Assesment of Victory and Defeat in the Cuban Missile Crisis

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INTRODUCTION

The closest the world has come to nuclear war was the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. The Soviets had installed nuclear missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles off the coast of the United States. U.S. armed forces were at their highest state of readiness and demanded that the Soviet Union remove these missiles and imposed a naval blockade on Cuba, threatening to sink any Soviet ships that approached the island without permitting their cargoes to be inspected. Soviet field commanders in Cuba were authorized to use tactical nuclear weapons if invaded by the U.S. The fate of millions literally hinged upon the decisions of two men, President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev. The crisis escalated and reached a deadlock where nuclear war was very close. Eventually, after long negotiations, the Soviet Union announced that it would remove the missiles, and the United States made a public pledge not to invade Cuba, and the crisis ended with this compromise1.

AIMS OF THE RESEARCH

The Cuban Missile Crisis is considered to be the most dangerous moment of the Cold War, in which the world moved very close to nuclear conflict between the superpowers, but eventually war did not happen and the crisis ended with a compromise. Both sides could thus emerge from this crisis claiming victory, but there was little doubt as to who the real winners and losers were. Therefore the question I will try to answer in this essay is the following:

•How can we assess victory and defeat of the parties in the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Perceptions and misperceptions are very important in every conflict because there are significant political, social and security implications upon who the people think has won in the Cuban Crisis. Policymakers are especially concerned with perceptions of their success because they must deal with the international and domestic political aftermath of crises. Leaders often care about international issues because of the conclusions that other states will draw about them, regardless of whether these conclusions are well founded. A politician's political survival may also depend on having been perceived to win, whether or not they did, in fact, achieve significant tangible gains. For the public and the media,

perceptions are also important, since they can exert pressure on policy and ultimately determine the outcome of elections2.

As I will argue, the reality can be very unclear because there are some influential factors that determine our perception of the crisis and the settlement, and consequently our judgment of victory and defeat. The first factor I mention is the prior biases3; this means that some circumstances or situations can affect our judgment and reframe what we see in another way, therefore, the evaluation of victory and defeat can depend on who the observer was, and when and where they evaluated the settlement, and how it was reported to them. The second factor is the management of public opinion4; this is done by manipulating information either by changing it or by hiding certain facts. Both factors were present in the Cuban Crisis, and both affected people's interpretation of the outcomes and managed to shift the balance in favor of one party more than the other.

Those influential factors were extremely important during and after the crisis, and affected the judgments for victory and defeat. This is what I will try to discuss in the following pages. But before we get deep into the subject, I will start with a brief overview of the crisis.

OVERVIEW OF THE CRISIS
In 1962, the Soviet Union was desperately behind the United States in the arms race. Soviet missiles were only powerful enough to be launched against Europe but U.S. missiles were capable of striking the entire Soviet Union. In late April 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev conceived the idea of placing intermediate-range missiles in Cuba. A deployment in Cuba would double the...
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