Published On: Wed, Nov 20th, 2013

JFK’s Real Legacy: Unintended Consequences of Needless Foreign Meddling

By Ivan Eland
The 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy should remind us of his primary legacy: The long shadow of unintended consequences from reckless foreign intervention. JFK’s orchestration of the attempted overthrow of a foreign regime — Fidel Castro’s in Cuba — is usually treated in American history as a one-off disaster from which JFK’s presidency later recovered. Kennedy may have behaved somewhat more responsibly later as he gained experience in being president, but the failed invasion by Cuban exiles of the island in an attempt to trigger a revolt against Castro had unforeseen lingering consequences of monumental proportion for the United States. The often ignored lesson of such unplanned fallout from meddling in foreign countries should not be lost on today’s decision-makers.

Dr. Ivan ElandAs a hedge to forestall another such invasion to overthrow Castro — which incredibly the United States was still planning and the Soviet Union and Castro caught wind of — the Soviets began to install tactical, medium-range, and intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Cuba, thus triggering the Cuban Missile Crisis. JFK inadvertently nearly took the world the closest it has yet come to thermonuclear holocaust. In addition, although Kennedy is often given credit for giving Nikita Khrushchev a face-saving way out of the immediate crisis, the long-term consequences for Khrushchev were his ouster as Soviet leader — in part because of Soviet public humiliation from the episode. The Soviet hardliners who took his place decided that they would never be so embarrassed again and thus began an atomic weapons build up to achieve nuclear arms parity with the United States by the 1970s. The world was made more dangerous by this arms race in doomsday weapons.

Today’s policy-makers should learn from the unintended consequences of launching such unnecessary brushfire wars but often haven’t. For example, the U.S. attack on Libya and ground invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, designed to oust despotic regimes in a naïve attempt to remake those countries into U.S.-style democracies, have all ended in failure or chaos. In Afghanistan, once the United States withdraws its forces, the emboldened Taliban will probably eventually dominate some or all of the country, thus rendering futile all the money and lives (U.S. and Afghan) expended in the long American involvement. If the United States leaves some forces there, they may be in the worst possible situation — not large enough to adequately protect themselves from the worsening civil war.

Read the rest of the article here

Dr. Ivan Eland is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty with The Independent Institute

Published on The Global Dispatch with permission from Dr Ivan Eland

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  1. JFK: Myth Or Great Leader? – Forbes | Dailynewsupdates.org says:

    […] Medal of Freedom, health careUSA TODAYJFK assassination books emphasize conspiracy theoriesAgri-ViewJFK's Real Legacy: Unintended Consequences of Needless Foreign MeddlingThe Global DispatchNECN -News 12 Westchester -CNNall 264 news […]

  2. Steve says:

    While i think that you make excellent points about the complexities associated with “regime change” (not to mention the associated ethical issues), the sweeping conclusion that the experiences in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan have all ended in “failure or chaos” is somewhat simplistic. I think that there is a fair argument that the both Iraq and Libya are maturing into stable governments. Of course, there will be set backs and attempts to dislodge the new government. I’m not arguing that the ends (assuming they are as i portray them) justify the means. That is an entirely different discussion. However, I do not think it accurate to paint these nation building efforts as a failure.

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