I see that your Saturday column in the Guardian has repeated John F Kennedy’s supposed “enema” put-down of J K Galbraith. Whether or not JFK made the remark is at the very least debateable: the fact of Galbraith’s service to Kennedy – and also to three other US Presidents – is not.
Had Kennedy not regarded Galbraith highly, he would not have appointed him ambassador to India, the latter’s friendship with Jawaharlal Nehru being the channel through which JFK communicated with the non-aligned world. Nor would Galbraith have been allowed to remain in post when India and China came to blows in 1962 over a border dispute.
And, following the disastrous Bay Of Pigs episode and Kennedy’s declining trust in his more hawkish advisors, anyone not well regarded would not have been sought out to inform JFK on Vietnam: Galbraith made a visit to Saigon on Kennedy’s direct order after the latter was pressured to intervene militarily.
Moreover, Kennedy leaned very much towards Galbraith’s assessment of the situation in Vietnam, and more importantly his urging of a diplomatic solution, which would have involved negotiation with the USSR, and a UN peacekeeping force. And Kennedy would not have sounded out Galbraith about becoming US ambassador in Moscow, had he not regarded him well.
Indeed, had Kennedy continued to push back against the hawks, and had he lived, the whole Vietnam quagmire might have been avoided. This was an entirely plausible scenario, and much of it would have been down to Galbraith, and his unfailingly accurate analysis of the situation in Indochina.
As for the cables Galbraith sent the President from India, had JFK been as dismissive as you suggest, he would not have overruled Dean Rusk when the Secretary of State asked that Galbraith’s use of this channel be curbed. Nor would JFK have sent word to Galbraith, via his wife, that those cables might form the basis of a book, which they did with the later publication of Ambassador’s Journal.
I’m mystified both by your repeating the suggestion that JFK held Galbraith in such low regard, and that, at least by inference, you choose to ignore the latter’s real influence and achievement. That is a pity, as your contribution to each Saturday’s Guardian is something I otherwise enjoy.