Bethany Cheney: http://bethanycheney.blogspot.com/
Week 3 Blog
11 October 2011
To begin, the Cuban Missile Crisis (also known as the October Crisis) was a dispute that took place in 1962 between the United States of America and Cuba (Utz). One of the after-effects of the Bay of Pigs, (an attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro by the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Government) the Cuban Missile Crisis was a stand off between Cuba and the U.S. due to the Soviet Union providing Cuba with nuclear weapons, which Cuba then secretly assembled and aimed at the United States. After learning of this threat the United States contemplated attacking Cuba, but instead issued a military quarantine around Cuba, prohibiting weapons from being shipped to Cuba (JFK Library). This United States also demanded that Cuba disassemble the completed weapons and cease to produce more. In late October of the same year, Cuba and the United States reached an agreement. The conditions were that Cuba would dismantle the weapons if the United States promised to never invade Cuba. Per the agreed upon conditions, the Cubans had removed all “offensive” material from the country and on November 20 1962 the quarantine officially ended (Thinkquest). The two international relations theories (IR theories) I will be using to analyze the event are realism and liberalism.
Realists, using the “billiard ball” theory discussed in class, believe that states are integrated units that speak with one voice and are also the most important actors in politics. Additionally, realists believe that, “No state can ever be certain that another state will not use its offensive military capability (Donnelly 7)”. Applying realism to analyze the Cuban Missile Crisis, both the United States and Cuba assumed that the other would attack (thus the “crisis”). Cuba was an integrated unit, especially under Fidel Castro (Cuban dictator at the time) who had recently entered into his position of power a few years before. One of the reasons the Soviet Union supplied Cuba with the weapons was that the United States was now militarily and politically dominant. The Soviet Union then felt they were faced with a security dilemma and turned to Cuba for support (Correll). Geographically, this is relevant because Cuba is less than 100 miles away from Florida. The Soviet Union placed weapons in Cuba because the United States would have no time to react to an attack, all the while claiming that it was a defense maneuver against the United States (Thinkquest). Realism accounts for the distrust between the two nations (the United States’ distrust for the relationship between Castro and Kruschev) and the arms race that occurred as a result. From a realist perspective, this event was also inevitable due to the imbalance of power between the U.S. and the Soviet Union (and the U.S. and Cuba).
Liberalism, according to our class notes, emphasizes the potential for cooperation in the international system. Using this theory, the United States and Cuba, while both holding drastically different political ideologies (democracy and communism), made the decision not to enter into physical confrontation. While the agreement made was not a long-term solution for the increasingly strained relations between the two countries, they still worked together within the international system to reach a compromise. Liberalism also holds that even if a state has the capability to do something, preferences are the determining factor for decision-making (Jackson). This is demonstrated by both Cuba and the United States possessing nuclear missiles, but neither using them in fear of all out nuclear war (Nye 141).
Looking at realism and liberalism, both are necessary to fully evaluate the Cuban Missile Crisis. Realism examines why the event took place (looking at the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the tension between the two countries) and liberalism explains why both countries decided to compromise. While the liberalism argument used may appear to be redundant, it is actually gauging the event using multiple aspects of the theory to further prove the point. Without using both theories, the Cuban Missile Crisis could not be fully understood.
Correll, John. "Airpower and The Cuban Missile Crisis." Airforce Magazine. Air Force
Association. Web. <http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2005/August%202005/0805u2.aspx>.
"Cuban Missile Crisis - John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum." John F.
Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Web. 5 Oct. 2011. <http://www.jfklibrary.org/JFK/JFK-in-History/Cuban-Missile-Crisis.aspx>.
Donnelly, Jack. Realism and International Politics. Cambridge: Press Syndicate of The
University of Cambridge, 2000. Print.
Jackson, Patrick. "A Brief History of U.S. Diplomacy." U.S. Diplomacy. School of
International Service, American University. Web. 4 Oct. 2011. <http://www.usdiplomacy.org/diplomacytoday/values/theories.php>.
Nye, Joseph S., David Welch, and Joseph S. Nye. Understanding Global Conflict and
Cooperation: an Introduction to Theory and History. Boston: Pearson Longman, 2011. Print.
"An Overview on The Crisis." Oracle Thinkquest. Web. 6 Oct. 2011.
Utz, Curtis. "Cuban Missile Crisis." Naval History and Heritage Command. Naval
Historical Center, Aug.-Sept. 2006. Web. 7 Oct. 2011. <http://www.history.navy.mil/wars/cuban-mc.htm>