Cuban Missile Crisis: Why we need more balance of power in the world.
Cuban Missile crisis in 1960s may raise a serious political question in retrospect i.e. should America be allowed to exist as the sole superpower and what could be the repercussions of such an existence? Now fifty years or so later, we are in a much better position to answer this question. United States or any other nation for that matter must not work as the sole superpower because it can cause many political upheaval as we recently witnessed. We will discuss the Cuban Missile crisis in detail but first we must establish that American history is fraught with events and wars that were fought on the false belief of America’s superiority which made it an imperial power. Examples of these events include the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War and not to mention the current conflict with Iraq. These misadventures highlight a “pattern of racism and imperialism that began with the first Indian war in Virginia in 1622,”
Manifest Destiny and “City on a hill” are concepts that originated from this racist belief.
History is witness to the fact that when America has desired something, no matter how unlawful or unethical its desire was, it has always found a way to justify it. In most cases, this justification is based on the belief that white man is burdened with the job of removing “evil” from the world and usually included some mention of God. It was as if God had ordered white man to remove the others from the planet. As completely unethical, absurd, and faulty these notions might sound; Americans have complacently accepted them and even acted on them. Americans have always suffered from the false assumption that it’s their “divine mission” to rule the world and thus the wars and unwanted interference in world affairs.
This syndrome can be traced back to the time of Crusades in 1097 when Merovingian dynasty established its “divine right” to rule.
But it was not just the mob that has bought this notion; many of the American Presidents have included God in their arguments to support a cause. They function with the belief that if God has asked them to do something, they must be carrying out divine orders and that, they believe, should be appreciated. For example in 1912, Theodore Roosevelt tried to encourage people by saying: “We battle for the Lord,” he thundered. “We stand at Armageddon.”
Similarly during the days of Cold War, Senator Lyndon Johnson was found saying: “We shall, we must, with the guidance of God, embark on this course to redeem humanity and with the righteous strength which centuries of freedom under God have given us, we cannot fail.”
American imperialism in the 19th century was based on racism, false sense of superiority and greed and thus “A search for personal and national wealth was put in terms of world progress, under the leadership of a supreme race,” observes Reginald Horsman (p. 247) Indian removal was the more blunt form of American imperialism and worked on the idea of ethnic cleansing. Democratic Review editor John L. O’Sullivan first coined the phrase “Manifest Destiny” in 1845. He was an Irish-Catholic who had coined this slogan to explain the emergence of democracy. He was not referring to Anglo-Saxonism or its domination and neither was hinting at that. But unfortunately this slogan was stolen to reflect an intense Anglo-Saxon need for domination and was used by the racist and imperialist powers as a justification for their unethical actions. Manifest Destiny thus became nothing but “a cluster of flimsy rationalizations for naked greed,” notes historian George Tindall.
Even in those days, not everyone believed in American imperialism. These people gave birth to Anti-Imperialist League in 1889. These citizens opposed American imperialist initiatives in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.
The fact that Cuba has always been a stubborn challenge to the U.S. became evident during the Cuban missile crisis of 1960s. we must mention here that this incident also showed that America could no longer claim sole super power status as Soviet Union was preseting a major threat to its imperialistic domination. That is the reason we need more than one strong forces in the world so we can maintain good balance of power. However with the fall of Soviet Russia, America is only force left in the world that can claim to have all the ingredient needed to become a hyper power someday. We need to better analyze the Cuban missile crisis to see how two major powers of the world stood against each other and came very close to a nuclear war but common sense prevailed and a major disaster was averted. But Cuban crisis gave us many lessons including the lesson on why we need balance of power in the world.
