#NetGalley #TheKennedysintheWorld: How Jack, Bobby, and Ted Remade America’s Empire by Lawrence J. Haas

I said it before and I’ll say it again, I’ll read anything on the Kennedys, one of the families that used to be considered American “royalty” for the power they held, the glamour they exuded, their philanthropic efforts, and more. I actually have a picture of RFK and JFK hanging on the wall that I found in a thrift store more than 30 years ago. So it was a no-brainer when NetGalley and Potomac Books offered The Kennedys in the World: How Jack, Bobby, and Ted Remade America’s Empire to me as an ARC, I jumped at the chance to read it to offer my honest opinion. The book goes on sale to the general public March 1, 2021.

The Kennedys in the World tells a new, rich, fascinating, and consequential story about Jack, Bobby, and Ted Kennedy. From an early age the brothers developed a deep understanding of the different peoples, cultures, and ideologies around the world; a keen appreciation for the challenges that such differences created for the United States; and a strong desire to reshape America’s response to them.

From their childhoods in the first half of the twentieth century, the brothers were prodded by their ruthless, demanding, win-at-all-costs father, Joe Kennedy, and their cold and distant mother, Rose, to learn and care about the world—and told they could shape America’s role in it. For more than six decades after World War II, the brothers shaped broad issues of war and peace as well as the U.S. response to almost every major global challenge of their times: the Soviet Union and China, the Cold War and Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Chile, Nicaragua and El Salvador, Korea and Vietnam, South Africa and Northern Ireland, and Iraq (twice).

In their time, America was what it remains today—the world’s greatest power, with roles and responsibilities that stretch across the planet. Consequently, as the brothers remade America’s empire, they invariably changed the world.”

The Kennedys in the World: How Jack, Bobby, and Ted Remade America’s Empire is not your standard Kennedy biography. Rather, it’s a look at how they viewed foreign policy, even at a young age, and how their frequent trips around the world help shape their views and helped them make decisions when they were in positions of power.

If you’ve read anything about the Kennedys, most of the information will not be new to you. As the book’s title implies, this book is how the brothers’ views of what was going on across the globe affected their decisions throughout their lives. In fact, it shows how some of Jack, Robert and Ted’s views changed as they got on the ground and visited certain areas of the world, getting a better understanding of what was going on instead of staying in Washington and relying upon reports from others to form opinions.

The book is divided into three sections, one section for each brother. Not surprisingly, the bulk of the book is about John F. Kennedy, since even at an early age, he had an interest in foreign affairs. But there’s a lot of crossover with each part, too, with Bobby and Ted appearing in the Jack section, and even the ghosts of Jack and Bobby in the Ted section. There’s even an epilogue, a What If? game that is so often played when discussing the brothers, especially Jack and Robert.

The biggest what if has to be Vietnam and JFK’s plans. The book shows evidence that Jack intended to pull out of the country, but not until after the 1964 election. Also interesting is that I’ve read now in more than one place that John Kennedy was not that big on the space race, despite his declaration to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960’s. There’s even a speech revealed where he talks about a moon mission should include the Russians as it should be an accomplishment of all humankind, not just one nation.

I also always find interesting the evolution of Robert Kennedy from Cold War Hawk to a man who vociferously opposed the very Vietnam War that he originally championed. He was honest when he brought it up, saying he had been in the administration that escalated the “police action” but that he had come realize that he was wrong in his views. Not many politicians admit they were wrong, and that’s why RFK has always been the favorite of the Kennedy family.

The Kennedys in the World: How Jack, Bobby, and Ted Remade America’s Empire is an interesting read if you care about the history of the world politics from the 1930’s right up until Ted’s death in 2009.

For more of my book reviews about the Kennedys, click here.

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