- campaign rhetoric - inaugral address - devoted to foreign policy. prisoner of his own cold war campain rhetoric - designed to win votes.
- third world insurgency - third world was likely to be the main future arena of the struggle between the US and the Soviet Union.
- advisers - secretary of defence (mcnamara) so he was influenced by the defence department rather than the state. defence department naturally inclined to see problems in terms of military solutions.
robert mcnamara - secretary of defence
great believer in US commitment to vietnam but his solutions were always military which proved to be unhelpful. trained in the importance of statistics and tended to look at numbers of weapons and men while forgetting poorly armed people will fight to the death for their independence.
dean rusk - secretary of state
wanted to dominate foreign policy personally. irritated at kennedy for listening more to his brother than his advisers. the president complained that rusk was frustrating, slow and indecisive. rusk felt it was his duty to put all the options before the president so kennedy could make an informed deicision. rusk believed in american involvement in vietnam.