Diplomatic Problems of the Cuban Missile Crisis Term Paper

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Diplomatic Problems: The Cuban Missile Crisis

Diplomacy is much like a game of chess. Each move is carefully planned out ahead of time with focus given to the overall strategy of maintaining the upper hand and never showing weakness to the opponent. Boundary lines are set and each party calculates the number of moves needed to win, the goal being dominance. One could compare the actions of war as being as simple as the age-old game. Only the stakes, the consequences, the inevitable losses are not like handing over the game pieces but incredibly high risk. How does a leader react to such a situation? How does one not crumble under the pressure and begin to make the right decisions? As with a game of chess, mistakes happen, problems arise. Acts of diplomacy backfire, strategies are ill planned or misunderstood. Solutions do not present themselves fast enough. The Cuban Missile Crisis remains one of the most stressful times in its short history. It is the element of fear that played the greatest role. Nuclear war and its aftermath are very difficult concepts to fathom in this day and age of greater danger and threats to American soil. September 11, 2001 has changed how Americans view weapons. Weapons are no longer just nuclear but range from bio-chemical to simply flying a plane into a skyscraper. Still the "possibility of setting a fatal match to the global nuclear tinderbox in which we lived during the Cold War did indeed hang over the president and his advisors throughout the thirteen days and nights in October 1962" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 1997).Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Diplomatic Problems of the Cuban Missile Crisis Assignment

This paper will explore with detailed analysis the diplomatic problems Kennedy faced during the Cuban Missile Crisis. This paper will include a brief look as the historical event for a frame of reference. This paper will delve into issues of foreign policy and strategies used to remedy this troubling event. This paper will display how these strategies only worsened the situation by causing diplomatic troubles between the United States and the Soviet Union. The paragraphs below will also examine the relationship between President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev and how their leadership styles varied but also made strides toward a peaceful solution possible. This paper will discuss the nature of diplomatic problems and explore strategies.

Historical Overview

The Cuban Missile Crisis did not happen over night, one day in October 1962. This issue started at the end of World War II and the advent of the Cold War. It was when the distinction between world powers became more evident that a weapons race started because of the spread of Communism closer to home. Dino Brugioni writes, "the Cuban question must be considered a part of the worldwide challenge posed by Communist threats to peace" (Brugioni 1990, p. 115). The United States relationship with Cuba was minimally awkward because of Castro's parent relationship with the Soviet Union. Castro was slowly becoming a pawn for the Soviets to use to demonstrate their influence. Kennedy had inherited the Bay of Pigs and the entire backlash that came with it. This was hardly a good starting point for the Kennedy administration.

Khrushchev was simply reacting to the United States' movement of missiles to a Turkish location and needed a strategic move. He would later denounce the president for adopting a policy of nuclear initiative because the United States moved missiles first.

Since the Cold War started "diplomatic relations were not going well and the Soviets decided to replace their U.S. Ambassador" (Brugioni 1990, p.79) who seemed too wooden and non-vocal for the job. This non-communication style lead to a lack of understanding between the two powers but made it impossible to continue learning from each other. As a result, Kennedy was seen as weak by the Soviets and Khrushchev's support of Castro reflected this notion the year before the crisis. He resented the fact the United States had built defenses in Western Europe and was now moving into Turkey. "The U.S.S.R. had learned to live with U.S. nuclear weapons in Turkey, Italy, Britain and West Germany and Khrushchev felt that it was time for the Americans to have a little of their own medicine" (Stern 2003, p. 21) and it seemed like a logical move allowing for both parties to have equal ground. He believed Kennedy would accept the Cuban missiles being there as counterweight but he underestimated "the intensity of American fears of a communist military outpost in the Western Hemisphere" (Stern 2003, p. 31). He was simply protecting Soviet interest in the Cuban Revolution.

Jonathan Pont reflects:

That October, U.S. spy planes spotted about 40 nuclear missiles being installed by the Soviet Union in Cuba, 90 miles south of Key West, Florida. With a range of about 2,000 miles, the missiles could have hit much of the U.S. Already engaged in the Cold War with the Soviets, America was now on the brink of nuclear war." (New York Times, 2001)

There are two reasons the United States reacted in this manner: (1) fear of the unknown and (2) fear of the known. America knew full well what it meant to use missiles as weapons of destruction as at the close of World War II, they chose to use the Atom bomb on the Japanese. The fact this occurred in the United States back yard, made it territorial and personal. Use of nuclear weapons was a brand new concept in war and no one at that time new the full ramifications of such action. There was only an idea of the devastation and that was enough to create fear. Still, Pont writes, "throughout the crisis, most Americans went about their daily lives. After all the anxiety of the 1950s, the only thing left to do was shop for groceries" (New York Times, 2001). The fear was so real to the point "President Kennedy assembles a group of about six senior colleagues and spent the afternoon going through an examination of the total effects of a nuclear war, both direct and indirect" (Blight 1989, p. 183). This demonstrates how much the United States Government was concerned because they took the time and money to look over the facts. Generally speaking, a government does not waste time on subjects unimportant. At this point, it becomes clear miscommunication, the air of Cold War, introduction of new, untested technologies and close proximity to home, have the United States government deliberating hypotheticals to a point of anxiety. Much of this is reflected in the choices made regarding foreign policy and diplomatic actions made during this time.

Foreign Policy and Diplomatic Problems

Foreign policy and diplomacy are closely related and interact together during situations such as the Cuban Missile Crisis mainly because diplomats act out an administration's policies toward foreign issues. In every administration where the president in newly elected, it seems there a period of time known as the learning curve. Kennedy has been portrayed as young, passionate maybe even arrogant regarding his style of leadership. This tone carries over to his views on foreign policy. He was seen as being too young and inexperienced for the job. This could not be further from the truth. Yes, he was young and chose his mentors wisely although they too were also from his generation. Educating the president in new technologies and intelligence practices was part of his learning curve. He was open to new ideas as Brugioni writes, "impressed by knowledge, he listened attentively and intently to new and unfamiliar ideas" (Burgeon 1990, p. 56). This establishes his creativity and thinking outside the realm of possibility and he displayed these traits during the crisis.

Many were quick to criticize that maybe Kennedy chose to rely in his cabinet too much for advise in the matter. This cannot be true as he strived to avoid real conflict with the Soviets. Instead he could have allowed for decisive military action as McNamara "wanted to launch a limited air strike, using fifty planes, on the six missile sites that were operational and all of the I1-28s" (Fursenko 1997, p. 266). McNamara believed this would minimize casualties on the ground and therefore avoid an unpredictable Soviet response. Kennedy disagreed despite bad press being leaked to the American public of the Soviet missiles being for defensive purposes. Kennedy not only took a stand for what he believed was the right course of action but he also did it in a non-aggressive manner. In his televised address to the nation, he expresses:

Our policy has been one of patience and restraint, as befits a peaceful and powerful national, which leads a worldwide alliance....We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of worldwide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth -- but neither will we shrink from that risk at any time it must be faced. (New York Times 2001)

He refused the reckless military solution and chose instead the equivalent of a naval blockade. Kennedy did this by following international guidelines… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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