In 1962 the world feared a nuclear holocaust when the United States discovered that the Soviet Union was building secret missile bases in Cuba. Both were great powers and had many global interests. Sometimes these interests clash and can lead onto a full out conflict. Such a conflict was feared by the world and had the two countries clashed, the results would have been disastrous for both. Both were nuclear powers and it leaves little to one’s imagination the destruction that could have occurred had both of them used these weapons of mass destruction. At such a point when nations fear a clash they exhaust measures to prevent it from taking place and make sure that all measures are exhausted before opting for a full scale conflict. Both the sides avoided to have a full scale war during the crisis and “everyone is aware that the world did not detonate in nuclear conflagration as a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis”
On October 16, 1962, President Kennedy was shown photographs of Cuba taken from a U.S. reconnaissance spy plane. These photographs showed the Soviet troops being busy in building nuclear capable missile sites. The Soviets had installed these missiles only 90 miles away from the coast of the United States. The U.S. armed forces were ready for an invasion and take over of Cuba once they received the approval of President Kennedy. The Soviet Union had given authority to the troops in Cuba to use the nuclear weapons if United States tries to invade Cuban soil. President Kennedy called a high level secret meeting with his advisors and this later came to be knows as the Executive Committee or ExComm. A response was to be devised and this committee had various option which included a full out invasion of Cuba. Another was a bombing strike which was dismissed. Moreover the suggestion of taking this up in the United Nations was also recommended but due to the fact that it would take a lot of time, this proposal was also dropped. “Although United Nations Ambassador Adlai Stevenson proposed international mediation of the crisis, his plans were viewed with contempt by Kennedy.”
Not many options were left except for an invasion or using diplomatic means to solve this problem. “When the missile crisis arose, then, his options were limited by his need to appease domestic critics and prove that he was more than a match for the Soviets”
. The members of this committee were “quickly divided into “hawks,” who favored early and robust military intervention to solve the problem of the missiles, and “doves,” who favored reserving the full use of military force until other tools were applied to the situation”
The first action taken by the Kennedy administration was to quarantine Cuba with the naval fleets to deter the Soviet Union from transporting missiles to Cuba. In the recordings of the Executive Committee meetings it was seen that “General Earle Wheeler, the Army chief of staff, argues that only air strikes, an invasion, and a blockade “will give us increasing assurance that we really have got the offensive capability of the Cuban Soviets cornered”
On 22nd October, Kennedy announced publicly that the U.S. spy plane has captured graphic evidence that Soviet Union was building nuclear capable missile sites in Cuba. He asked the Soviet Union’s Premier, Nikita Khrushchev, to remove all such sites and not to keep missiles in Cuba. At this point the tensions increased and many letters were exchanged between the two leaders. “In the exchange of letters between the two superpower leaders, Khrushchev tells Kennedy that he regards the quarantine as “an act of aggression which pushes mankind toward the abyss of a world nuclear missile war”
.The Soviet Union expressed its reason for the build up as purely defensive in nature but the United States wanted Cuba free of any missile sites. The next couple of days were going to decide whether the two nations would go to war or whether all this would be over peacefully. Many diplomatic steps were taken by the Kennedy administration and any military invasion was yet kept as a backup plan and not the first and foremost option. Soviet Union agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba if the United States would agree not to invade Cuba and remove their Jupiter missiles from Turkey. The United States later on publicly agreed that it would not invade Cuba. However the deal about removing its missiles from Turkey was not made public but were accepted privately after J.F. Kennedy sent his brother Robert Kennedy to accept the second half of the deal in private. This marked the ending of the missile crisis and the world took a sigh of relief. No more was a nuclear war at the doorsteps of millions of innocent civilians. “Kennedy was victorious, Reeves insists, because, with a “picket fence of medium-range missiles in Europe…America held a loaded gun to the head of the Soviet Union” and refused to give it up”
It is known the history is always presented how the powerful and dominant want it to be presented and recorded. Truly at that point in time the public did not know of any deal by the United States to remove its Jupiter missiles from Turkey which it had installed for strategic reasons. This information was disclosed later on and thus for the people of the 1960s this piece of information never existed. “The first authoritative admission on the U.S. side that the Jupiters had actually been part of a “deal” came at a conference in Moscow in January 1989, after glasnost had led Soviet (and then Cuban) former officials to participate in international scholarly efforts to reconstruct and assess the history of the crisis”
. Many things take place but governments are known to keep them secret from the public for various reasons. Another aspect which many did not know was the reason to this build up of armaments. The United States wanted to remove Castro’s rule from Cuba and had planned an attack for his removal in the previous year. The CIA was backing some Cuban rebels whose job was to overthrow the Castro regime. This is famously known as the “Bay of Pigs” which was an invasion that failed terribly. The United States always kept the option of invading Cuba for Castro’s removal. “Soviet (and Cuban) accounts of the “Caribbean crisis” emphasize the persisting American hostility to Castro’s rule in Cuba, the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion by American-armed Cuban emigres in April 1961, and an alleged continuing American threat to invade Cuba”
Castro sought help and the Soviet Union extended its hand. Soviet Union wanted an upper hand and to be in a better situation to bargain with the United States. “Khrushchev saw that he needed real military leverage if he was going to make another play for Berlin. Installing medium-range missiles in Cuba, within close range of U.S. targets, would have the same effect as a crash buildup of ICBMs.”
