Ch. 2: Illusions of Flexibility and Control
Kennedy kept Dulles and LeMay to signal continuity, but there was a behind-the-scenes struggle led by Gen. Maxwell Taylor to reassert the role of the U.S. Army by expanding and modernizing conventional forces that was “simultaneously masked by, and captured in, the phrase flexible response ” (60; 59-63).
This agenda purported to aim at “resisting aggression” but really created new options for limited aggressive warfare by the U.S. (63-66).
McNamara engaged in a struggle with LeMay to control U.S. policy on nuclear weapons, but he embraced the need for redundancy based on a land-sea-air attack “triad” and LeMay et al. “got most of what they wanted” (66-72).
In the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy instituted the morally and legally “indefensible” Operation Mongoose,” in effect, a program of state-sponsored terrorism” against Cuba (80; 72-82 [but Bacevich is silent on its wilder elements, like Operation Northwoods]).
U.S. recklessness caused the Cuban Missile Crisis, and to his credit Kennedy acknowledged this (albeit privately) and “suspended the tradition” in defusing the crisis (82-87).
Bacevich rejects as a romantic delusion the view that in the aftermath of this crisis Kennedy turned against the military-industrial complex and the incipient Vietnam war and shows no interest in Kennedy’s assassination itself (87-92).
He sees a parallel between escalation in Vietnam and post-9/11 aggression as “fought to sustain the Washington consensus” (107; 92-107).