Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 3 No. 2 Summer 1981

Eisenhower had become ever more deeply concerned with those issues after retiring from the Army. Thus, while it is true that he was not an intellectual, and was conservative in many ways, it is also true that he had a firm sense of how the State had gradually taken over the very process of creating and controlling basic ideas—the ways of making sense of reality. Or, in a different way, how the State used its extensive control of information, and its ability to make major decisions in the name of security, to create an ideology ever more defined in content as well as rhetoric as an imperial way of life. Eisehower’s most serious weakness did not lie in his fidelity to a rudimentary version of marketplace economics, or even in his excessive caution about how quickly and how far he could move the American citizenry away from its imperial obsessions with Russia, China and other revolutionary movements. It was defined by his unwillingness to translate his valid perceptions into strong policies and active, sustained leadership. He lacked Hoover’s (or even Churchill’s) toughness about accepting the limits of American power and the former President’s knowledge that the only way to deal with the costly and unhealthy consequences of empire was to begin creating a different way of life. Given his charisma, Eisenhower could have initiated that process and perhaps even created an irreversible momentum. Kennedy’s Global Frontiers Failing to do that, he left no dynamic legacy.' The militant advocates of the global imperial way of life quickly reasserted their power and policy. They, too, recognized that the Chinese counterintervention in Korea had brought the empire to a critical juncture. Their response was to reassert American power and get on with policing the world in the name of benevolent progress. Led by John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and calling themselves the New Frontiersmen, they perfectly expressed the psychopathology of the empire at bay and its consequences. Onward and outward in the spirit of NSC- 68. “Ask not what your country can do for you,” intoned Kennedy in his 1961 inaugural address, “ask what you can do for your country.” By country, of course, they mean their Government. Kennedy and his advisers had the brilliant perception to talk about the empire in the classic idiom of the frontier. That propaganda gem is of itself almost enough to justify honoring them as a cleverest imperial leaders of their generation. The best that Henry Kissinger could do a few years later, for example, was to blurt out a crude reference to the same idiom—presenting himself as Gary Cooper in High Noon. The excessively self-conscious Dr. Cowboy will ride on stage in good time, but for the moment let us concentrate on those Kennedy hands who were born and bred to empire. “Our frontiers today,” cried Kennedy, “are on every continent.” America has “obligations,” he explained, “which stretch ten thousand miles across the Pacific, and three and four thousand miles across the Atlantic, and thousands of miles to the south. Only the United States—and we are only six percent of the world’s population—bears this kind of burden.” He understandably neglected to mention that the burden on the metropolis was somewhat eased by the benefits of controlling a grossly disproportionate percentage of the world’s resources. He was more concerned with creating the psychological mood of impending doom: “The tide of events has been running out and time has not been our friend.” The failure of the effort early in 1961 to overthrow Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba intensified that trauma. Not only The empire had been brought to bay. Dwight David Eisenhower understood that essential truth, and further realized that the future character of American society depended upon how the culture responded. did the rhetoric become ever more apocalyptic (“this time of maximum danger”) but Kennedy immediately began a massive military buildup in the spirit of NSC-68 (three special requests for extra funds during 1961). Then he indulged himself in a truly arrogant and irresponsible act. Knowing that the United States enjoyed a massive superiority in strategic weapons, Kennedy publicly goaded, even insulted, the Soviet Union about its gross inferiority. He scared the Russians viscerally, and in the process not only prompted them to launch a desperate effort to correct the vast imbalance but very probably touched off the internal Soviet dialogue that led to the confrontation in 1962 over Russian missiles in Cuba. The more evidence that appears about that moment on the edge of the abyss, the more it seems probable that the Russians never had any intention of going to war. Taken with all appropriate skepticism, for example, Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s account very likely contains the essence of the truth: Moscow was less concerned with the possibility of a second invasion of Cuba than with somehow— even at sizable risk—jarring Washington into a realization that, if pushed to the wall, the Russians would fight rather than surrender. Given their grave inferiority, the only way they could make that point was by creating a situation that would dramatize for Americans the threat as experienced daily by the Soviet Union. Kennedy’s understanding of that message was limited. He spoke of the need to avoid further such crises, but he clearly felt that America had regained the initiative, that he was now free to deploy American forces to prevent or control further change that might weaken the American empire. He did talk about accepting diversity among the poor and developing nations, and about programs to facilitate some social and economic improvements in Latin America and other countries. And he did make some efforts, as in the Alliance for Progress and the Peace Corps, to act on that rhetoric. But he also embarked upon an obsessive campaign to ARTICHOKE MUSIC 11-6 • monday-saturday • 722 northwest 21st • 248-0356 Super Summer Sale July 13-31, 20% & more off Casual, intimate, and family dining in the comfort of our bucket seats. Enjoy fine steaks, seafood, omelettes and sandwiches. Home-style cookin’ and lots of it at pre-gas-shortage prices. The Rolls Royce of Restaurants This has got to be the classiest potata ever. 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