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So Much to LoseJohn F. Kennedy and American Policy in Laos$
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William J. Rust

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780813144764

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813144764.001.0001

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We Cannot Enforce What We Would Like

We Cannot Enforce What We Would Like

(p.15) Chapter 1 We Cannot Enforce What We Would Like
So Much to Lose

William J. Rust

University Press of Kentucky

This chapter discusses Kennedy's initial military and diplomatic moves to diffuse the crisis in Laos that he had inherited from the Eisenhower administration. Seeking a stronger negotiating position for a neutral settlement, Kennedy authorized covert US support for unsuccessful right-wing efforts to seize the strategic Plaine des Jarres. Unwilling to allow a communist victory in Laos, Kennedy sought support for the possible execution of SEATO Plan 5, the alliance's military concept for overt military intervention. The United Kingdom and France, however, were no more receptive to Kennedy's proposals for SEATO intervention than they had been to Eisenhower’s. The immediate need for a presidential decision on unilateral US intervention was postponed by a May 3, 1961, ceasefire agreed to by the three Lao factions and by an international conference in Geneva. At a June summit meeting in Vienna, Kennedy and Khrushchev agreed that Laos had no strategic significance for either of their countries and that the two superpowers should work for a neutral settlement there. In Zurich, the so-called three princes—Boun Oum (right wing), Souvanna Phouma (neutralists), and Souphanouvong (Pathet Lao)—issued a communiqué agreeing in principle to the establishment of a provisional government with representation from each faction.

Keywords:   Plaine des Jarres, SEATO Plan 5, Vienna summit, Zurich communiqué, Souphanouvong

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