John F. Kennedy became President of the United States at a time when the process of the decolonization of the European colonies in Asia and Africa was well underway. Decolonization established new possibilities for the United States, because it could open the ex-colonies to greater U.S. economic and financial penetration. But decolonization also established for the United States a situation of insecurity, in that there was now the possibility that the newly independent nations could incorporate themselves into the socialist bloc or could emerge with anti-imperialist and/or socialist governments.
The Non-Aligned Movement was formed by the most radical Third World leaders who sought to break with the neo-colonial relation. An organization of newly independent governments, the Non-Aligned Movement was anti-imperialist, but it did not wish to be incorporated into the socialist bloc. It sought to break dependency with the major capitalist powers and to avoid dependency on the nations of the socialist bloc. To the extent that these radical Third World movements were socialist, they were developing in theory and practice a redefinition of socialism. But such nuances were not appreciated by the Kennedy administration, which considered newly independent Third World nations to be “vulnerable to communist influence” and viewed the national liberation movements as “extensions of Soviet power in the world” (Arboleya 2008:151-52).
Accordingly, the foreign policy of the Kennedy administration gave greater emphasis to the Third World as the arena of the Cold War conflict between the superpowers, developing a perspective that viewed the national liberation movements and newly independent nationalist governments as expressions of communism and Soviet influence, downplaying their nationalist, anti-colonial, and anti-imperialist character (Arboleya 2008:151).
The US strategy toward the Third World during the Kennedy administration included the development of a US capacity for counterinsurgency, involving armed confrontation with the revolutionary movements of the Third World. The Special Forces (“Green Berets”) were developed in order to give the armed forces the capacity for a flexible response in any place or circumstance in the world. In addition, the CIA became involved in training military and para-military groups in the neocolonies of the Third World, developing techniques that came to be known as dirty wars. "Since 1954, the CIA was given the task of strengthening security corps in various parts of the world, but beginning with the Kennedy administration, this mission would have greater importance and greater consequences. Through the so-called Program of Public Security, the United States trained more than a million security personnel of other nations, and this development is tied with the emergence of the 'death squads,' with the indiscriminate application of the torture of political prisoners, the assassination and disappearance of alleged insurrectionists, and the dissemination of terror among the civil populations in the zones of conflict" (Arboleya 2008:154-55). Believing that the United States and its allies in the neocolonies were confronted with a supposed “international communist conspiracy,” and assuming that the insurgent revolutionaries were uncivilized and lacking in ethical norms of conduct, the Kennedy administration excused any excess on the part of the counterinsurgents, including the most brutal forms of behavior (Arboleya 2008:153-55).
The distorted and misleading characterization of the Third World movements as well as the use of all necessary means to preserve and protect the neocolonial system, including the systemic use of barbarous techniques and practices, are legacies of US foreign policy that continue to our time. It was the dark side of Camelot.
Arboleya, Jesús. 2008. La Revolución del Otro Mundo. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales.
Key words: Third World, revolution, colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, democracy, national liberation, sovereignty, self-determination, socialism, Marxism, Leninism, Cuba, Latin America, world-system, world-economy, development, underdevelopment, colonial, neocolonial, blog Third World perspective, Cold War, counterinsurgency, Special Forces, Green Berets, Non-Aligned Movement, nonalignment