Adlai E. Stevenson Courtesy of the Library of Congress
When President John F. Kennedy appointed Adlai Stevenson as the United States ambassador to the United Nations in 1961, the former governor of Illinois and two-time presidential candidate was disappointed. Stevenson had hoped to the lead the new administration’s foreign policy as secretary of state. Instead, Kennedy placed Stevenson in a supporting role that focused mainly on public relations. As a skilled orator, experienced politician, and global citizen, Stevenson seemed to offer the ideal advocate for both the United States and the United Nations. He exemplified these qualities in the drama surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. However, Becca Solnit argues in her article,“Adlai Stevenson’s United Nations Rite of Passage” that despite the apparent success of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Stevenson felt personally defeated. The ambassador soon resigned himself to a role of figurehead rather than policy maker, and steadily abandoned his faith in negotiation. By the time the escalating Vietnam War became a focal point of UN activities, Stevenson no longer had the heart to fight for a US role in the UN. To understand Stevenson’s evolution, Solnit turns to Stevenson’s own words as well as testimony from his closest friends and colleagues, such as Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. Solnit also examines shifting American perceptions of the UN during the 1960s.
Go to “Adlai Stevenson’s Public Relationship with the UN” by Becca Solnit
This article has been adapted from a paper originally submitted to Prof. Pinsker’s US Diplomatic History class (History 382) during fall semester 2009.
Courtesy of Todd Hryck
On September 22, 1961 President John F. Kennedy signed the Peace Corps Act, which officially created the organization known for sending young Americans to help developing nations. While most textbooks credit President Kennedy with the formation of the Peace Corps, the true architect behind its establishment was his brother-in-law, Robert Sargent Shriver. Though Shriver had no diplomatic or international policy experience, under his leadership the Peace Corps established programs in 55 countries with nearly fifteen thousand volunteers. In her article, “Sargent Shriver’s Role and the Creation of the Peace Corps,” Jenna Banning argues that Shriver’s natural charisma and undaunted perseverance became the driving forces behind the unlikely creation of the new aid organization. Shriver personally campaigned to win congressional approval for the Peace Corps even when the president and his closest aides proved indifferent to the project. Banning utilizes Shriver’s own words to help explain his mindset and analyze his under-appreciated tactics. She also employs period newspaper articles to help present a careful study of Shriver’s motivations and hard-fought lobbying effort.
This article has been adapted from a paper originally submitted to Professor Pinsker’s US Diplomatic History class (History 382) during fall semester 2009.
Go to “Sargent Shriver’s Role in the Creation of the Peace Corps” by Jenna Banning
Robert S. McNamara Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Robert S. McNamara served as the Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1968 during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. In 1967 McNamara changed his position on the war in Vietnam and began advocating a draw down of American troops in the war-torn region. McNamara made his switch from war hawk to dove, unusual for a Secretary of Defense, based on a mathematical analysis of the deteriorating situation. In his article, “Bound By Numbers: McNamara’s Attempt to Influence the Post-Vietnam War Discourse,” Brian Krussell relies on McNamara’s various post-war reflections to argue that the secretary’s perennial focus on numbers ultimately prevented him from ever truly coming to terms with his contributions to the American fiasco in Vietnam. Though McNamara experienced a change of opinion that led to what appeared to be a principled resignation, Krussel contends that McNamara’s reversal “underlined a shift in calculation, not an emotional or moralist reassessment.” Krussell also faults McNamara’s subsequent post-war apologies as being similarly detached. In reflections such as In Retrospect (1995) or the documentary The Fog of War (2003), McNamara attempted to explain his Vietnam-era mistakes in policy-making in ways which Krussel characterizes as “self-serving.” Rather than recognizing the inherent irrationality of war, McNamara continued to remain “bound by numbers” until the bitter end.
This article has been adapted from a paper originally submitted to Prof. Pinsker’s US Diplomatic History class (HIST 382) during fall semester 2009.
Go to “Bound By Numbers: McNamara’s Attempt to Influence the Post-Vietnam War Discourse” by Brian Krussell