Comparison of the 1938 Munich Crisis and 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and the Role of Nuclear Arms

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Comparison of the 1938 Munich Crisis and 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and the Role of Nuclear Arms

In annals of the 20th century, the Munich crisis of 1938 and the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 are two of the more riveting examples of crisis diplomacy (Richardson 1994). Comparisons of the two cases yield a robust discourse on their similarities and differences. The two cases illustrate the complexity of international leadership through ‘summit diplomacy’ (Dobbs 2008; Faber 2008; Reynolds 2008). The outcomes of the two historic events are vastly different. For instance, the Munich crisis eventually became a prelude to World War II that dragged Great Britain to war with Germany. The Cuban Missile Crisis turned out to be a finale to what could have been a catastrophic nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In both cases, protagonists were influenced by the particular events, their domestic and geo-political state of affairs and the signals delivered and counter offers made from parties involved. This essay analyses the scenario, role of actors, and description of the outcomes of the two crises. The paper argues that the advent of the nuclear age, following World War II in 1945, shaped contemporary international relations. What makes the Cuban Missile Crisis fundamentally different was precisely because it occurred during nuclear age. This essay will outline some of the concepts such as deterrence, mutual assured destruction doctrine, and the concept of balance of terror to justify why the nuclear age has shaped events after World War II. The essay concludes by affirming the need to rethink and revisit the role of nuclear weapons in the 21st century. Comparison of the Munich Crisis and Cuban Missile Crisis:

State of Affairs, Key Actors and Outcomes

The following paragraphs summarize the state of affairs, roles of key actors, and the outcomes of the Munich Crisis of 1938 and the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962: 1938 Munich Crisis
By September 1938, Germany had risen from the ashes of its humiliating defeat in the Great War which forced Imperial Germany to give up its superpower status in Europe following the Treaty of Versailles of 1919. Some sectors in Britain felt that the Germans had been treated unfairly after World War I. For instance, most British parliamentarians in the 1930s believed that an “injustice had been done to Sudeten Germans that must be rectified by diplomacy if a new war was to be averted” (Buchanan 2008). Pacifist sentiments prevailed in Britain and a strong desire to prevent another world war (Johnson, 103). Despite Germany’s remilitarization of Rhineland in direct violation of the treaty, European powers did not oppose Nazi Germany’s rise to power. Armed by its successes in foreign policy, the Third Reich was emboldened to pursue its desire to reclaim Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia by force under the pretext of emancipating Germans in the partitioned land. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, an optimist and a ‘dove’(Reynolds,39) held the belief that an unnecessary war could be prevented. German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, however, wanted to go to war at all cost. Chamberlain took initiative and visited Germany three times to convince Hitler not to invade Czechoslovakia and proposed a peaceful approach. Through personal diplomacy, Chamberlain doggedly applied ‘appeasement’ policy convinced that he could persuade Hitler from invading Czech land (Faber 2008). Hitler proved to be an irrational and unreliable negotiator. In the end, through the mediation of Italian President Benito Mussolini, Chamberlain, French Prime Minister Daladier and Hitler reached a final agreement in Munich for the hand-over of Sudetenland to Germany in exchange of assurances that Germany will not invade Czechoslovakia and its neighbours. Britain and France pressed Czechoslovakia, who was not part of the negotiation, to cede...
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