The Cuban Missile Crises
A Review of International Relations in Cuba from Revolution to Missile Crises
Throughout history peace has always had to grow through the cracks in the cement of whatever sociological system existed at the time. During tribalism, peace required gene altruism. Agrarian cultures of the Bronze Age could come to peace only by means of religious compromise. After the Iron Age, peace began to be a monopoly of the state. This then transitioned into Feudalism, which could not maintain peace with the limitations presented by theocracies and had no safety net in place for plagues. Eventually the era of Capitalism arose and with it Colonialism, Empiricism, and the Industrial Revolution. Peace now would be strangled by the thirst for profit. But peace is analogous to life in the sense that it always finds a way. This essay will attempt to explain peace and the lack thereof peace during the Cuban Revolution and through the Cuban Missile Crises. It will also explain what the United States did to promote or detract from peace. Lastly, this essay will explain positive and negative peace and analyze whether or not US foreign policy aligned with positive peace before and during the Cuban Missile Crises. To do so we must first review the details of Cuban history.
Now fast forward through this historical timeline to Guatemala in the year of 1944. The Guatemalan people attained peace within their country via revolution. Their new form of government instituted universal suffrage, democratic elections, minimum wage, and land reforms. These changes had a negative effect on the profit of the United Fruit Company, a business that had previously exploited the lack of labor rights within the region. UFC lobbied the United States to intervene (Cullather, 1994). Truman and Eisenhower accomplished this task through the public relation strategy of economic fear and took a hard line against the West’s second Red Scare threat: Communism. The CIA armed and funded approximately 500 mercenaries and successfully ended the apparent democratic threat in Guatemala by replacing Juan Jose Arevalo with the warlord Castillo Armas. Peace was forced back into the shadows, waiting.
This coup was criticized internationally, created an anti-US Sentiment throughout Latin America, and resulted in 4 decades of civil war and the Mayan genocide known to historians as “The Silent Holocaust.” Ernesto (Che) Guevara, an Argentinian, was radicalized by this oppression. He had been raised aristocratically and therefore benefitted from his parent’s extravagant library from which he particularly studied authors such as Nietzsche, Freud, and Marx. After acquiring his medical degree, Che became aware of another US-backed dictator: Fulgencio Battista. Thanks to the United States’ logistic, military, and financial support, Battista was able to revoke labor rights throughout Cuba, allowing US interests to own 70% of the countries land and creating a monopsony (one buyer) of their sugar export. Soon Battista would align his administration with the US Mafia, filling the once pristine Havana with prostitution, drugs, and gambling. Many small, student-organized protests ignited but Battista tightened his grip on the populace via wide-scale public executions, rape, and torture, killing over 20,000 of his own citizens.
Che joined a small 80-man group of revolutionaries and set voyage to Cuba on a small boat the men affectionately referred to as “Granma”. The old and tattered yacht was only supposed to carry a small crew of 20 people, but the fool-hearty gang of mostly 20 year-olds packed it to the brim with ammo and weapons. This expedition would be the epitome of misery. Their navigator fell overboard and drowned, leaving the sea-sick crew lost in the Gulf of Mexico, unsure where to land.
