The Bay of Pigs
John Kennedy’s greatest political achievements were of foreign policy. These were not easy victories and he was not without fumbles along the way, but in the true fashion of leadership, he learned from and admitted his mistakes. There is no clearer example than the first crisis that arose to challenge him. In a plan hatched during the Eisenhower administration to overthrow the Communist leader of Cuba, Fidel Castro, the United States was to arm and train Cuban exiles, drop them at The Bay of Pigs in Cuba and provide support from the air. The exiles were no match for Castro and his forces. The Cuban exiles were grossly outnumbered and on top of it all, mostly middle class men. These men were not soldiers. The exiles that were not killed were held prisoner, and ultimately bargained loose to the tune of some $50 million worth of aid to Cuba (Faragher, Buhle , Czitrom, Armitage & et al, 2009). JFK’s gut instinct told him not to pursue the plan, but he was faced with intense political pressure and the likelihood he would be perceived as weak. He just might have shown those signs of weakness in the advising process. Those around him, including military brass and his advisors, pushed him to go through with the plan, and he did. Ultimately he resisted sending in U.S troops or launching any more attacks on Cuba. As Harry Truman would say for the President of The United States, “The buck stops here.” Kennedy was advised to dodge blame and pin the actions of his administration on defense of Guantanamo Bay. He made the right call and went to the American people to take full responsibility for the actions and to take full blame for its failures. “I’m the responsible officer of the government,” he told the world. To many people’s surprise, Kennedy’s approval ratings surged to 83 percent following his admission of failure. ("Kennedy concentrated," 2010) Kennedy learned the hard way that he can’t always trust the military brass and advisors around him. Lucky for him, he emerged from this debacle unscathed and all the wiser for it. He would take this lesson to heart and draw on it down the line when the fate of the planet lay in his hands.