November 21, 1961 – The Slippery Slope Of Nation-Building – Past Daily Reference Room
1961 was shaping up to being a very interesting year. It was the first full year of a new administration and the Cold War showed no signs of letting up. Coupled with the growing Independence movement in Africa, the very questionable situation in Europe and Germany, Cuba showing signs of antagonism towards the U.S. and the coup d´etat in The Dominican Republic, the world was becoming an unstable place and it was a full plate of potential crises greeting the Kennedy White House.
But on this day, during this month of November in 1961, attention was focused on the situation in the Dominican Republic and the possibilities of some intervention in South Vietnam. The Dominican Republic had just ousted the last of the Trujillo regime, a dictatorship which ruled for some 31 years before Rafael Trujillo‘s shooting death and the toppling of the government as a result. The question for that Caribbean nation was, what was going to take its place? There was the distinct possibility, and in fact there was, the presence of American Naval warships in the waters just beyond the territorial limit, ready to go in and intervene at any time.
And on the other side of the world there was growing tension between North and South Vietnam – the threat of a shooting war to take place at any time. We had been background supporters of the Diem regime in South Vietnam, ever since the French left the former colony in 1954, supplying economic aid to the South Vietnamese and military aid to the South Vietnamese Army.
But were we in the business of nation building? And what would our military intervention in South Vietnam and The Dominican Republic look like? And would this be an unstoppable trend; to be the world’s police force, in competition with the Soviet Union for hearts and minds?
That question is posed in this broadcast, part of Emphasis, the daily news feature of NBC Radio featuring veteran newsman and anchor Chet Huntley three times a week.
Huntley poses the question of just what is the role of Nation-builder, and are we equipped to do that?
Interesting to consider that Vietnam would blow up three years later, after smoldering under the surface. And The Dominican Republic would be the site of an American invasion in 1965, under President Johnson‘s direction.
Huntley talks about our concept of Nation-building as a slippery slope – that potentially more bad could come out of it than good. History proved that point. But at the time, it was a big question mark – and were The New Frontier, after all.
Here is that Commentary by Chet Huntley via Emphasis on NBC Radio.
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