Monday, May 2, 2011

Essay on Cuban Missile Crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis Essay

The Cuban Missile Crisis which occurred in October 1962 was one of the major turning points of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. During this significant time, these two major superpowers came utterly close to war, with possible use of nuclear weapons. This crisis is the closest the world has ever come to thermonuclear war. As a brief summary of the crisis, Fidel Castro took power in Cuba by overthrowing the previous dictator, Fulgencio Batista, whom the United States had put into power.


Castro was hailed as a liberator by the Cuban people for the beginning of a new Cuban state, one that would be free politically and economically. The United States government was gravely concerned about the creation of a communist state and member of the Soviet Bloc only seventy miles from its southern shores. The Cuban arms buildup first began with the signing of agreements with the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia in mid-1960. This was followed by a secret arms buildup in Cuba sponsored by the Soviets and their satellites. Early indications of that buildup came from signals intelligence, the exploitation of Soviet and Soviet Bloc communications that carried information related to the arms supply operations. This problem became a major focus of the new Kennedy administration when it took office in January 1961. Kennedy focused much of his energy on the buildup and issued the NSA to intercept messages concerning Soviet ships headed for Havana. The cargo manifests were suspiciously blank, indicating that what they carried was more than just palm oil or farm equipment thus Kennedy's suspicions were unfortunately true. All in all, it was because of the Soviet Union's buildup of ballistic missiles within Cuba that caused thirteen days in mid-October of 1962 of the most terrifying fear of nuclear war. The United States had surrounded the Soviet Union with a picket fence of medium-range missiles in Europe capable of reaching important targets in only a few minutes. More specifically, in the thirteen days of crisis after American spy planes spotted construction of the Cuban missile sites, both leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union were searching for a way out of the catastrophe. President Kennedy's core goal was to get the missiles out of Cuba. In the end, President Kennedy chose a naval blockade over direct military action and the Soviet Union settled for an exchange for withdrawing the missiles: an American pledge not to invade Cuba.

As a way of explaining how the Cuban Missile Crisis became a crisis in the first place, one would take a liberal perspective of explaining what caused the Cuban Missile Crisis. Many liberalists, especially Marxists and other radicals, have long claimed that Capitalist countries, such as the Soviet Union, are likely to have particularly aggressive foreign policies. They say that this aggression is not limited to acts of war. In addition, they claim that political and military interventions in less developed countries are of special interest. Liberals argue that states pursue an absolute gain, which emphasizes the fact that arrangements that improve the welfare of a society are really what motivate a state's foreign policy. This may explain why the Soviet Union took special interest in Cuba in the first place. On the other hand, in the realist perspective, the state is the principal actor on the world stage. Realism focuses on the high politics of national security and the relationships between great powers. Realism focuses on maximizing power and that all actors in the international system seek the same relative set of goals. One would not use the realist theory to help explain the cause of the Cuban Missile Crisis because realists assume that conflicts between countries are not due to ideologies like as Communism, rather they are because of more tangible issues such and land, or border issues. In one explanation, S. Khrushchev (2002) suggested that that Cuban Missile crisis primarily attracts one's attention by virtue of the reason that caused it. He mentioned that what caused the crisis was not only the rivalry between the two superpowers, America and the Soviet Union, but also the cultural and civilizational distinctions between both of them. As a consequence of these distinctions, there was an inability of the leadership to adequately estimate the consequences of their own decisions and the reaction to them by the opposite side (S. Khrushchev, 2002). In other words, because of the cultural differences between the United States, the Soviet Union, and Cuba, all three countries did not fully understand the implications of their actions.

Liberals also tend to focus on increasing communications. They tend to emphasize the interconnections between individuals, societies, and governments. They feel that the more interactions between public, military, government, etc, the better and more peaceful the interactions will be. The military has always been considered an instrument of the state that could legitimately be used as a means to further political goals (Deinema & Leydesdorff, 1996). However, regarding to the Cuban Missile Crisis, Michael Deinema and Loet Leydesdorff implied that as the American society grew increasingly complex, policy making differentiated into many different departments, of which only one was dedicated specifically to the military. Thus, the interaction between the two systems became further restricted. Because of this restriction, confusing and misinterpretation of information resulted. They emphasized that the more complex a system becomes, the more difficult the coordination among the previously stabilized systems will become. As a result, miscommunication, misunderstandings, frictions, and unintended consequences will be expected to arise. Because of the lack of communication between not only the military and the government, but also between the government, the media, and the public, a crisis began to arise. For example, the President asked reporters not to break the news of attack until he informed the American people on network television. If they denied him the element of surprise, he feared what Soviets would have done. Poor communication also contributed to the escalation of the Cuban Missile Crisis because there was no direct and immediate link between the American and Soviet leaders. In addition, once the crisis entered its public phase on October 22nd, it took both leaders approximately seven days to reach a compromise. They used various written ways of communication and television and radio speeches to negotiate with one another.

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