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In the course of World War II, the United States had become a leading world power. By 1945, the United States had an industry and oil production that were well preserved during WWII. As one of the world’s richest nations, the post-war reconstruction was aimed to build the superior military force. The rebuilding of Europe and the containment against communism kept American industry growing rapidly. However, that was only one of the many goals among the United States ambitions. The United States had also focused on attempting to enhance world peace. The American fear of the spread of communism in many countries was the main reason to form NATO allies in 1948. Along with the development with nuclear weapons, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union wanted to become the only leader in the world. The fierce competition not only happened between the US and the Soviet Union, the invisible war also occurred between the leaders President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev. Although the two countries never had direct military conflict during the Cold War period, many diplomatic, economic, and social struggles occurred.
The modern world probably never had to worry about a worldwide nuclear battle; however, during the Cold War, this was the result of a mixture of events: The Cuban Revolution, the Bay of Pigs invasion failure, US anti-communism movement, Soviet Union’s insecurity and more. The Cuban missile crisis was a direct and serious confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union Chairman Khrushchev feared a complete US invasion after the Bay of Pigs debacle, and the possibility that the number of nuclear weapons in the United States had outnumber the ones in Russia; he resigned himself to agree to remove the missiles in Cuba in order to keep peace. On the contrary, President Kennedy showed Presidential greatness and toughness that the United States would not tolerate any hostile threats, which also marked the diplomatic success in US history. Despite Kennedy’s youth and relatively inexperienced involvement, his smart diplomacy and leadership was underestimated by Khrushchev. Khrushchev’s expectation of Kennedy was wrong, and his overconfidence in the Soviet Union and its victory led to the Cuban missile crisis – the closest moment the world ever came to a full-scale nuclear conflict between the two world superpowers.
Before 1959 Cuban Revolution, Americans thought of Cuba as their property. In 1959, nationalist and anti-imperialist Fidel Castro overthrew the American-backed general Fulgencio Batista and became the leader in Cuba. The former leader before Castro, Batista was a repressive dictator, a pro-American leader and reliably anti-communist. Under his control, many American companies were doing well in Cuba; however, when Castro gained control of the nation, he went the opposite way. It was the time that he believed that Americans overlooked Cuban local business and interests in corporates. During President Eisenhower’s presidency in the 1960s, his administration considered Castro’s regime as a dangerous threat to the US interest that secret American operatives even planned to have him assassinated. During the presidency of the young President John F. Kennedy, he presented to the public that Castro was not a real threat to America and the United States will end the Cold War: “The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are–but it is the one most consistent with our character and courage as a nation and our commitments around the world. The cost of freedom is always high – and Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission” (Kennedy 1962).
On April 15th, 1961, a group of Cuban exiles departed from Nicaragua. Their mission was part of the US global anti-communism movement, it was kept secretively by the CIA and Kennedy Administration. They were painted and dressed to look like stolen Cuban aircraft and planned a strike against Cuban airfields. The operation was a disaster and brought shame and embarrassment to the Kennedy Administration and the US government. While the CIA thought they blocked all the radio stations along the coast in Cuba, they forgot one tiny radio station on the beach which the Cuban recorded every detail of the invasion. The Cuban government planned to put defendants the night before the attack. The next day, the Castro’s troops had pinned the invaders on the Bay of Pigs beach and over 1100 people were taken prisoner. The failed covert plan made Kennedy believed that this plan which the CIA had promised would be “both clandestine and successful” was in fact “too large to be clandestine and too small to be successful” (History.com). As much as President Kennedy was reluctant to abandon Cuba to the Russian communists, he was not ready to start a nuclear war with another world superpower that might end in the World War III. The Bay of Pigs invasion intensified the tension between the Soviet Union and the United States, also worsen the relationship between the US and Cuba.
The containment policy was established to restrict the expansion of communism; however, under the generous tolerance of the Cuban leader Fidel Castro and his hostile attitude toward the United States, communism grew successfully in Cuba under his radical movements of social and economic reform. The communist party was functioning successfully and openly with the full support from his people. Propaganda and various publications and radio programs carried out his messages. As a socialist, Castro was drawn to the communist ideology; thus, he sided with Khrushchev during the Cold War. Additionally, the tragedy of the Bay of Pigs invasion further divided the three nations into two parties: Americans as imperialists, and the Russians and Cubans as communists. To Khrushchev, Kennedy’s behavior was recognized as “reckless”. The failure of the plan planted a seed in Khrushchev’s mind that Kennedy was an inexperienced and ignorant president who will eventually lead America to unprosperous.
In 1962, the American U-2 spy
As the fear of the negative effects of communism in an island country rose, Americans started anti-war and pro-peace movements in the United States to boycott the plan of invading Cuba. People do not miss the conflicts in South Korea and Vietnam, nor they miss the U-2 affairs, Berlin wall or the Cuban missile crisis. What they will remember is the careful but aggressive foreign diplomacy that were made by the US presidents.
The Cuban missile crisis ended peacefully – the Soviet Union withdrew the weapons in exchange for President Kennedy removing missiles from Turkey. Both Khrushchev and Kennedy had demonstrated concerns and proposed their plans to each country. However, there were misunderstanding that led to wrong assumptions and actions.
The rebuilding of Europe and the containment against communism kept American industry growing rapidly. However, that was only one of the many goals among the United States ambitions. The United States had also focused on attempting to enhance world peace. The Cuban missile crisis was resolved due to President Kennedy’s diplomacy with the Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev in thirteen days. Kennedy proved that Khrushchev was only bluffing to approach brinkmanship. The profound tension between the Soviet Union and the United States had caused division among the American citizens. After people heard that the Kennedy administration had failed the Bay of Pigs mission, numerous people marched for peace treaty and anti-war movement.
- Allison, Graham T. “Conceptual models and the Cuban missile crisis.” American political science review 63.3 (1969): 689-718.
- American Comandante. “Castro and the Cold War.” PBS. Public Broadcasting Service, Oct. 2005. Web. 31 Oct. 2018.
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- History.com Editors. “Bay of Pigs Invasion.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 31 Oct. 2018.
- John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. “John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.” Cuban Missile Crisis – John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. N.p., 16 Oct. 1962. Web. 06 Dec. 2018.
- John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. “Letter From Chairman Khrushchev to President Kennedy, October 24, 1962.” Cuban Missile Crisis – John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. N.p., 24 Oct. 1962. Web. 06 Dec. 2018.
- John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. “Fidel Castro’s Letter.” Cuban Missile Crisis – John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. N.p., 26 Oct. 1962. Web. 06 Dec. 2018.
- John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. “Premier Khrushchev’s Letter to President Kennedy.” Cuban Missile Crisis – John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. N.p., 26 Oct. 1962. Web. 06 Dec. 2018.
- Kennedy, Robert F. Thirteen days: A memoir of the Cuban missile crisis. W. Norton & Company, 2011.
- Swift, John. “Cuban Missile Crisis.” History Review 57 (2007): 6.
- Tamayo, Juan O. “Russia-Cuba Love Affair on Again.” Miamiherald. Miami Herald, 19 July 2014. Web. 31 Oct. 2018.
- Videregående, Engelsk. “The Cold War Era – A Precarious Peace.” Engelsk – NDLA. N.p., 26 Jan. 2018. Web. 06 Dec. 2018.
- Weldes, Jutta. Constructing national interests: The United States and the Cuban missile crisis. U of Minnesota Press, 1999.
- “White House Statement on Soviet Proposals Relating to International Security.” White House Statement on Soviet Proposals Relating to International Security. The American Presidency Project. N.p., 27 Oct. 1962. Web. 23 Oct. 2018.
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