|Cuban Missile Crisis|American defeat or victory | will writing service hull Willard Cornelius12/10/2010|???Imagine, Mr. President, what if we were to present to you such an ultimatum as you have presented to us by your actions??? (Soviet Archives Exhibit). This opening line of a letter written from Khrushchev to John F. Kennedy shows the feelings of the Soviet Union at the time of October 24, 1962 towards America. Following the end of World War II, the Soviet Union was placed in the spotlight.
The Cold War ensued between America and the Soviet Union. One of the major events of the Cold War was that which happened in 1962, on a small island just off of the coast of America.The island of Cuba has been under the dictatorship of Fidel Castro since 1959. Fidel Castro is considered to be a Marxist, and that is why it is no surprise that Fidel found a friend in the leader of the Soviet Union. After obtaining Fidel Castros approval, the Soviet Union worked quickly and secretly to build missile installations in Cuba. On October 16, President John Kennedy was shown reconnaissance photographs of Soviet missile installations under construction in Cuba. After seven days of guarded and intense debate in the United States administration, during which Soviet diplomats denied that installations for offensive missiles were being built in Cuba, President Kennedy, in a televised address on October 22, announced the discovery of the installations and proclaimed that any nuclear missile attack from Cuba would be regarded as an attack by the Soviet Union and would be responded to accordingly (Soviet Archives Exhibit).
He also imposed a naval quarantine on Cuba to prevent further Soviet shipments of offensive military weapons from arriving there.President Kennedys first reaction to the information about the missiles in Cuba was to call a meeting to discuss what should be done. Robert S McNamara, Secretary of State for Defense, suggested the formation of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council. Fourteen men attended the meeting and included military leaders, experts on Latin America, representatives of the CIA, cabinet ministers and personal friends whose advice Kennedy valued. Over the next few days they were to meet several times. During their discussions they considered several different strategies for dealing with the crisis.
They included the following:(1) Do nothing. The United States should ignore the missiles in Cuba. The United States had military bases in 127 different countries including Cuba.
The United States also had nuclear missiles in several countries close to the Soviet Union. It was therefore only right that the Soviet Union should be allowed to place missiles in Cuba.(2) Negotiate. The United States should offer the Soviet Union a deal. In return for the Soviet Union dismantling her missiles in Cuba, the United States would withdraw her nuclear missiles from Turkey and Italy.(3) Invasion. Send United States troops to Cuba to overthrow Castros government. The missiles could then be put out of action and the Soviet Union could no longer use Cuba as a military base.
(4) Blockade of Cuba. Use the United States Navy to stop military equipment reaching Cuba from the Soviet Union.(5) Bomb Missile Bases. Carry out conventional air-strikes against missiles and other military targets in Cuba.(6) Nuclear Weapons. Use nuclear weapons against Cuba and/or the Soviet Union.For the United States, the crisis began on October 15, 1962 when reconnaissance photographs revealed Soviet missiles under construction in Cuba. Early the next day, President John Kennedy was informed of the missile installations.
Kennedy immediately organized the EX-COMM, a group of his twelve most important advisors to handle the crisis. After seven days of guarded and intense debate within the upper echelons of government, Kennedy concluded to impose a naval quarantine around Cuba. He wished to prevent the arrival of more Soviet offensive weapons on the island. On October 22, Kennedy announced the discovery of the missile installations to the public and his decision to quarantine the island. He also proclaimed that any nuclear missile launched from Cuba would be regarded as an attack on the United States by the Soviet Union and demanded that the Soviets remove all of their offensive weapons from Cuba.During the public phase of the Crisis, tensions began to build on both sides. Kennedy eventually ordered low-level reconnaissance missions once every two hours. On the 25th Kennedy pulled the quarantine line back and raised military readiness to DEFCON 2 (Cuban Missile Crisis, thinkquest.
org). Then on the 26th EX-COMM heard from Khrushchev in an impassioned letter. He proposed removing Soviet missiles and personnel if the U.S. would guarantee not to invade Cuba. October 27 was the worst day of the crisis. A U-2 was shot down over Cuba and EX-COMM received a second letter from Khrushchev demanding the removal of U.S.
missiles in Turkey in exchange for Soviet missiles in Cuba. Attorney General Robert Kennedy suggested ignoring the second letter and contacted Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin to tell him of the U.S. agreement with the first.On the 23rd Kennedy ordered six Crusader jets to fly a low level reconnaissance mission.