. The Soviet Union presented the missile plan to Castro and “after obtaining Fidel Castro’s approval, the Soviet Union worked quickly and secretly to build missile installations in Cuba”
. The Soviet were already troubled about the U.S. installation of missiles in Turkey and thus thought of this as a chance for deterrence of any full scale conflict with the United States. Historically however, Soviet Union was labeled as the “bad guy” and the United States was the “good guy.” The attacks by the United States on Cuban soil were not advertised nor were the assassination attempts made by CIA to kill Castro were announced to the public. Back then the only villain was the Soviet Union which was portrayed as a nation seeking out a nuclear war and being a threat to global peace. It is learnt that the Cubans were willing to fight with the United States and “during the Cuban missile crisis, according to a Soviet commander’s later account, the Cubans were ready for war. Maybe they believed so strongly, they were ready to sacrifice themselves. They would say, “Cuba will perish, but socialism will win.”
. The missile strength of Soviet Union as compared to the United States was merely as that of a child trying to fight a professional wrestler. The Soviet sought deterrence and did not intend nor plan to invade or attack the United States. “According to Nikita Khrushchev’s memoirs, in May 1962 he conceived the idea of placing intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Cuba as a means of countering an emerging lead of the United States in developing and deploying strategic missiles”
. A retired historian of the Kennedy library, Sheldon M. Stern has done an extensive and exhaustive analysis of the recordings of the ExComm meetings. “His main claim is that the 1997 edition of The Kennedy Tapes and the 2001 revised edition contained numerous errors or omissions that substantially alter our understanding of the missile crisis”
A completely unbiased analysis of such records as the ExComm meetings is not possible because of the fact that any scholar who does listen to the recordings would put forth his own theoretical predispositions. Today we also learn that “on October 16, 1962, the U.S. Guided Missile and Astronautics Intelligence Committee (GMAIC) conclude that there is no evidence that nuclear warheads are present in Cuba and that the missile installations do not appear to be operational”
. Such differences are learnt over time when classified data is declassified.
The reason for hiding many facts back in the 1960s was due to political reasons because had certain fact been brought up then the world would have looked at the issue from a completely different angle. Today the reports are analyzed differently because the political situation is completely different. Soviet Union does not exist anymore and Russia is not planning to go against the United States. It has its own arsenal of nuclear warheads in large quantities with many ICBMs and thus does not need to deploy middle ranged missiles in nearby places. Today people are given more access to the archives of the declassified information. Back then all such information was classified and no one had access to those for an analytical study. The Cold War is over and the United States does not face any threat from Russia hence many documents have been declassified. Without such documents available to analysts in the past, a correct and precise analysis was not possible. Same holds true for the present as what we might learn about wars in Iraq and Afghanistan fifty years from now might be completely different from what we know of them today.
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Nigro Jr. LJ. “High Noon in the Cold War: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.” Parameters 35.3 (2005)
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