Che described the moment they finally arrived to the Cuban coast:
"We reached solid ground, lost, stumbling along like so many shadows or ghosts marching in response to some obscure psychic impulse. We had been through seven days of constant hunger and sickness during the sea crossing, topped by three still more terrible days on land. Exactly 10 days after our departure from Mexico, during the early morning hours of December 5, following a night-long march interrupted by fainting and frequent rest periods, we reached a spot paradoxically known as Alegría de Pío (Rejoicing of the Pious)". (Kellner, 1989)
It was here at Alegria de Pio that Battistas forces were awaiting the crew of the Granma. They opened fire and only a dozen men evaded death. During the onslaught of bullets, Che was struck in the neck and went unconscious. He awoke to the sound of gunfire and stood with one hand on his throat and the other free to grab either his medical kit or a gun. He chose the gun. The remaining twelve survivors met within the safety of the mountainside; among this group was Fidel Castro. Fidel acquired radio equipment and began broadcasting from the mountains his rebel message. This broadcast swept across the country and radicalized volunteers began arriving in support. Soon, a new rebel army was attacking military instalments along the south coast. Simultaneously, college students begin attacking the Presidential Palace in Havana. Soon the battle is focused to the last major city between the rebels and Havana: Santa Clara. Battista, in an attempt to protect the city, constructs a military, bullet-proof, assault-train, painted black, armed with multiple turrets, and covered in steel. While Fidel’s men attack the military outpost of the city, Che takes a small band of men beyond the city and begins to dismantle the train tracks. After the city had been successfully taken over, the Cuban army retreated within the safety of the steel-sided train. Soon they spend right into Che’s trap and derailed. Che’s unit tossed molotovs beneath the train, turning it into an oven, forcing the army out. This loss ended any hope of Battista’s control over the Island. Battista fled and Castro assumed the status of Cuban Prime Minister. Communism had come to the Western Hemisphere.
Fidel implemented many positive changes to Cuba, such as education reform, healthcare expansion, and economic planning; however, he also continued the typical Communist strategy of suppressing political dissent and implementing a state-operated press. The US ended all purchases of sugar from the country. Cuba then found a new buyer with the USSR. Cuba formed strong political ties with the Soviet Union, who were currently in a nuclear Cold War with the United States. An inlet within the province of Fidel’s final battle in Santa Clara, was known to the Cuban people as “Bahia de Cochinos.” This is translated to The Bay of Pigs. It was here that the United States would respond to Fidel’s resistance to capitalism. In April of 1961 the CIA organized and sponsored a force in their previously manipulated country of Guatemala. 1,400 paramilitaries descended on the Bay of Pigs and were followed by 8 B-26 bombers that the CIA had painted to look like Cuban air force, so as to deceive the Cuban people into thinking the Cuban military was resisting Castro. This attack failed after a short three days. The US then implemented “Operation Mongoose”: a CIA plan to overthrow the Cuban government and assassinate Fidel Castro. The plan included carefully placed anti-government propaganda and assassination tactics that appear to be straight out of a James Bond film such as exploding cigars, exploding seashells, a fungus-contaminated diving suit, a lover that was supposed to poison Castro’s drink with botulism, a hypodermic needle concealed within a pen, an attempt to dose Castro with LSD before one of his speeches, and of course poisoned pills.
Author of “Sons and Brothers”, Richard D. Mahoney wrote:
"Late one evening, probably March 13, Rosselli passed the poison pills and the money to a small, reddish-haired Afro-Cuban by the name of Rafael "Macho" Gener in the Boom Boom Room, a location Giancana thought "stupid." Rosselli's purpose, however, was not just to assassinate Castro but to set up the Mafia's partner in crime, the United States government. Accordingly, he was laying a long, bright trail of evidence that unmistakably implicated the CIA in the Castro plot. This evidence, whose purpose was blackmail, would prove critical in the CIA's cover-up of the Kennedy assassination." (Mahoney, 2011)
These attempts all failed and the US Department of Defense along with the Joint Chiefs of Staff then presented President Kennedy with their next plan: “Operation Northwoods.” This black-flag operation included the murder of multiple US citizens in the goal of blaming the deaths on Cuba and implementing a war. These acts of terrorism included, sinking boats of Cuban refugees, blowing up US Naval ships, and high jacking a commercial airliner of US citizens and crashing it (Cullather, 2006). Although Kennedy rejected this plan, the Cuban Missile Crises had already begun. According to the NSA Archive, in response to the United States placing nuclear warheads in Turkey, the Soviet Union placed nuclear warheads in Cuba (NSA Archive 2013). In fairness to the economic-based perspective and theme of this essay, it should be noted that the NSA Archive is primarily funded by both The Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. These three foundations are owned by the same families that own U.S. Steel, JP Morgan & Chase, Ford Motor Company, and Hewlett-Packard.
