Posteado por: Carli C4 | marzo 28, 2014

THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS AND THE CUBAN EMBARGO

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The Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cuban Embargo

          The United States and Cuba have experienced a gradual crumbling of their political relationship ever since the island became communist in the early sixties. As a result of these tensions, the superpower has implemented diverse procedures in order to enfeeble and keep its close neighbor regimented. Some of these strategies have been extremely valuable when dealing with major crises, but others have proved to be totally unproductive and offensive to the international community. The Cuban Missile Crisis illustrates an instance in which the United States (especially John F. Kennedy and his advisors) was highly effective in dealing with a tense and potentially lethal emergency. This specific course of action was praised around the world and the American superpower was recognized for preventing a global catastrophe. The Cuban Embargo, contrariwise, has demonstrated that it is a profoundly incompetent and ignorant approach to the Cuban conundrum.  The perpetuation of these inhuman prohibitions have received a strong wave of universal criticism. The examination of these divergent behaviors provides us with an insight into the ambivalent perceptions the international community has towards the United States.

          Fidel Castro’s victory in 1959 represented a substantial menace to the United States. The superpower was entirely immersed in a Cold War against the Soviet empire and its Bolshevik forces, and the paramount fear in the minds of the American leaders was the propagation of communism. The Cuban hazard was especially serious mainly because of its geographic position (ninety miles away from South Florida). All of these circumstances made the island a key player in the Cold War for both superpowers. In order to deter the Cuban threat, the United States launched a military invasion in 1961. The Bay of Pigs incursion was a complete disaster and the attackers were defeated in only three days. The disappointed invasion bestowed credibility and international admiration on Fidel Castro and its fresh administration, and also provided the Soviet Union with an excuse to safeguard its close ally.  In 1962, a couple of months after the invasion, the soviets started to infiltrate missiles in Cuba, taking the United States by surprise. “[…] [T]he most senior Kennedy administration officials were uniformly convinced, with one notable exception, that Moscow would never introduce nuclear weapons on the island” (Cyr 2012:7). The Bay of Pigs invasion inadvertently led to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962; one of the most frightening episodes in human history.

          In the early months of 1962 the United States started getting reports from its military and intelligence agencies stating that the Soviets were providing Cuba with nuclear armament. They were able to photograph SAMs, but the evidence was not conclusive in regards to offensive missiles. “Despite rising concern in Washington there was no clearly actionable evidence of a Soviet missile capability in Cuba” (Cyr 2012:8). The American superpower needed decisive proof indicating the presence of nuclear weapons on the island and the military started working intensely in order to achieve this purpose; but it was not until September that they were able to produce such confirmation. “On September 21, Washington received the first really reliable report to the effect that more than just SAMs were being unloaded on the docks of Havana” (Cyr 2012:7). This evidence needed to be analyzed by experts in order for Washington to be indubitably certain about the precarious nature of the situation. The investigation took nearly three weeks, and by October 15th, the United States’ leadership was ready to take action.

       Instead of utilizing his whole cabinet and all of his advisers to craft a strategy in order to deal with the threat, Kennedy handpicked the specific people that he wanted working on this situation.  The group (that later became to be known as the ExComm) had deeply divided opinions: some wanted to use an airstrike against Cuba and others were convinced that a peaceful resolution was achievable. Against realist recommendations, the Commander in Chief decided to take a more liberal approach to the situation. “On October 18, President Kennedy met with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko” (Cyr 2012:12). The purpose of this meeting was to let the Soviets know that Washington did not want a nuclear war with its communist enemy and that their goal was to achieve a nonviolent agreement. The Minister assured the President that the reports were wrong and denied the existence of nuclear weapons. It seemed that the liberal methodology was not being effective. On October 22nd, Kennedy took a firm posture on his televised speech. He announced new measures to deal with the nuclear provocation, established explicit expectations, made clear that noncompliance would result in military action, and at the same time left a door open for political compromise. Both superpowers came to an agreement behind closed doors, with the United States promising to remove its offensive missiles from Turkey in a certain amount of time if the Cuban weaponry was dismantled. “On October 28, Moscow publicly accepted the American offer to provide a pledge not to invade Cuba if the missiles were removed” (Cyr 2012: 14.). Nuclear confrontation (and perhaps the end of the world as we know it) was averted.  

