John F. Kennedy's strengths and weaknesses with regard to foreign affairs during the period 1961-1963 will be examined in view of the fact that the United States made substantial changes in its foreign aid programs during Kennedy's presidency. In a message to congress in March, 1961, Kennedy affirmed the views of his predecessors that aid was essential to U.S. foreign policy; in addition, however, he spoke of the nation's moral, economic, and political obligations to the rest of the world.
Kennedy saw economic growth and political democracy as two essential aspects of foreign affairs. One aspect went hand in hand with the other, in a sort of symbiotic relationship; after all, nations which were poor and struggling would be vulnerable to political systems other than democracy. A demoralized and poverty-plagued populace would be more susceptible to the appeal of communism than countries which were already flourishing under free-reign capitalism in a democratic society.
Some of the features of Kennedy's new foreign program, all of which could be viewed as strengths, or weaknesses, were the following: (1.) unified administration and operation; (2.) long-term financing; (3.) increased use of loans; (4.) greater participation by other advanced countries in aid programs; and (5.) clearer distinction between military and economic aid.
The above five features are characterized by their call for more money. Even a package calling for a unified administration and operation would cost more federal money, and Kennedy's new vision called for the creation of the Agency for International Development, or AID, to replace the International Cooperation Administration (ICA) as the main economic aid agency. With a reshuffling of agencies, including the Development Loan Fund (DLF), Kennedy set forth a massive infrastructure of federal programs designed to oversee a massive buildup of loan programs to countries which could benefit from U.S. ...