The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis was a dangerous confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War. It was also the time when the two world powers came to the brink of a nuclear conflict. It was unique in various ways, for instance, it featured miscalculations and calculations as well as secret and direct communications and miscommunications between both superpowers. It was also primarily played out at the Kremlin and the White House level with little input from the bureaucracies that are usually present during the process of foreign policy. 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 on 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 dealing 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).
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.
The Cuban Missile Crisis marked the time when 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.
J. F. K Presidential Library and Museum. (2017, September 13). Cuban Missile Crisis. Retrieved on October 13, 2017 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.