- Editor’s Note
This issue begins with an article by Michael D. Stevenson discussing the crisis that engulfed U.S.-Canadian relations in the early 1960s in connection with the proposed transfer of nuclear-armed BOMARC air defense missiles to Canadian jurisdiction. President John F. Kennedy and his advisers became increasingly frustrated with Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker because of his reluctance to permit nuclear munitions to be stored on Canadian territory in peacetime. The administration worried that Diefenbaker’s leeriness of embracing U.S. proposals for nuclear weapons custody would leave crucial air defense systems unable to respond in a timely manner to incoming Soviet long-range bombers. In the wake of the Cuban missile crisis, which created new opportunities for the Kennedy administration to press the issue, Diefenbaker moved closer to the U.S. position, but senior officials in Washington eventually lost patience and abruptly suspended the negotiations. Subsequently, in a rambling speech to the Canadian parliament in late January 1963, Diefenbaker publicly disclosed that secret negotiations on the matter had been taking place, and he defended the positions he had taken. U.S. officials, irritated at the breach of confidentiality, issued a press release condemning Diefenbaker, whose government fell in elections held later that year, much to the Kennedy administration’s relief. The new government, headed by Prime Minister Lester Pearson, proved far more willing to accommodate U.S. concerns on the nuclear weapons issue.
The next article, by Olav Riste, sheds new light on the so-called Stay Behind networks that were secretly created by West European governments to be ready to deal with a possible Soviet invasion and occupation of their countries. The ongoing release of formerly secret information about these units in numerous countries over the past two decades has undermined the sensationalist claims put forth by the Swiss historian Daniele Ganser, who in a book published in 2005 asserted that Stay Behind was a creation of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the British Special Intelligence Service (SIS) and was foisted on the West European countries. Ganser further alleged that the Stay Behind networks repeatedly interfered in the West European countries’ domestic affairs and were implicated in right-wing terrorist attacks. Riste shows that every aspect of Ganser’s depiction is fanciful. Far from being creations of the CIA and SIS, the Stay Behind units were formed by indigenous actors acting on the basis of intense local fears of the expansionist threat posed by the Soviet Army in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The volunteers who served in these units did so for patriotic reasons, not because they had been enlisted by sinister external forces. Moreover, Ganser’s conspiratorial depiction of the Stay Behind as “NATO’s secret armies” is contravened by archival evidence from more than a dozen European countries showing that the [End Page 1] networks were never under the command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and were always overseen exclusively by local intelligence services.
The next article, by Evan McCormick, explores the debates within the Reagan administration in the early 1980s about policy toward Latin America. After Ronald Reagan came to office in January 1981 he did what other U.S. presidents have done when they succeed a president from the opposing political party—namely, they reject (at least rhetorically) everything associated with their predecessor. Reagan pledged to undo the policies of Jimmy Carter, including Carter’s policy toward Latin America, but this effort to be “not Carter” left considerable leeway for the new administration to shape a concrete policy in the region. McCormick shows that some officials such as Alexander Haig and Jeane Kirkpatrick wanted to pursue a hard line against Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba and against Marxist guerrillas in Central America, but other officials wanted to avoid getting bogged down in Central America, for fear that it would divert attention, resources, and political capital from higher-priority efforts, especially proposals for tax cuts and increases in military budgets. Although Reagan did eventually embrace the “Reagan Doctrine” in Central America (a term coined by Charles Krauthammer) and provided military aid to insurgents fighting against the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, the president also...