The mission, flown at 350 feet and at 350 knots, brought back stunning close-up pictures of the missile sites and also showed that the Soviets were testing the missiles for launch.One of the pilots, William Ecker, commented that, ???When you can almost see the writing on the side of the missiles then you really know what you??™ve got.??? On the same day, the Organization of American States (OAS) unanimously approved of the quarantine against Cuba. These countries realized that they were also threatened by the missiles in Cuba.
With the backing of the Western Hemisphere, Kennedy signed the actual Proclamation of Interdiction in the early evening. The quarantine was to take effect at 10:00 a.m. (EST) on October 24. By the endof the day U.
S. ships had taken up position along the quarantine line, 800 miles from Cuba. They were instructed to use force to halt any ship that failed to stop at that line.Also on Wednesday, military alert was raised to DEFCON 2, the highest level ever in U.S. history. The notification, sent round the world from Strategic Air Command headquarters, was purposely left encoded to let the Soviets know just how serious the Americans were.
The military could, at a moment??™s notice, launch an attack on Cuba or the Soviet Union.That evening, the White House received a second letter from Khrushchev:???You, Mr. President, are not declaring a quarantine, but rather are advancing an ultimatum and threatening that if we do not give in to your demands you will use force…. No Mr. President, I cannot agree to this, and I think that in your own heart you recognize that I am correct.
I am convinced that in my place you would act thesame way??? (Soviet Archives Exhibit).Therefore the Soviet Government cannot instruct the captains of Soviet vessels bound for Cuba to observe the orders of the American naval forces blockading that Island…. Naturally we will not simply be bystanders with regard to piratical acts by American ships on the high seas.
We will then be forced on our part to take the measures we consider necessary and adequate to protect our rights. We have everything necessary to do so.The missile deployment signaled a serious crisis and that the U.S.
national interest in that crisis required that, one way or another, the missiles had to go seems self-evident to most of us because, for U.S. policy makers and for the public they instructed alike, the missiles quickly became laden with a multiplicity of interconnected meanings. Central to these meanings was the assumption that the only purpose these ???large, long-range, and clearly offensive weapons of mass destruction??? (Weldes, 1999) could possibly serve was ???to provide [the Soviet Union with] a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere??? (Weldes, 1999). The missiles, that is, were understood to be offensive weapons targeted at the United States and its allies: They represented ???a major [Soviet] military investment in Cuba with advanced weapons systems with substantial offensive capability??? (Weldes, 1999).
But the missiles signified more. They meant, for example, that, in direct contravention of the Monroe Doctrine, the U.S.S.R.
was willing to act aggressively in the Western Hemisphere. They meant that Kremlin-inspired international communism was on the march in this prized U.S. sphere of influence. And they meant that the credibility of the U.S. claim to lead the defense of the free world was in jeopardy.
Awash as they were in this particular sea of meanings, the missiles were understood to pose an intolerable danger to the United States.How worried were most Americans, and how much thought did they give to civil defense Clearly, some entered a state of near-panic and desperately sought civil defense answers while others remained calm and unbothered, either because they did not expect war or because they thought any preparations would be futile. Surveys conducted in late 1961 and 1962, mostly before the missile crisis, showed that roughly a third of the population believed a general nuclear war was likely, and if that war began, 70 percent thought that bombs and missiles would rain down on their own communities (George, 2003). Faced with the prospect of surviving when friends and family members did not, 30 percent said they would prefer to die (George, 2003). Almost 60 percent believed that family shelter owners would have to fight to keep neighbors out if war began, and 64 percent said that living in a shelter for a long time would drive many people insane (George, 2003).
Many, in fact, wondered whether the leisure-conscious, gadget-seeking Americans of the 1960s could accept the austerity of shelter life.U.S. foreign policy was understood, within that imaginary, to be concerned primarily with ???the Soviet threat??? and with the containment of Soviet aggression and expansion. During the ExComm discussions themselves, little was said explicitly about Soviet aggression, although President Kennedy did blame Khrushchev for the crisis when he asked, ???He??™s initiated the danger, really, hasn??™t he He??™s the one that??™s playing [his card, or God], not us??? (Weldes, 1999). Nonetheless, Soviet aggressiveness formed the taken-for-granted background to these discussions. Axiomatic within the postwar U.S.
security imaginary was a representation of the Soviet Union as both ???the inheritor of Russian imperialism??? and a ???world-wide revolutionary movement??? (Weldes, 1999). As a result, it was assumed within that security imaginary that ???since 1918 the imperialistic and aggressive policies of Russian communism have resulted in the creation of a vast empire which poses a dire threat to the security of the United States and of all the free peoples of the world??? (Weldes, 1999). The fundamental problem of the cold war was thus ???Soviet expansion and empire??? (Weldes, 1999).
