You can now read 10 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

The Boston Globe

Opinion

JAMES CARROLL

Credible presidential power

For newly elected US presidents, temptation to talk tough has deadly consequences

Newly elected presidents can be dangerous. Untested and inexperienced, they can act in the name of national security to soothe a personal insecurity. Appearing tough, they think, can make them tough. A case in point goes back 50 years ago today — the start of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which rescued a president from just this dilemma.

Early in his term, John F. Kennedy bungled the Bay of Pigs and was then roughed up by Nikita Khrushchev at the June summit in Vienna. No “cojones,” critics said. “Now we have a problem in trying to make our power credible,” Kennedy told Times columnist James Reston, “and Vietnam looks like the place.” By “our power,” he meant his own. Having dispatched a few military advisers to help ward off a communist insurgency far away, Kennedy now looked to Southeast Asia as the arena in which to show his nerve.

Loading comments...

You have reached the limit of 10 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week