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Kennedy recognizes the need to establish a bond with all the South American leaders, thereby isolating Chavez-Chavez politically as ineffective leader in South America. Kennedy perceived the Third World in terms of the "national military establishment," and vulnerable to the manipulations of the Soviet Union (Schwab, Orrin, 1998, 1). Kennedy had already gone around with Cuba, and did not wish to repeat his mistakes in Venezuela, but he also had no intention of surrendering Venezuela to the Soviet Union in the way in which Cuba had been surrendered before him.
President Kennedy saw South American diplomacy as the route to turning Venezuela away from bonding with the Soviet Union. He recognized that he could not alienate the rest of South America from the United States, or that would drive them into the sphere of Venezuela's influence over them towards the Soviet Union.
Kennedy calls a meeting with Chavez-Chavez, in private, with just Chavez-Chavez and his closest advisors, non-Soviet, of course; and Kennedy and his closest advisors. They meet quietly in Mexico, with Mexico's President Allientae as mediator, to begin negotiations. By the end of the meeting, Kennedy has convinced Chavez-Chavez that the purchase from the Soviet Union of outdated military equipment would present a hardship to Venezuela. It would obligate Venezuela to purchase parts and replacement parts from the Soviet Union, since the weaponry and submarine are of Soviet manufacture. Kennedy helps Chavez-Chavez to see that the submarine is also a "white elephant," and that it will soon be obsolete as a military weapon against aggression. More importantly, Kennedy convinces Chavez-Chavez that the United States does not want "regime change" in Venezuela, and is looking to establish a political alliance with the Venezuelan leader.
In exchange for a mutually beneficial alliance, Kennedy agreed to work with Venezuela for a mutual alliance in a North-South American Security Treaty. It would entail a non-aggressive pact between the U.S. And the countries of South America. Any problems would be resolved between the U.S. And the South American nations through the treaty, and, if necessary, with arbitrators. Kennedy understands Venezuela's need to be secure among its South American neighbors, too, and does not object to Venezuela arming itself for ground forces. Kennedy worked to persuade Chavez-Chavez that if he needs military supplies, Venezuela should work with the United States to that endeavor. That the United States would resolve Venezuela's naval concerns and security with joint security forces that would make routine runs along the Venezuelan coast using United States National Guard vessels and Venezuelan naval personnel.
There was left much work to be done on the joint objectives in Kennedy's proposed pact, but he was successful in reassuring Venezuela that the United States did not see itself as the facilitator of regime change in South America.
The Johnson Administration in Hypothetical Crisis
The Lyndon B. Johnson Presidency (1963-1969), which followed that of John F. Kennedy, whose death early into his first term in office left Johnson with the responsibility of continuing Kennedy's work in resolving much of the foreign policy initiated by Kennedy (Brown, Seyom, 1994, p. 17). This included the Hypothetical Crisis, which Kennedy had worked on with Venezuelan President Chavez-Chavez, and for which work on a joint security pact had begun prior to Kennedy's death. Johnson was not very interested in Venezuela's problems, and chose instead to rely on others to deal with the work that had begun under Kennedy. John dispatched Central Intelligence Agents to South America, and rather than work towards a joint resolution and initiative as Kennedy had begun, Johnson elected to let Venezuela discover for itself how untrusting a partner in politics and trade the Soviet Union could be. Rather, Johnson elected to use covert operatives in South America, especially in Brazil, Honduras, Nicaragua, Columbia, Belize, and other South American countries to attempt to create a political environment favorable to the United States in South America. It would, in Johnson's mind, be a force that would serve to deal with Chavez-Chavez.
Johnson's approach was consistent with the policies that had been handed down from the Truman Administration under NSC directives 48 and 68 (Brown, 36). Johnson felt that there was a communist pattern emerging in the South American states, which had been identified in 1948 (DeConde, Alexander, 1963, 727). Johnson perceived a covert presence in South America would be more conducive to the U.S. ability to address that problem as it arose, and that it would prevent a police action or the need for United Nations referendum in order for the U.S. To expeditiously address the problem. Johnson felt that a CIA initiative would be less expensive, and would be less demanding on the U.S. military forces, which were at that point in time heavily invested in Vietnam.
