Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cuban Missile Crisis

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The Cuban Missile Crisis.

Quick facts

On October 16, 16 President Kennedy receives word from the intelligence that in Cuba there are Russian medium-range ballistic missiles. It was now time to take decisions about what to do. Many theories were discussed

1) Operation Plan 1 it was an operation that contemplated a fast reaction against single targets such as surface-to-air missile sites or large-scale attacks on Cuba.

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) Operation Plan 14 this was an operation that contemplated a full scale invasion combining the air force, the navy and the army that assaulted the Havana area.

) Operation Plan 16 this was another invasion plan on a five days notice.

4) Operation Mongoose it was a convert action operation to use “available assets” to overthrow the Castro government.

This last one has been authorized by President Kennedy on 0 November 161. Being in the middle of the Cold War period this was a program of paramilitary subversion based on economic, political and psychological sabotage. it was managed by general Ed. G.Lansdale, a cloak-and-dagger man of the period. General Lansdale formulated a schedule for overthrowing the Castro government through a six phase sequence that would culminate in October 16 with a popular revolution that could be used as a pretext of American invasion. Task Force W, a CIA unit that Mongoose ran, consisted of 400 CIA agents that controlled virtually every Cuban agent, a secret fleet of marine and air force aircrafts and ships that would have cost $50 million a year.

Here is the chronology of the unfolding crisis October President Kennedy announces on public television that the intelligence has found 4 missiles in the Cuba Island. He announces also his intention to impose quarantine on all shipments of offensive weapons to the island (Oct. 4). From October 4 to 6 there was a stalemate as both sides refused to back up from their positions even if no one wants the direct confrontation. October 7 finally they discuss the option to take away the American missiles that were in Turkey for the removal of the Soviet missiles in Cuba. October 8 this is the day of crisis resolution, there is no fight and the super powers decide the dates to withdraw troops and missiles.

The Historiography of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Many schools of thought have born on this important fact. The main schools and interpretations are the following

The traditional interpretation

This interpretation supports the theory that locating missiles in Cuba from the Russians was an intolerable provocation toward the Americans. According to these historians the quarantine was a perfect response strategy because in the middle of the Cold War it could have been easy to fall in the direct combat. So the Americans avoided the violence to avoid a Soviet response which could have brought to the nuclear disaster. President Kennedy came out from this fact as a total winner, as a person able to negotiate in a diplomatic and winning way.

The revisionist interpretation

From the revisionist point of view Kennedy is accused of being misled by his emotions and overreacting to the Soviet missile deployment, risking a nuclear war just for the sake of political power in America. For these historians there should have been a confrontation rather than prolonged negotiation to force Khrushchev to remove the missiles before the November elections which would be waged on Kennedys political vulnerability on Cuba. A criticism that the revisionists make is that it was known (?) that Kennedy and his administration were planning secret military operations against Castro in Cuba already before the Cuban missile crisis.

Also, the revisionists think that Kennedy had a certain fear of being seen as inferior by the American people and the rest of the world, so he chose the direct confrontation in order not to appear weak.

To some revisionists, like Robert Smith Thompson, President Kennedy knew about the SS-4s and SS-5s and simply wanted the confrontation with Khrushchev to prove the American nuclear superiority. Given Operation Mongoose, Khrushchev was able to test the limits of American resolve and yet not appear weak himself. The Soviets winning the non invasion pledge was a symbolic humbling of the White House.

There are issues dividing traditionalists from revisionists in the Cuban missile crisis historiography

Kennedy was concerned about the reaction in America to the Cuba missiles crisis. He was also concerned about how people would view his reaction to the problem. In the 160 presidential election Kennedy spoke about of the Cuban issue, now the issue had come back to haunt him and the facts are that Cuba has become an offensive Soviet base. Historians speak about a political trap for Kennedy in which he had to decide between challenging the soviets in Cuba and challenging the USSR risking to broaden the issue into a political liability (as what is happening in Iraq with W. Bush). One way that Kennedy saw to avoid political back-lash was to use a naval blockade of Cuba instead of using the Air Force against the missiles. In conjunction with that attitude he demonstrated the willingness to take the American missiles out of Turkey.

Kennedy was also concerned that he needed to be strong on the issue of Cuba because he didn’t demonstrate enough strength in the past with such matters as the Bay of Pigs, the Vienna summit and the Berlin Wall. Khrushchev did not intend to show lack of respect for Kennedy by putting the missiles in Cuba; instead he placed them there for defense of the Island from American invasion, to maintain the balance of nuclear arms between the two super powers and to display a right to deploy nuclear weapons in close proximity to the United States since the United States had put missiles in Turkey.

Kennedy was concerned that wile he was making these decisions Cuba and the soviets were as well informed about CIA activities and capabilities.

Kennedy and his administration were not examining all facets of the situation. They believed that Khrushchev was acting in a manner that displayed himself more as a “bully” than a leader concerned of his country’s security.

In the end Kennedy didn’t appear weak with the soviets and at the same time he had the ability to be strong also with his own administration avoiding the military opened confrontation.

The Implications of the Cuban Missile Crisis for US Foreign Policy

Cuba is, from some historian’s point of view, seen as an important turning-point in Soviet-American relations. For example, after what happened in Cuba both sides moved to reduce the threat of direct confrontation avoiding the atomic apocalypse making such resolutions as the Hot line Agreement and the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 16. After what happened in Cuba there have been no more direct confrontations between these two superpowers and neither superpower has felt threatened by the other since that very bad five days moment of shit in the pants.

Personal Opinion

From the Cuban missile crisis both sides learned that risking nuclear war in pursuit of political objectives was simply too dangerous. It was the last time during the Cold War that either side would take this risk. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, the US and USSR still superimposed their competition on local conflicts in other parts of the globe. In the event, both leaders emerged with something from the crisis. Kennedy had successfully stood up to Khrushchev and had made him back down. At the same time, the USSR had gained a useful ally in Uncle Sams backyard and a promise from the USA that Cuba would not be invaded. The fact that Khrushchev had been forced to back down over the question of missiles was quietly forgotten in Soviet circles, whereas Khrushchevs role as a responsible peacemaker was highlighted.

The Cuban missile crisis has had important long-term effects. Even during the crisis itself, some of us in the U.S. government, and I presume in the Soviet government as well, were thinking ahead to the future. For example, I had argued for a tough stand on the removal of the missiles and the bombers, but also for movement toward a reduction in tensions after resolution of the crisis. The United States and the Soviet Union are great powers with global interests, and sometimes those interests clash. Crisis management is necessary if crises arise; but crisis prevention and crisis avoidance based on political restraint and accommodation of differences are much to be preferred. Arms control limitations and reductions are important in their own right and because they can favorably affect political relations. Prevention of nuclear war, and hence prevention of any war involving the United States and the Soviet Union, are of the highest priority. Nonetheless, since political efforts to resolve disputes peacefully are not always successful, we must be prepared to deal with and defuse any crises that may, despite our best efforts, occur. This includes the need to de-escalate crises, and still more any armed hostilities that might break out. Studying the experience and learning the lessons of the 16 missile crisis, and to the extent possible doing so together, can help both the United States and the Soviet Union to ensure not only that such a crisis never recurs, but also that a greater catastrophe never occurs.

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