellectual milieu of the foreign policy establishment during Kennedy's era with vivid profiles of his top advisorsRobert McNamara, Dean Rusk, Robert Kennedyand influential figures such as Dean Acheson and Walt Rostow. Tracing the evolution of traditional liberalism into the Cold War liberalism of Kennedy's cabinet, Freedman evaluates their responses to the tensions in Berlin, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam. He gives each conflict individual attention, showing how foreign policy decisions came to be defined for each new crisis in the light of those that had gone before. Readers will follow Kennedy as he wrestles with the succession of major conflictstaking advice, weighing the risks of inadvertantly escalating the Cold War into outright military confrontation, exploring diplomatic options, and forming strategic judgments that would eventually prevent a major war during his presidency.
Kennedy's Wars offers a dynamic and human portrait of Kennedy under pressure: a political leader shaped by the ideas of his time, conscious of his vulnerability to electoral defeat but also of his nation's vulnerability to nuclear war. Military and Kennedy enthusiasts will find its balanced consideration of the president's foreign policy and provocative "what if" scenarios invaluable keys to understanding his accomplishments, failures, and enduring legacy.
Lawrence Freedman has been Professor of War Studies at King's College, London since 1982. He has written extensively on nuclear strategy and the Cold War, as well as commentating regularly on contemporary security issues. Elected a fellow of the British Academy in 1995, he was appointed by Prime Minister Tony Blair as Official Historian of the Falklands Campaign in 1997.
As the author of nearly 20 books dealing with various aspects of nuclear strategy and the Cold War, Freedman (war studies, King's Coll., London) brings an erudite and penetrating intelligence to his study of Kennedy's foreign policy. As the subtitle suggests, Lawrence tackles the major perplexing Cold War issues that confronted Kennedy during his 1000-day presidency. Whether it is the scariness of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 or the frustrations of handling a rambunctious Khrushchev over Berlin, Lawrence provides a solidly researched framework for his discussion of the major points pertinent to each episode. He argues that Kennedy was a Cold Warrior surrounded by men of similar attitude, such as McNamara, Bundy, Acheson, and Rostow, all of whom saw the Soviet Union as a dangerous enemy that could not be trusted. Yet, Lawrence concludes, by the time of Kennedy's death in November 1963, the worst of the Cold War had passed--although the United States did not sense this for several years to come. Lawrence's book is an excellent treatment of U.S. foreign policy during this dynamic era and an insightful portrait of John F. Kennedy as a leader. Highly recommended for all collections.--Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.