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By David Talbot
TIME Magazine, July 2, 2007
This article concerns one of the most famous presidents of the twentieth century, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. It is a thoroughly written piece on Kennedy’s devotion to peace throughout his administration. The author, David Talbot, focuses on the major points of Kennedy’s administration, starting with his aggressive campaign against Richard Nixon, touching on the Bay of Pigs invasion, and finally addressing the infamous Cuban Missile Crisis. Throughout the article, Talbot sprinkles in Kennedy’s commentary on the issues at the time of their occurrence, and Kennedy’s colleagues’ commentary on the issues long after they have passed.
Talbot is careful to stay true to what Kennedy was like as a person. He titled the article A Warrior for Peace for a specific reason: Kennedy truly was a man that tried to keep the peace. This is evident with all of the issues that Talbot addressed. In the beginning of the article, Talbot includes an excerpt from a letter Kennedy wrote to his family saying “All war is stupid.” This is the tone that is effectively set for the article, that Kennedy did everything possible to avoid war. In the Bay of Pigs episode, Kennedy firmly stood his ground and did not send military enforcements (Marines and Air Force) to back up CIA officials Dulles and Bissell. Talbot remarks that that decision was the turning point of the Kennedy presidency, from then on it became a government at war with itself.
Talbot harks upon the fact that Kennedy often did what he wanted instead of what he was advised. He was a man on a mission who consistently did what he, not others, thought was best and right and prosperous for his country. However, he was deft in his methods, that is, he very cleverly deflected his espionage chiefs’ military council. Talbot firmly suggests that the sort of ‘theme’ of Kennedy’s presidency was the following: “J.F.K.’s strenuous efforts to keep the country at peace in the face of equally ardent pressures from Washington to go to war.”
The war that he is most likely referring to is war with Cuba. It is a constant recurrence that during the Kennedy administration, the CIA and Air Force chief General Curtis LeMay wanted Kennedy to attack and declare war on Russia/Cuba. Kennedy, warrior for pace that he was, did not. Looking back, a few members of his administration were surprised to find that though Kennedy’s Joint Chiefs assured him that there were no nuclear warheads in Cuba, there actually were.
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David Talbot’s coverage of Kennedy is extremely efficient. He uses a number of primary and secondary sources, including Kennedy’s personal letters and remarks, Kennedy’s assistants’ memoirs, and CIA briefings, among many. He writes in a style that is both informative and speculative, finding a delicate balance between the two. This balance also forces the reader to both learn and speculate on the information that Talbot presents.
I learned a lot from the article. I have never studied Kennedy in depth before, and I believe that this article was great place to start. I was truly happy with what I learned. Kennedy was a man who was disgusted with war, similar to me, only he actually was in place to do something about it. Through his carefully negotiated speeches and public practices, he got the country through what is now looked upon as one of the most dangerous times ever, and if he had given in to his advisors’ pressure, thousands of Americans could have lost their lives. He was headstrong and able to do what he thought best, and so I admire him and his efforts greatly.
J.F.K The Making of America: A Warrior for Peace
By David Talbot
TIME Magazine, July 2, 2007