Published On: Thu, Nov 21st, 2013

On the 50th Anniversary of JFK’s Assassination, Let’s Examine His True Legacy

By Ivan Eland

As the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination grows near, the media, always suckers for celebrity, will likely provide saturation coverage of the tragic killing and the emotion-invoking funeral. The American public, also suckers for presidential charisma, consistently rate magnetic presidents, such as Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, much higher than the historians who study them in-depth.

Dr. Ivan ElandThe political parties assist in peddling this hype because perpetuating myths of historic “giants” helps to win today’s elections. Republicans regularly try to compare themselves to an idealized notion of Reagan that didn’t even come close to existing. The same is true of Democrats with JFK. But since the anniversary of Kennedy’s death is the one that is upon us, let’s concentrate on why he did not exemplify the best characteristics of a liberal and was actually a very bad president.

Liberals sometimes idealize JFK for his transformational activities in civil rights, the Peace Corps, and committing the country to sending humans to the moon within the decade. Yet JFK wanted to compete aggressively with the Soviet Union and saw all of the above issues largely as they related to the Cold War. He believed bad publicity surrounding segregation and race-related violence in the United States was helping to lose the propaganda war against the Soviet Union in the developing world. He believed the Peace Corps program would win back some of that lost public relations ground in those parts of the globe. Kennedy didn’t care about space exploration, but instead viewed the moon program through the lens U.S.-Soviet competition during the Cold War.

Of all Cold War presidents, JFK and Reagan were the most hawkish and caused unnecessary crises with the USSR that almost resulted in nuclear war. Kennedy has been praised for his restrained resolve during the Cuban Missile Crisis, thus preventing a nuclear war between the superpowers. Yet JFK’s dangerous policy toward Cuba caused the crisis in the first place and his rash actions once Soviet missiles in Cuba were suspected almost resulted in nuclear Armageddon.

Related story: How conservative was Ronald Reagan? ‘Not very’ says one scholar

In 1961, obsessed with eliminating the communist government in Cuba, JFK approved an idiotic CIA plan to not so secretly train and launch an invasion force of Cuban exiles that was intended to result in Fidel Castro’s overthrow. After the invasion’s ignominious failure and exposure and Soviet detection of unbelievable further attempts by the Kennedy administration to assassinate Castro, the Soviets decided to install nuclear missiles in Cuba to deter another U.S. invasion. Also, the Soviets wanted to give the United States “a taste of its own medicine,” since U.S. nuclear missiles had been installed near the Soviet Union in Turkey and Italy.

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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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