Soviet aggressiveness was easily invoked in describing the missile deployment in Cuba. For example, on October 22, Douglas Dillon had characterized the Soviet missile deployment as an ???invasion of the hemisphere by a foreign power??? (Weldes, 1999). In his speech to the OAS, Dean Rusk called it ???intervention??? and then ???aggressive intervention??? into the Western Hemisphere (Weldes, 1999). Adlai Stevenson argued in the United Nations that ???the issue of Cuba??? was not one of revolution, socialism, or dictatorship.
???The foremost objection of the states of the Americas to the Castro regime is… not even because Dr.
Castro perverted a noble revolution in the interests of a squalid totalitarianism.??? Rather, he continued, Cuba was an ???issue??? because Castro ???has aided and abetted an invasion of this hemisphere??? (Weldes, 1999). In the ExComm meeting of October 27 Rusk also reiterated that ???the Cuba thing is . . .
an intrusion in the Western Hemisphere??? (Weldes, 1999). This Soviet ???invasion,??? ???intervention,??? or ???intrusion??? in short, this Soviet ???aggression??? was problematic for two reasons. First, the so-called Western Hemisphere had traditionally been the preserve of the United States: Since the enunciation of the Monroe Doctrine in 1832, foreign powers had been warned to keep out (Weldes, 1999). Second, this intrusion was thought to be but the first in a series of Soviet moves: Subsequent aggression would assuredly follow (Weldes, 1999). In the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis, the quasi-causal argument justifying this assumption was embodied, among other places, in the metaphor of ???salami slicing.
??? According to McGeorge Bundy, the Soviet Union had busily been implementing the ???technique called salami slicing,??? first in Berlin and then in Cuba (Lebow, 1995). That is, it had been pursuing a series of ???little encroachments not easily resisted by democratic governments because each one in itself seems trivial??? (Weldes, 1999). In 1987 McNamara also argued that the Soviet missile deployment had taken a slice off the salami: ???There was a slicing of the salami; slice by slice they were moving ahead, or trying to. That is why it was absolutely essential, Kennedy believed, and others believed, that we not convey to the Soviets the impression that we either were weak or would behave in a weak fashion. All these things added up to one unequivocal conclusion: We had to get the missiles out of Cuba??? (Weldes, 1999).
Kennedy encountered a good deal of dissenting opinion and he rejected it. Schlesinger, for example, wrote several memoranda to the President, arguing that time was actually not on Castros side and that the Cuban leader, at least for the moment, remained popular. The skeptics included Richard Goodwin, John Kenneth Galbraith, Charles E. Bohlen, Chester Bowles, and Adlai Stevenson.
In making his decision, Kennedy also bypassed Congress, further ensuring that he received limited advice. Only Senator J. William Fulbright, Foreign Relations Committee chairman, was let into the inner circle, and, at that, only once. Picking up rumors of a forthcoming invasion of Cuba, Fulbright sent the President a memorandum that strongly disapproved invasion it was “of a piece with the hypocrisy and cynicism for which the United States is constantly denouncing the Soviet Union ??¦ ,” he wrote (Paterson, 1989).
Kennedy invited the Arkansas senator to attend an April 4th meeting. Fulbright spoke forthrightly to the assembled top-level advisers, chiding them for exaggerating the Cuban threat. As he had told the President earlier, the Castro regime “is a thorn in the flesh; but it is not a dagger in the heart.” No one in the room agreed with Fulbright.The Cuban-American confrontation was and is a question of the Cold War, domestic American politics, and personalities. But it has been primarily a question of faltering United States unity in the hemisphere. Kennedy struggled to preserve that unity.
In the end, he failed he did not achieve his well-defined and ardently pursued goals for Cuba. His Administration bequeathed to successors an impressive fixation both resistant to diplomatic opportunity and attractive to political democracy (Fenzel). Tensions finally began to ease on October 28th when Khrushchev announced that he would dismantle the installations and return the missiles to the Soviet Union, expressing his trust that the United States would not invade Cuba. Further negotiations were held to implement the October 28th agreement, including a United States demand that Soviet light bombers be removed from Cuba, and specifying the exact form and conditions of United States assurances not to invade Cuba.ReferencesGeorge, A. L. (2003).
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