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Kennedy Era Official Charles Maechling Jr. Reflects On Cold War Legacy

July 16, 1999 -- It was the early 1960s. John F. Kennedy was president. The Cold War was being fought in developing countries around the world. American policy makers thought it important to secure sympathetic governments and train local police forces to protect them.

But in their ignorance of the history, cultures and forces shaking countries in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America, Kennedy's best and brightest laid the groundwork for state-sanctioned violence that continues to this day, argues Charles Maechling Jr., a State Department official during the Kennedy administration.

Maechling offers an inside view of foreign policy making in his essay, "Camelot, Robert Kennedy and Counter-Insurgency: A Memoir," which appears in the just-published Summer 1999 issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review.

As the chief staff member of the Cabinet-level Special Group on Counter-Insurgency, established by President Kennedy in 1962 at the height of the Cold War, Maechling was well placed to watch policy being made. It was not always a pretty sight.

The group's mission was to develop an interdepartmental response to subversive insurgency, in particular, wars of national liberation considered to pose a threat to the United States. But time after time, as programs were established to train and equip foreign police forces, no mention was made of respecting human rights. Instead of helping to spread the ideals of democracy, the result was to improve the efficiency of repressive governments in the developing world.

Recounting his personal experiences in meetings with Bobby Kennedy as well as top military brass destined to direct the American involvement in the Vietnam War, Maechling sheds new light on a difficult time in American foreign policy making.

For comment on the article, call Charles Maechling, a retired lawyer and diplomat living in Washington, at (506) 529-3341.

Contact: Charlotte Crystal, (804) 924-6858.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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