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President John F. Kennedy signing the Cuba Quarantine Proclamation.

The Cold War marked the post-World War II conflict between Capitalism and Communism manifested through the United States and the Soviet Union. This conflict came nearest to armed fruition in 1962, in a period known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. President John F. Kennedy's term proved to be the most volatile period of the Cold War, marked with both the blunder at the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the relative success during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The crisis epitomizes the Cold War; it resulted from the competitive arms race, exemplified each country's diplomatic tactic and possibly foreshadowed American victory.

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Kennedy and Latin America relations

Arguing that "those who make peaceful revolution impossible, will make violent revolution inevitable,"[1] Kennedy sought to contain communism in Latin America by establishing the Alliance for Progress, which sent foreign aid to troubled countries in the region and sought greater human rights standards in the region. He worked closely with Puerto Rican Governor Luis Muñoz Marín for the development of the Alliance of Progress, as well as developments in the autonomy of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Bay of Pigs Invasion

The Bay of Pigs Invasion (known as La Batalla de Girón, or Playa Girón in Cuba), was an unsuccessful attempt by a CIA-trained force of Cuban exiles to invade southern Cuba with support from US government armed forces, to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro.

The plan was launched in April 1961, less than three months after John F. Kennedy assumed the presidency in the United States. The Cuban armed forces, trained and equipped by Eastern Bloc nations, defeated the exile combatants in three days. Bad Cuban-American relations were made worse by the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

The invasion is named after the Bay of Pigs, which is just one possible translation of the Spanish Bahía de Cochinos. The main invasion landing specifically took place at a beach named Playa Girón, located at the mouth of the bay.

Cuban Missile Crisis

President Kennedy meets in the Oval Office with General Curtis LeMay and reconnaissance pilots who flew the Cuban missions.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was a confrontation between the United States, the Soviet Union, and Cuba in October 1962, during the Cold War. In the Soviet Union, former Eastern Bloc countries, and other communist countries (i.e. China and North Korea), it is termed the "Caribbean Crisis" (Russian: Карибский кризис, Karibskiy krizis), while in Cuba it is called the "October Crisis" (Spanish: Crisis de Octubre). In September 1962, the Cuban and Soviet governments placed nuclear missiles in Cuba. When United States military intelligence discovered the weapons, the U.S. government sought to do all it could to ensure the removal of the missiles. The crisis ranks with the Berlin Blockade as one of the major confrontations of the Cold War, and is generally regarded as the moment in which the Cold War came closest to a nuclear war.[2]

The tensions were at their height on October 27th, 1962, which was known as "Black Saturday". On October 14th, United States reconnaissance observed (with a US Navy F-8 Crusader) missile bases being built in Cuba. The crisis ended two weeks later on October 28th, 1962, when President John F. Kennedy and the United Nations Secretary-General U Thant reached an agreement with the Soviets to dismantle the missiles in exchange for a no-invasion agreement. In his negotiations with the Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy informally proposed that the Jupiter missiles in Turkey would be removed "within a short time after this crisis was over"[3]. The last missiles were taken down by April 24th, 1963, and were flown out of Turkey soon after.[4]

In the meeting between Attorney General Kennedy and Ambassador Dobrynin, the ambassador was caught in a lie. He had told Kennedy previously, on the basis of what Krushchev said, that the only missiles placed in Cuba by the Russians were strictly defensive, and were not capable of reaching the United States. Also discussed in this meeting was the issue that no action was supposed to be taken on the part of the Russians until the American Presidential elections were over. This conversation, held on October 24, 1962, made the Soviet Union look misleading.

Kennedy's Legacy

The Cuban Missile Crisis taught both the United States and the Soviet Union to be less aggressive in their dealings with one another. Having been so close to the brink of war they learned of the dangerous potential outcomes. Accordingly, they took precautionary measures to ensure that direct conflict would not occur. The crisis was a step towards détente, evident by the establishment of the "hot line" between Washington and the Kremlin.17 The nuclear test ban treaty of 1963 recognized the danger of nuclear weapons and was a step towards disarmament.18 The two nations would avoid such direct confrontation forever, though they would face each other indirectly in distant battlefields as in Vietnam and in Afghanistan. 19

After Kennedy was assassinated, President Lyndon B. Johnson would sternly strengthen the United States's Latin American policy. His policies are exemplified in the affair with the Dominican Republic. Latin America was a volatile region which could at any time turn to communism. For this reason Eisenhower set up the Progress Trust fund to help raise the standards of living in Latin America. "It was hoped that this would prevent the extremism that fueled Marxist sympathies among poor Latin Americans."20 the Cuban Revolution had inflamed the volatility of the region and soon the Dominican Republic was on the verge of becoming Communist. Johnson's main goal was to support nations which brought stability to the area. He therefore sent 500 Marines into the Dominican Republic (increased to 30,000 later). Their mission was to stop communism from spreading into the country because President Johnson did not want another incident like Cuba. 21 Johnson's strategy was more aggressive; however his situation did not call for the caution required in the Missile Crisis.

