Did the Kennedy-Johnson team repudiate the Eisenhower approach to the Cold War?

“Let the word go forth…” starts at 2:45 min. marker

…the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans, born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace… Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. –JFK, January 1961 (p. 197)


McGeorge Bundy

Walt Rostow








Dean Rusk

Robert McNamara





Flexible Response

“The great problem was how to strike a balance.  Actions taken to restore stability could impede diversity … Alternatively, excessive restraint in such matters could leave the way open for adversaries to exploit opportunities, with the United States wringing its hands ineffectually on the sidelines.  The new administration regarded its predecessor as having committed both errors … What Kennedy hoped to do was to align American interests to a greater extent with the processes of irreversible change, while at the same time lowering the dangers of either humiliation or nuclear war.” –John Lewis Gaddis, p. 201


  • 1961 (January) // JFK inaugurated
  • 1961 (March) // Peace Corps and Alliance for Progress
  • 1961 (April) // Bay of Pigs
  • 1961 (June) // Kennedy – Khrushchev summit in Vienna
  • 1961 (August) // Berlin Wall construction begins
  • 1962 (March) // Rostow circulates draft BNSP memo
  • 1962 (October) // Cuban Missile Crisis
  • 1963 (June) // JFK visits Berlin Wall
  • 1963 (October) // Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
  • 1963 (November) // JFK assassinated

Quotation Gallery

the projected image of Soviet and Chinese Communist economic progress … will persuade hesitant men, faced by great transitional problems, that the Communist model should be adopted for modernization, even at the cost of surrendering human liberty. –W.W. Rostow, June 1961 (p. 207)


We intend to have a wider choice than humiliation or all-out nuclear war. –JFK, July 1961 (p. 202)


What we find objectionable and a threat to the peace is when a system is imposed by a small militant group by subversion, infiltration, and all the rest. –JFK, November 1961 (p. 208)


On balance, our interests are likely to be better served by accepting the risks of leaning forward towards more modern groups than the risks of clinging to familiar friends rooted in the past. –W.W. Rostow, March 1962 (p. 201)


There appears to be no differences between [Khrushchev’s] views and mine regarding the need for eliminating war in this nuclear age.  Perhaps only those who have the responsibility for controlling these weapons fully realize the awful destruction their use would bring. –JFK, January 1963 (p. 228)


if we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help to make the world safe for diversity. –JFK, June 1963 (p. 200)


…surrender anywhere threatens defeat everywhere. –LBJ, April 1964 (p. 210)


We are the richest nation in the history of the world.  We can afford to spend whatever is needed to keep this country safe and to keep our freedom secure. –LBJ, July 1964 (p. 204)