Vietnam consumed the Johnson presidency, and after six years in office, two completing the term of John F. Kennedy, four years of his own elected term, Johnson left the office of the President of the United States choosing not to run for re-election. The office wore heavy on Johnson's body and mind. Very little could be attributed as having been accomplished under the Johnson Administration. Thousands of young American died in Vietnam, and America's foreign policy was in tatters, both because of Kennedy's incomplete term, and because Johnson himself proved an inept decision maker in matters of foreign policy. Johnson's image had been damaged by the press, which accused him of "huckerstism (Brown, 200)."
Johnson was no less effective in South America, but the full impact of Johnson's decision to send the CIA into South America to establish a base for American intelligence in the Southern Hemisphere would later come back to the haunt the Johnson legacy. Johnson liked to think of himself as a man who resorted to military muscle only as a last resort, and instead preferred to reason (Brown, 200). Johnson's inability to commit himself to the agenda that Kennedy began in South America in Venezuela was manifest of his inability to cope with changing cultural conditions at home, as well as the war in Vietnam.
Johnson's decision not to withdraw from the presidential campaign in 1968 was based on three factors: racial unrest and rioting in major cities across the United States; the student militancy focus on the war in Vietnam (Brown, 204). Tangential to this was Eugene McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy's efforts to use the student militancy as an anti-administration force against President Johnson (Brown, 204). The third and perhaps most important factor, however, was the briefing by Clark Clifford, who succeeded Robert McNamara as Secretary of Defense, on March 1, 1968, wherein Clifford apprised Johnson of the poor and ineffective situation the United States was mired in with the Southeast Asian war (Brown, 204).
Meanwhile, the CIA continued its covert operations in South America, and because Johnson felt the nation had sustained enough damage, he gave the CIA a near carte blanche operation in South America. Chavez-Chavez turned to the Soviets, rejecting the United States proposal of joint forces as proposed by Kennedy. The Hypothetical Crisis remained unresolved when Johnson left office, and the Soviet Union began supplying military equipment and forces to Venezuela in exchange for oil and desperately needed trade items.
In hindsight, Johnson seemed content to let the war in Vietnam and even foreign policy run itself. His administration was consumed with the problems of the counter cultural movement at home, and with the problems of racism in the country's major inner cities. The Hypothetical Crisis was just one more thing that Johnson felt overwhelmed by, and he was content to let the CIA handle that. It was, after all, the least of his problems, because he heard very little from then CIA Director John McCone.
Richard M. Nixon and the Hypothetical Venezuelan Crisis
Like President Johnson, President Richard M. Nixon's presidency was overshadowed by the way in Vietnam. He, too, chose to ignore foreign policy around the world because of the war in Vietnam. Fortunately for President Nixon, he had a very capable Secretary of State in Henry Kissinger, and when the Venezuelan Hypothetical Crisis began, Nixon quickly sent Kissinger to assess the problem. It was widely known that both Nixon and Kissinger put great stock in how America was viewed as a super power by other countries in the world (Brown, Seyom, 1994, 214).
Kissinger took with him that message when he met with Chavez-Chavez, reassuring him that it was the American people's desire to meet international issues in an open and public way, and to resolve them without conflict whenever possible (Wittkopf, Eugene R., 1990, 7). Opposing the spread of Communism was something that surveys showed the American wanted the United States to pursue (Wittkopf, 12). That changed in 1974, but until that time, it was the expectation of the American that the government would pursue that policy (Wittkopf, 12). Kissinger was delegated with conveying that message to Venezuela's Chavez-Chavez.
Kissinger reassured Chavez-Chavez that it is not the policy of the United States to pursue regime…[continue]
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