I recently watched the documentary on Netflix called Bobby Kennedy for President. It focuses on the events leading up to his run for President in 1968 and his assassination. Fifty years ago this week, Kennedy was murdered in Los Angeles after winning the Democratic Primary in California.
The images of the train carrying his body across America are very moving. You are tempted to ask : What if Kennedy had lived? It is very easy to get caught in the nostalgia trap especially in the current climate to look back on the 1960s and think what might have been. Would Kennedy have been a good President? Would the expectations have been so high that disappointment was inevitable, especially for the Black and Hispanic populations? Just look at Barack Obama, this is what happens when expectation meets hype meets soaring rhetoric.
I have been looking at another Robert Kennedy, the one who served his brother John when he was President in the early 1960s. That Robert Kennedy was Attorney General, but in reality he was second in command in the Kennedy Administration. Both Kennedy brothers were keen to get rid of Fidel Castro. The Cuban Revolution was an affront to them. A socialist state in the Caribbean that was allied to the Soviet Union? No way!
Robert Kennedy was the point man in the Administration to drive the campaign to get rid of Fidel Castro. He was constantly badgering the CIA to up the ante. Think Dick Cheney riding the CIA to prove Iraq had WMDs and you get the picture. A campaign of terror was created called Operation Mongoose, which included economic sabotage and assassination. Some would call it a terrorist campaign to destroy the Cuban government. If that meant consorting with organised crime aka The Mafia figures to kill Castro so be it. In effect, this was a covert war designed to change the regime in a foreign nation.The sort of thing Americans accuse Vladimir Putin of doing today.
By the way, Robert Kennedy was a supporter of the war in Vietnam. More advisors were sent to support President Diem in Saigon and their mission was expanded. They were no longer just training, they were joining combat missions.
Robert Kennedy may have been a changed man by the 1960s, but for a good chunk of it, he was a Cold War warrior who thought the ends justifies the means, even it meant fighting dirty wars.