Robert Kennedy, Chair of the Executive Committee Term Paper

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¶ … Robert Kennedy, Chair of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council, in Support of a Blockade of Cuba

Soviet Ballistic Missiles in Cuba

In recent days, in October 1962, a confrontation with the Soviet Union has developed over the deployment of ballistic missiles in Cuba (Cuban missile crisis, 2000). This confrontation has the unfortunate potential to develop into a major conflict between U.S. And Soviet forces, perhaps even to the point where thermonuclear war will be inevitable. This action on the part of the Soviets took the administration somewhat by surprise (McNamara, 2002). Nonetheless, when considered in light of the recent events surrounding the failed Bay of Pigs incursion, it almost seems inevitable that the Soviets would exploit Cuba's position and antagonism toward the United States and its interests.

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This antagonism by the Soviets should be taken quite seriously. This can be considered a prelude to full-scale thermonuclear war. The decisions that are made regarding the current events in Cuba may well be judged by history as the first battle in the last war of the modern age (Worsthorne, 2002). In dealing with this situation, the United States must find a strategy that will appropriately balance its short-term need to save face in international politics with the long-term possibility of massive nuclear destruction of much of the United States and the Soviet Union. The United States must make it clear to the Soviets that while we don't desire nuclear war, we will not back down from active aggression only ninety miles from our own shoreline (McComas, 1987; Cuban missile crisis, 2000).

Blockade and Negotiation: An Appropriate Strategic Response

Term Paper on Robert Kennedy, Chair of the Executive Committee Assignment

The most advisable strategy in this situation is to immediately begin an active blockade of Cuba to prevent the import of any offensive weaponry, particularly nuclear weapons, into the island nation. This move by the Soviets is largely political and psychological; nuclear missile sites in Cuba have little to no strategic value (Manning, 1997). From that perspective, the U.S. could easily ignore the missiles with no sacrifice in overall national security. However, the political audacity of positioning ballistic missiles so close to U.S. national borders cannot be ignored. A blockade provides the middle ground that helps the U.S. preserve its political standing without committing to action over strategically unimportant targets.

With a strong blockade in place, the burden of action will be shifted to the Soviets. They will be forced to decide whether or not a few missile bases in communist Cuba are worth the potential nuclear destruction of their regime. With a blockade of this nature in place, it will be possible to buy U.S. negotiators some time to work out a more amicable resolution to the crisis that is fast developing in Cuba.

The Prevailing Options: Full-Scale Military Assault or Quarantine

Though the Cuban missile crisis has developed quite rapidly, two distinct camps have emerged as to the more appropriate course of action in this situation (McNamara, 2003; McNamara, 2002). No one advocates doing nothing. Such a course would be inappropriate given the standing conflict that the United States has with the Soviet Union and the importance of retaining an air of political certitude even in the face of outside threats. Given that action over these events are all but inevitable, it is simply a matter of determining the best course as made available by two very polarized groups within the administration.

The first, and perhaps most obvious, reaction to the presence of nuclear missile sites in Cuba is to launch a massive military assault against Cuba. In fact, there is significant pressure within the administration in favor of this course of action (Sorenson, 1997). This may be, in part, motivated by the unfortunate blow that the President received during the abortive attempt to overthrow the Cuban government at the Bay of Pigs. It may also be motivated by the sense that the United States, in order to retain its political legitimacy in the fight against communism, must respond to threats to its legitimacy in kind. If the Soviets have placed ballistic missile sites in Cuba, the argument goes, then we must use the extent of our military might to destroy those sites and then salt the earth.

This approach is, admittedly, fraught with significant dangers. By committing to direct military action -- arguably exactly the response that the Soviets are hoping for -- the U.S. opens itself up to significant reprisal from the Soviets for an action it will deem to be preemptive and provocative. The general plan of those who favor assault on Cuba would be to begin with a sudden and expansive campaign of air sorties against the missile sites as well as other strategic targets on the island. This would be almost certainly followed up by a major ground invasion launched from ports throughout Florida and the Gulf Coast (Sorenson, 1997). The hope would be that our air forces would be able to cripple or destroy the vast majority of ballistic missile sites before any missiles could be launched against U.S. targets. The subsequent ground invasion would secure and eliminate any additional threats that Cuba might pose to the United States and remove the Soviet influence in the Western hemisphere.

The most pressing concern with the direct approach to the Cuban missile crisis is the strong chance of Soviet retaliation (Sorenson, 1997). Since no air strike will ever be 100% effective, the possibility that some of the ballistic missile sites will survive the initial aerial assault is quite real. If that should happen, it would be a small thing for the Soviet leadership to order the use of these operational missile sites against U.S. targets, at the likely cost of the lives of millions of American citizens. The Soviets could also use a U.S. assault on Cuba as an excuse to exploit potential weaknesses in our forces elsewhere in the world, including Berlin and Eastern Europe. In other words, direct action against Soviet missile sites in Cuba presents the real possibility of a massive escalation of conflict between the U.S. And the Soviet Union and the beginning of World War III.

On the other hand, a blockade of Cuba represents the most measured U.S. response to the situation. It shifts the burden of first action to the Soviets, allows the U.S. To retain its political credibility, and provides the most viable way to avoid the beginning of a complete nuclear war (Sorenson, 1997; McNamara, 2002). The strategic value of the blockade and quarantine of Cuba cannot be understated. Unlike the direct force approach to the situation, a blockade is a more sophisticated, less risky, and more unexpected move on our part. The Soviets are almost certainly anticipating a direct assault on their missile sites should they have been discovered; they will have already drawn up contingency plans for these scenarios, many of which will likely involve full-scale retaliation. A blockade will be less force the Soviets to respond to us, instead of allowing them to force our moves with the installation of missile sites in Cuba. A blockade will also help the U.S. avoid the possibility that in the heat of an assault, the Soviets are unable to indiscriminately launch nuclear warheads at targets along the U.S. Gulf coast and Eastern seaboard. In all, the blockade provides the U.S. with the opportunity to turn back any incoming ships carrying offensive weaponry and maintain our active presence in the area, all without instituting a direct attack (McComas, 1997).

Instituting a Cuban Blockade: Resources Required

Any successful blockade of Cuba will require a significant investment in naval and aerial military forces (though these requirements will be significantly less than those required for the direct assault on Cuba). In particular, the military resources that are available in Florida will have to play a major role in… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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