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The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis

The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis was a dangerous Cold War conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States. That was also the moment that the two world powers were on the verge of a nuclear war. It was special in a number of respects, including miscalculations and measurements, as well as covert and direct interactions and miscommunications between the two superpowers. It was also largely carried out at the Kremlin and White House stages, with no involvement from the bureaucracies that are normally present during the foreign policy period. This paper analyses the crisis to determine if it could have been avoided, the effect of technology, how the media handled it, the reaction of people, the role of politics, and the impact of the victims.

The crisis could have been prevented

Without a doubt, it was possible to avoid this dramatic turmoil. Had President Kennedy, the then President of the U.S., not let his vendetta against the Cuban leader, Castro, to overwhelm his good sense, the crisis would not have occurred. He should not have used Operation Mongoose to try deal with the issue in Cuba. Instead, he should have used discreet diplomacy. Enforcing the Monroe Doctrine, which requires the U.S. not to interfere with European colonies, would have prevented the crisis, as well.

Impact of technology

Indeed, the development of nuclear technology led to the crisis. The Soviet Union believed that attacking the U.S. using its ballistic atomic missiles would stop the latter’s aggression against Cuba. However, the absence of technology that would allow launching of the missiles quietly in a short time prevented worsening of the crisis since the U.S. was able to notice the nuclear missile sites and come up with ways of avoiding a catastrophe (Stern, 2012).

How the media handled the crisis

In August 1962, the U.S. press notified the public about the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba. On October 22, 1962, several media houses televised President Kennedy’s address regarding the missile crisis. The media also broadcast Khrushchev’s statements (Stern, 2012).

People’s reaction

The Americans became terrified when President Kennedy delivered a speech in a televised address on October 22, 1962, concerning the Cuban Missile Crisis. They remained horrified for several days and nights since the two superpowers were on the brink of a nuclear war that would destroy major U.S. cities. Everyone looked forward to a nonviolent resolution to the crisis (J. F. K Presidential Library and Museum, 2017).

Role of politics

One of the primary factors that pushed President Kennedy to a confrontation with the Soviet Union was domestic politics. He believed that negotiations with communists would portray the United States a weak nation. Besides, he had firm conviction that being hard on communists would enhance the reputation of the U.S. Domestic politics also shaped how Kennedy handled the crisis, for instance, he kept the deal between him and Khrushchev (withdrawal of Jupiter missiles from Turkey) a secret to avoid public outrage toward him. The deal was meant to persuade Khrushchev to withdraw the Soviet missiles from Cuba (Stern, 2012).

Impact on those involved

The crisis caused fear and panic among the Americans because they knew that a nuclear war was going to happen. The war would destroy several cities and lead to millions of casualties. President Kennedy feared that his presidency would not survive the disaster. The Soviets also feared that their misjudgment, miscalculation, or mistake would result in an inadvertent escalation that would trigger events which would spin out of control (Norris & Kristensen, 2012). Indeed, that would be an international crime. The crisis also stopped the U.S. from launching an attack on Cuba.

Conclusion

The Cuban Missile Crisis marked the time the two world powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, came to the brink of a nuclear conflict. However, the inability of the Soviet Union to conceal its operations in Cuba made the U.S. aware of the nuclear missiles in Cuba and thus demanded their withdrawal. Indeed, many people became horrified when they learned of the crisis. The two countries then came up with a nonviolent resolution to avoid a major catastrophe.

References

J. F. K Presidential Library and Museum. (2017, September 13). Cuban Missile Crisis. Retrieved from JFK Library: https://www.jfklibrary.org/JFK/JFK-in-History/Cuban-Missile-Crisis.aspx

Norris, R. S., & Kristensen, H. M. (2012). The Cuban Missile Crisis: A nuclear order of battle, October and November 1962. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 68(6), 85-91.

Stern, S. M. (2012). The Cuban Missile Crisis in American Memory: Myths versus Reality. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

August 18, 2021

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