Lyndon B. Johnson and the Crisis in the Dominican Republic

“We know of no more important problems anywhere, any time, than the problems of our neighbors. We want to see our relations with them be the very best.”

—Lyndon B. Johnson, “The President’s News Conference of December 18, 1963,” The American Presidency Project

When Lyndon B. Johnson made this statement of general goodwill toward America’s neighbors in the Western hemisphere, he was still only a month into his presidency. Only two years later, a crisis in the Dominican Republic would force Johnson to choose between his commitment to anti-communism and his desire to maintain positive relationships with Latin American nations.

In this lesson, students will look at the history of the United States’s relationship with Latin America, and they will then evaluate the competing priorities which shaped the American intervention in the Dominican Republic in 1965. They will hear President Johnson discuss the intervention with his top advisors, and compare this to his presentation of the issue to the public.

Guiding Questions

In the case of the Dominican Republic, how did President Johnson and his advisors seek to balance the foreign policy priorities of national self-determination, human rights, and anti-communism?

How did behind-the-scenes presidential policy discussions differ from Johnson’s public presentation of the decision to send U.S. troops?

Learning Objectives

Summarize America’s involvement in the Caribbean during parts of the Cold War

Identify and evaluate the advice the president received on how to deal with the crisis

Analyze the language LBJ used to inform the public of his decision to intervene in the Dominican Republic

Compare and contrast the public presentation of policy with “behind-the-scenes” presidential decision-making in the Johnson administration