The Laos Crisis, 1960–1963

“The first foreign policy crisis faced by President-elect John F. Kennedy was not centered in Berlin, nor in Cuba, nor in the islands off the Chinese mainland, nor in Vietnam, nor in any of the better-known hot spots of the Cold War, but in landlocked, poverty stricken Laos. This was the major issue Kennedy and his foreign policy team—Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, and National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy—focused on during the days leading up to Kennedy’s inauguration on January 20, 1961. Kennedy met with President Eisenhower the day before his inauguration with two goals in mind. He expected the meeting to ‘serve a specific purpose in reassuring the public as to the harmony of the transition. Therefore strengthening our hand.’ His substantive focus was on Laos. ‘I was anxious,’ he recounted to his secretary, ‘to get some commitment from the outgoing administration as to how they would deal with Laos which they were handing to us. I thought particularly it would be useful to have some idea as to how prepared they were for intervention.’ The Eisenhower administration was leaving Kennedy a confused, complex, and intractable situation. Laos was a victim of geography: a RAND study of the period summarized the nation as ‘Hardly a nation except in the legal sense, Laos lacked the ability to defend its recent independence. Its economy was undeveloped, its administrative capacity primitive, its population divided both ethnically and regionally, and its elite disunited, corrupt, and unfit to lead.’ But this surpassingly weak state was the ‘cork in the bottle,’ as Eisenhower summarized in his meeting with Kennedy; the outgoing President expected its loss to be ‘the beginning of the loss of most of the Far East.’ The Eisenhower administration had worked for years to create a strong anti-Communist bastion in Laos, a bulwark against Communist China and North Vietnam. While attractive on a map, this strategy was completely at odds with the characteristics of the Laotian state and people.  …”
CIA: Recollections of a Case Officer in Laos, 1962-1964
W – CIA activities in Laos
YouTube: President Kennedy Talks On Laos (1963), Secret War in Laos: Bombing Attacks, School Activities, Military Training of the Pathet Lao, Crisis in Laos 1961,
Soldiers and civilians took supplies south on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in ARVN, CIA, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh Trail, John Kennedy, Lyn. Johnson, R. McNamara, Viet Cong, Vietnam War and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s