The Cuban Missile Crisis

The world was at the edge of a third world war. This was the result of a variety of things: the Cuban Revolution, the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, US anti-communism, insecurity of the Soviet Union, and Cuba?s fear of invasion all made causes for war. However, war was not the result due to great cooperation from both President Kennedy and President Khrushchev and each of the decisions made by the leaders was crucial in the outcome of The Crisis. Kennedy?s choice to take action by means of quarantine instead of air-strike and Khrushchev?s decision to abide by the quarantines were perhaps the two most significant decisions made by the leaders in order to prevent war. The Cuban Missile Crisis showed the world that compromising and discussion can in-fact prevent war. As Khrushchev said in 1962, "They talk about who won and who lost. Human reason won. Mankind won." 1 The world had almost seen another world war, the effects of which would have been devastating because of the weapons involved. Humanity, indeed, was the prevention of the war.

The Cuban Revolution was a background cause to the crisis. On January 1st, 1959 a Marxist regime in Cuba would have seemed unlikely. To the communist party in Cuba, Fidel Castro appeared tempestuous, irresponsible and stubbornly bourgeois. In 1943 President Batista appointed a communist to his Cabinet, as he used communists as leaders of the labor unions. Batista started to fail the Cuban communists and their loyalties transferred gradually to Castro, completely by 1958. On December 1st, 1961 Castro declared himself a Marxist and claimed he had always been a revolutionary, studying Das Kapital of Karl Marx. Most Cubans idolized Castro, supported his government and at least accepted his measures.2 He claimed to have a desire to help the poor and said he would have found it impossible to follow the dictates of a single philosophy. His first action in power was to reduce all rents on the island, making the land owners, many of who were American, unhappy. In 1960 Castro was swiftly pushing Cuba to the left, and as a result many Cubans left, along with the American investors. There was so much opposition to Castro?s developments that he created a Committee for Defense of the Revolution out of fear of invasion from the US, internal guerrilla uprisings, and black marketing "counterrevolutionary activity". Castro improved life in Cuba with communism; he managed to solve the problem of unemployment, put in place universal schooling, provided free dental and medical services, almost completely rid of malaria and polio from his country and created a great nationalistic pride. Despite all this great outcome, the effect of the Revolution on America left the US sour.

Castro had taken away the profit producing properties which had been owned by Americans, and this angered them. In 1898 America gave many benefits to Cuba, it helped modernize Cuban industry, education and medicine (partly due to imperialistic greed from economic involvement) and expected loyalty for doing so. US investment in Cuban sugar resources dropped 35% from 1928 to 1958. Out of two million workers, the US only employed 70,000. Cuba was angered that between 1945 and 1960 they gave more money than all of Latin America combined. "Cubans felt controlled by the United States."3 At first Americans gave Castro a good assessment, but President Eisenhower?s government remained suspicious about communist success. Americans lost site of the benefits the revolution had brought to Cuba and concentrated on being angry with Cuba for expropriating American properties. The US was further angered when Castro?s nationalistic speeches became increasingly anti-American. The Revolution had severed ties between the US and Cuba, which led to the Bay of Pigs invasion later on.

In March 1960 the US led a group of trained and armed Cuban exiles in what was planned to be a simple invasion. The emigres were expected to draw support from the island, and Fidel Castro (who was at that time thought to be unpopular) and his inefficient, unstable government would collapse almost instantly. The Americans thought this would work because a similar plan was executed in Guatemala that was a terrific success. However, the Americans had miscalculated and the failure of the invasion was humiliating. Castro was much more popular than the CIA had thought, and an army American sponsored attack would actually enrage most