          John F. Kennedy and the ExComm dealt with this situation outstandingly. By utilizing both realist and liberal strategies they were able to intimidate the aggressor and at the same time call upon compromise and nonviolent resolution. The nuclear nature of this threat forced the United States to give in to some demands. Doing this behind closed doors was a major achievement that prevented the superpower from being perceived as impotent or ineffectual by the international community. To the contrary, the world applauded Washington’s actions and the crisis arguably gave more credibility to their cause. There is no doubt that our planet came extremely close to annihilation in 1962; this did not happen in great part thanks to the way in which Kennedy and his team handled the chaotic situation. “The crisis has been described as President John F. Kennedy’s ‘finest hour’ in a touchingly brief tenure in the White House” (Cyr 2012:5).

         Unlike the policies implemented during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cuban Embargo has been reprimanded universally for being both inhumane and ineffective. The economic sanctions were imposed by the United States right after Castro’s successful revolution in 1959. While the commercial restrictions were initiated to a certain extent by Eisenhower, it was “Kennedy [who] imposed a full embargo on the island in 1962” (Borer & Bowen 2007:129).  The chief motives behind the blockage were the nationalization without indemnification of key US industries by the socialist regime (the most prominent being the United Fruit Company and Texaco) and a reforma agraria (agrarian reform) that similarly affected US interests in Cuba. Fifty one years later, this realist course of action continues to mark the factual basis of Cuban – US relationships. Although the embargo was perhaps the right strategy to put in place in response to the Cuban violations, its perpetuity has been the subject of severe criticism by almost the entire world in recent decades.  

        The three chief arguments objecting the embargo maintain that it only hurts the Cuban people, that the ultimate goal (the removal of Castro and the annihilation of Communism in Cuba) is unattainable, and that the totalitarian administration benefits from these commercial restrictions.  The economic constraints imposed on the island bring hunger and malnutrition to regular Cubans, not to Fidel Castro or the leadership of the preponderant Communist Party. Instead of revolting against the regime (the intended purpose), the people blame the United Stated for the scarcity because they have been indoctrinated to believe the government’s rhetoric which blames the Yankis and their “genocidal” embargo for everything evil that happens in the country. The main purpose of an economic boycott in international relations is to “bring about behavioral change on the part of the target state by the state that withholds trade” (Borer & Bowen 2007:129). This has clearly not been the case with Cuba; the dictatorship continues to oppress dissidents and abuse human rights. The most troubling detail is that plenty of evidence exists corroborating that the outdated strategy allows the Communist monocracy to stay alive. “Maintaining the embargo allows Castro to squash all dissent based on the national security argument that Cuba is under threat from a hostile neighbor” (Borer & Bowen 2007:131). Furthermore, his authoritarian regime uses the commercial blockade as an excuse for the poverty and underdevelopment that have resulted from their disastrous economic, social, and political approaches.

          Cuba, Venezuela, the European Union, and almost the entire world have denounced the embargo plenty of times in the past decades. Cuba’s proposals to end the embargo in the United Nations have been approved almost unanimously. Since the United States is a member of the Security Council, the passage of these Gnocchi has no significance whatsoever. A venue that has proved to be especially effective in resolving issues of this caliber is the World Trade Organization. Although Cuba has been very vocal on their criticism towards the embargo in the UN, they have not utilized the WTO in order to resolve their quandary. “Castro’s Cuba may have decided not to challenge U.S. sanctions within the WTO out of fear of being successful” (Borer & Bowen 2007:128). This substantiates yet more how the Cuban embargo is in fact in Fidel and Raul Castro’s best interests.

          The United States urgently needs to change their approach towards Cuba. The Cuban embargo is inhumane, absurd, immoral, and above all ineffective..The superpower needs to lift the economic blockade in order to leave the Communist tyranny deprived of excuses to blame their social, political, and economic fiascos on. Both Democrats and Republicans have to make a stand and be strong against the political pressures to maintain the embargo that will come from influential Cuban-American groups in Florida. This course of action is not in the United States or the Cuban people’s best interests. By perpetuating an obsolete approach that has not been practical in over fifty years, the American superpower is only damaging its international image and helping its enemy hang on to power. 

          The United States, like any other country, has been both accurate and erroneous in their international policies and strategies. The Cuban Missile Crisis’s management and the Cuban Embargo are illustrations of both an efficient and an unsuccessful policy. If the American superpower is able to amend its erroneous behaviors by utilizing the same principles and ideas that worked in previous occasions, it will be able to enhance its global image and conquer the minds and hearts of a vast part of the international community. As the sole democratic hegemon in the planet, the United States has an obligation to lead other governments by example. The only way to accomplish this goal is by reforming unpopular and opprobrious foreign policy conducts and emulating former procedures that brought honor, respect, and admiration to the great nation. Following this ethical and righteous course of action is in the United States and humanity’s best interests.     

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