A second lesson was found in Kennedy's management of the crisis. The basic lesson learned was that, in the midst of such a crisis, leaders need time away from the glare of the media to resolve their own thinking and communications, and they need the self-confidence to limit their objectives to only what is needed to resolve the crisis, not "win" it.
It is believed that the Soviet's lesson was that you can't mess with nuclear weapons. In other words, when it gets to the point that you know you might destroy millions of innocent people, that is the depth of fear that leaders must realize, confront, and not back away from. What they must do is back away from the unnecessary and catastrophic events their pride might trigger.
The lessons learned by European leaders were probably not good ones. Kennedy did not consult with them during this crisis. They resented not being involved in such a critical crisis that could easily affect Europe in the end. The removal of the Jupiter missiles in Turkey made the Germans and the rest of Europe worry about the U.S. commitment to Berlin. France pulled its forces out of NATO. It wounded the alliance and took time to heal.
3. What were the reasons for American intervention in Vietnam? Why did each president from Truman to Nixon regard Vietnam as important to the United States? What are the lessons of the Vietnam War and what are its consequences for American foreign policy?
In two words -- domino theory. The U.S. Government at the time (1949) believed that China was about to go communist as a result of its civil war. So, with Viet Nam right next door, they looked at the little country not only as a buttress against communism in Southeast Asia, but also as the first domino in that region of the world that needed to be "contained" against communism.
The French were fighting the communist insurgents in Viet Nam and they were asking the U.S. For help. Eisenhower officially invoked the domino theory language in a speech in which he said that if China and Viet Nam fell, then India, Japan and Indonesia were not far behind.
In the years that followed a military and civilian consortium of advisers pushed the domino theory as if the United States itself was threatened. The U.S. felt it had to draw a line as far as communism was concerned, and, in the mid-1950s, Viet Nam became that line. The U.S. poured billions of dollars in support of the South Vietnamese government and military. It was not long before the U.S. footed the entire bill for running the country, and outfitting the police and military.
By 1956 all of the French troops were gone, and by 1960, U.S. military advisers in Viet Nam exceeded the number allowed by the Geneva Accords -- 685. As everyone knows, from the Kennedy administration forward, the conflict escalated and the U.S. involvement deepened into full military conflict. And as we poured more dollars and troops into the country, each succeeding administration felt we had to protect our investment.
Though he had spoken, in 1954 against military involvement in Viet Nam, Kennedy saw Viet Nam as a test case for Khrushchev's political doctrines favoring wars of liberation. Khrushchev had specifically pointed to Viet Nam. Kennedy's advisers proposed an army of 10,000 soldiers be sent and the U.S. take over military reconnaissance and airlift. North Vietnam should be bombed to keep them from supplying the Viet Cong. Kennedy refused to send more troops. Then in early 1962 he began sending small groups of 300 military and proposed continuing that process so that, by 1964, about 25,000 men would be in the country.
After Kennedy was assassinated in November, 1963, President Johnson felt he needed to continue JFK's policies, including Vietnam. The military-industrial complex pressured him to do just that. Then on August 4, 1964, in the Gulf of Tonkin off the East coast of Vietnam, the U.S. destroyer Maddox reported it was under fire from North Vietnamese torpedo boats. It gave LBJ his excuse to escalate the war. To this day it is debated where and how the "Gulf of Tonkin incident" occurred, and if LBJ arranged it.
During the mid to late 1960s, the involvement in Viet Nam increased drastically under continued and not accurate insistence by General William Westmoreland that the Viet Cong were about to overrun South Viet Nam. Tens of thousands of troops were sent in until the number reached approximately 500,000.
In 1968, after LBJ's resignation, President Nixon promised to end the Viet Nam war.
Now, the war became important to a new U.S. President for an ironic reason -- he had to figure out of way to get out of it and establish a "peace with honor." Eventually, he pulled all U.S. troops out. They were gone by 1973, and in 1975, the communist Viet Cong and North Vietnamese marched in to Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, and declared victory.
Lessons learned in Viet Nam were many. Hopefully, the U.S. learned that military action is not always the solution to political and social problems, and often fail. And usually, it will motivate militarization by the enemy. Second, we learned that the security of the U.S. is not really threatened by what happens in small third-world countries. Supplemental to that, the lesson was that fighting a police action in such a country against homeland insurgents is a loser and not worth the horrible expense in humans and dollars.
But, when we look today at Iraq and Afghanistan, can we say we have learned any lessons at all, or are we suffering the consequences of not listening? I think the latter.
4. Identify and evaluate some of the major contending arguments explaining the end of the Cold War. What role did American containment policy play in the transformation of Soviet foreign policy under Gorbachev?
The main argument explaining the end of the Cold War is whether or not Ronald Reagan caused the bankruptcy of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Many will argue both ways. The pro-Reagan forces point to rhetoric, action, and documentation that proves he forced the U.S.S.R. into submission and failure. The second part of the argument is, if he really did end the Cold War, was it his massive arms buildup and "evil" rhetoric; or did he do it through detente and disarmament discussions?
Both perspectives have credibility. However, in either case we would have to include the contributions of Mikhail Gorbachev. It may be true that, with any other hard-line Soviet leader, Reagan's "plan" to bring down the Soviets may have failed.
There were many problems within the Soviet Union including lack of food supplies for the populace, an almost non-functioning political system, and over-all an empire collapsing in on itself. There is no doubt that Reagan and his purposeful increase in military budgets brought the Soviets to despair trying to keep up. His policies of aggressive containment were working. Speeches that Gorbachev gave to his government at the time prove that point.
Reagan truly believed in his Space Defense Initiative -- to blow incoming missiles out of the sky. Though he did not use it primarily as a budgetary weapon to drive the U.S.S.R. into bankruptcy, he knew it might and hoped it would. But he also believed that, militarily they would have to respond and could not afford to do so. He also hated nuclear weapons and proposed to Gorbachev that they both get rid of all of them. Reagan reached a detente and established a relationship with the Soviet leader. The combination of hard line action and detente, combined with two leaders ready to change politics as usual, led to the end of the Cold War.
Democratic party leadership will argue that Ronald Reagan played a bit part in a 40-year effort by many administrations that finally brought the Soviets to their knees. They point to the policy of containment as the central core of the U.S. strategy to stop the Soviets. Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson (all Democrats) took the point as far as facing down the communists.
Congress approved the funds over the decades to bury the U.S.S.R. Jimmy Carter approved the development of a neutron bomb. The European alliance of countries was vital to the effort.
Diplomacy, foreign aid, and global communications technology all played a role. Reagan, the Democrats say, was just in the right place at the right time -- an argument most dismiss.
And a third, but not widely accepted, perspective is that it was the loud, continuous, and persistent public call for peace that finally brought the Cold War to an end. The public action -- the peace movement -- to stop the arms race, to shout down the military-industrial complex, and to rail against apartheid, plus the many other protests by action groups brought…