John F. Kennedy


John F. Kennedy

World Leader

Stephen G. Rabe

Issues in the History of American Foreign Relations Series

272 pages


February 2010


$60.00 Add to Cart

February 2010


$22.50 Add to Cart

About the Book

President John F. Kennedy remains a subject of fascination for both historians and citizens. Consistently ranked among the most popular U.S. presidents, Kennedy led the country during a time of rapid social change at home punctuated by critical foreign policy crises, among them the Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba, the showdown with the Soviet Union over the erection of the Berlin Wall, the Cuban missile crisis, and the escalation of American involvement in Vietnam.

As Stephen G. Rabe explains in this introduction to American foreign policy at the height of the Cold War, Kennedy perceived himself as a foreign policy president. Time and again, the president used the threat of force, good diplomacy, and sound judgment to keep the world from falling into the abyss of nuclear war. But Kennedy did more than manage foreign policy crises. He launched major economic development programs for Latin America, India, and Egypt and dispatched Peace Corps volunteers around the world. He attempted to mediate the Arab-Israeli dispute and to stop the spread of nuclear weapons to China and Israel. Under Kennedy, the United States began for the first time to develop a policy for Africa.

Taking a fresh look at Kennedy’s wide-ranging efforts to change the world, Rabe devotes chapters to U.S. relations with the Soviet Union, Cuba, Latin America, and Vietnam. The author also evaluates Kennedy’s approach to India, China, Egypt, and Israel and such African nations as Algeria, Angola, and South Africa. Rabe concludes by exploring whether Kennedy was contemplating a new approach toward the Soviet Union, one that, had Kennedy lived to see reelection, might have soon ushered in the era of détente.


“Stephen Rabe does a remarkable job expressing the complex ‘world’ of John F. Kennedy. In crisp prose and with due attention to scholarly debates and fresh evidence, he conveys Kennedy’s highest ideals and worst failings, indicating the multiple identities—Cold Warrior, friend of the developing world, arrogant imperialist—of a fascinating foreign policy president.”—Alan McPherson, Associate Professor of International and Area Studies, University of Oklahoma

“Based on recent scholarship and grounded in abundant source material, this is a superbly written, interpretative study by an accomplished historian. Scholars and students alike interested in a balanced appraisal of Kennedy’s foreign policy will find Stephen Rabe’s book useful and stimulating.”—James Giglio, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Missouri State University

“With its succinct narrative of key events and judicious analysis, Stephen Rabe provides the finest study of John F. Kennedy’s foreign policy to date. It is of value to scholars seeking the latest understanding of this crucial time in the Cold War and, with the excellent selection of documents, an ideal monograph for the classroom.”—David F. Schmitz, Robert Allen Skotheim Chair of History, Whitman College

“An extraordinary study. A fascinating analysis and a worth contribution to American History and presidential studies shelves, highly recommended.”—Midwest Book Review

"This [book] is a well researched and well written assessment of JFK's foreign policies. Extremely informative and very well balanced."—

“[Rabe] provides perhaps the first comprehensive analysis of Kennedy’s foreign policy to date.”—Journal of American History