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Chester Bowles, Diary Entry, “Thoughts on the New Administration,” June 3, 1961.
Chester Bowles Papers. Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University.

Habib Moody ’10, Chester Bowles on Expertise

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Chester Bowles served as Under Secretary of State from January to December 1961, at which point he became Special Representative and Adviser on African, Asian, and Latin American Affairs. After thirty years in the practice of diplomacy, public administration, and advertising, he reveals in these diary entries profound worries about the intellectualism of Kennedy’s cabinet. Here, Bowles lays out his chief reservation about the approach of President Kennedy and his top deputies to decision-making: their reliance on numerical cost-benefit analysis, often at the expense of the vital, ethical dimensions of policymaking. Writing just six weeks after the Bay of Pigs incident, Bowles admires the President’s intelligence, but questions the peculiar indifference to principle that accompanies it. For Bowles, this posture poses a tremendous risk: with no moral rudder, the leader’s conscience easily bends to the prepackaged, incautious recommendations of experts in the military and CIA.