Kennedy's presidency saw the closest and most volatile encounter with the Soviet Union. Such high tension and turbulence informed each nation of the risk of global nuclear war. Thus, the Cuban Missile Crisis helped steer relations between the US and the USSR towards gradual disarmament. True steps toward détente however, would not come into full fruition until President Nixon, one decade later.

References

  1. ^ JFK's "Address on the First Anniversary of the Alliance for Progress," White House reception for diplomatic cors of the Latin American republics, March 13, 1962. Public Papers of the Presidents – John F. Kennedy (1962), p. 223.
  2. ^ B. Gregory Marfleet, ‘The Operational Code of John F. Kennedy During the Cuban Missile Crisis: A Comparison of Public and Private Rhetoric’, Political Psychology, 21/3, p 545.
  3. ^ Glover, Jonathan (2000). Humanity: a moral history of the twentieth century. Yale University Press. p. 222. ISBN 0300087004. http://books.google.com/books?id=xtqFJVhmuowC&pg=PA222&dq=%22within+a+short+time+after+this+crisis+was+over%22+%2Brobert+kennedy&client=firefox-a. Retrieved July 2, 2009.  
  4. ^ Schlesinger, Arthur (2002). Robert Kennedy and his times. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 523. ISBN 0618219285. http://books.google.com/books?id=0xqrU5lnD7AC&pg=PA528&dq=robert+kennedy+ambassador++cuban+missile&client=firefox-a. Retrieved July 2, 2009.  

Notes

  • 1. Address by President Kennedy at a White House Reception for Latin American Diplomats and Members of Congress, March 13, 1961 from The Department of State Bulletin, XLIV, No. 1136 (April 3, 1961), pp, 471.
  • 2. Address by President Kennedy at a White House Reception for Latin American Diplomats and Members of Congress, March 13, 1961 from The Department of State Bulletin, XLIV, No. 1136 (April 3, 1961), pp, 471.
  • 3. Address by President Kennedy at a White House Reception for Latin American Diplomats and Members of Congress, March 13, 1961 from The Department of State Bulletin, XLIV, No. 1136 (April 3, 1961), pp, 472.
  • 4. Address by President Kennedy at a White House Reception for Latin American Diplomats and Members of Congress, March 13, 1961 from The Department of State Bulletin, XLIV, No. 1136 (April 3, 1961), pp, 474.
  • 5. Brig. Gen. Edward Lansdale. SENSITIVE/TOP SECRET. De-Classified 1998. Operation Mongoose: The Cuba Project. 20 February 1962.
  • 6. Brig. Gen. Edward Lansdale. SENSITIVE/TOP SECRET. De-Classified 1998. Operation Mongoose: The Cuba Project. 20 February 1962.
  • 7. Brig. Gen. Edward Lansdale. SENSITIVE/TOP SECRET. De-Classified 1998. Operation Mongoose: The Cuba Project. 20 February 1962.
  • 8. Weisbrot, Robert. Maximum Danger: Kennedy, the Missiles, and the Crisis of American Confidence. Dee, Ivan R. Publisher. New York. 2001
  • 9. CIA, Minutes, TOP SECRET, "Meeting with the Attorney General of the United States Concerning Cuba," 19 January 1962 (Richard Helms)
  • 10. Schlesinger Jr., Arthur, Thirteen Days. Norton & Company, New York, NY. 1999 pp. 9
  • 11. N. S. Khrushchev. Khrushchev remembers: The Last Testament (Boston, 1974.) pp. 511
  • 12. Kennedy, John F.. Why England Slept. 1940. New York: Greenwood Publishing, 1993
  • 13. Kennedy, Robert. Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis. W. W. Norton and Company, Inc. New York, NY. 1971
  • 14. Kenneth O'Donnell and David F Powers, Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye. (Boston, 1974) pp. 318
  • 15. Norman Cousins, The Improbable Triumvirate. (New York, 1972), pp. 114
  • 16. Kennedy, Robert. Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis. W. W. Norton and Company, Inc. New York, NY. 1971 pp. 56
  • 17. Lafeber, Walter; 1980. America, Russia, and the Cold War 1945-1980 (John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY, USA)
  • 18.Cohen, Warren I.; 1993. The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations, Volume IV: America in the Age of Soviet Power, 1945-1991 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge)
  • 19. Gaddis, John Lewis; 1990. Russia, the Soviet Union, and the United States: An Interpretive History (McGraw-Hill, Boston, Massachusetts, USA) pp. 62
  • 20. Gudicello, Dean. Security at Any Cost. Dissertation Boston College, 2004. Boston: UMI, 2004 pp. 48
  • 21. Gudicello, Dean. Security at Any Cost. Dissertation Boston College, 2004. Boston: UMI, 2004 pp. 52
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