We will now laterally transition from that caveat and return to our historical review. A U2 spy plane flown by Air Force Pilot Richard Heyser did confirm that a Cuban airbase was in possession of Russian medium-range missiles. Photos of these missiles were taken to Ex-comm who then suggested quarantining Cuba. The United States responded to this information by implementing a naval blockade around Cuba, stopping all Soviet vessels from reaching its shore. Some Soviet ships turned back but many continued toward the blockade where they were inspected and turned around. None of the ships inspected contained and nuclear weapons. President Kennedy orders increased flights over and around Cuba. American Pilot, Charles Maultsby accidently flies into Soviet airspace but is not shot down. This increases tensions between the two super-powers. Kennedy begins discussions of invading Cuba. Soon Khrushchev says that he will remove missiles from Cuba if the United States agrees not to invade and secretly remove its missiles from Turkey. Kennedy agrees and the Cold War ends.
This concludes the necessary historic review of Cuba’s journey toward peace. To summarize, it began with democracy, was threatened by “laissez faire” capitalism (allowing the market to function without constraint of regulation or law), these capitalists then lobbied the US government to do as they had done before and establish a dictatorship that would support their financial interests. The US did and Revolution occurred. This then escalated into further attempts of capitalist control which pushed Cuba into the arms of the United States economic adversary: the Communist USSR. Cuba was then in the middle of the already established Cold War. The game of Russian Roulette and fear of global nuclear war finally ended the standoff, the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crises, and allowed peace to resume. The purpose of this essay will now be to identify what led to the initial lack of peace, what caused the conclusion of peace in the end, and how could this have been handled differently by the United States.
First, we will examine the philosophical concepts of peace with the aid of Hobbes, Locke, Vattel, Spinoza, Luther, Rousseau, and Kant. Then we will conclude with a perspective appropriate to this particular time in history, by examining peace through the filter of economics and class-struggle with Karl Marx. One might assume that the natural state of man is to strive toward peace; however, history is full of examples that appear to refute such an assumption. Typically, these points of conflict are categorized as a result of religious violence, fighting over resources, or ethnic diversity. Early philosophers wanted to delve deeper into the ethos of war to attempt to filter out the true sociological causes therewith. Thomas Hobbes argued that war is simply a result of man’s need for power and therefore a nation’s need for cumulative control (Johnson, 2015). John Locke claimed that this constant battle rages from a lack of liberal education. He concluded that the cure to the symptom of war could be found through the proper information being delivered to the youth of a civilization. Vattel stood apart from both of these thinkers by stating that war was the right of a nation. He wasn’t concerned with a “just war” or even “just peace” for that matter. Vattel thought that neither of these concepts was worthwhile and that a nation should promote war or peace as it sees fit to do so.
To understand these philosophers further, we must address the concept of negative and positive peace. Negative Peace is the absence of violence; it is pessimistic, curative, and not always brought about by peaceful means (such as peace after war). Positive Peace is structural integration; it is optimistic, preventative, and comes about through peaceful means (Grewal 2003). Galtung thought positive peace should be a higher ideal than negative peace. He claimed peace research should not only focus on ending or reducing violence but instead to understand the methods for preventing peace (Galtung, 1996). Philosophers such as Locke, Spinoza, Luther, and Rousseau would support Galtung’s concept of positive peace. Hobbes, who argued that peace is simply the absence of war, and Vattel, who said that peace is simply the status that occurs after a war has concluded, would disagree with Galtung. Spinoza claimed that peace is a virtue and should therefore be our goal. Luther said that there are two kingdoms: the spiritual and the secular. This world is that which he referred to as the secular and it is therefore man’s duty and responsibility to keep it peaceful. Rousseau argued for a European Federation so as to promote positive peace throughout at least one continent. Finally, Kant argued that the state is composed of the people and should never be controlled by another state. Could one not make the same conclusion about a state being controlled by the corporations of another state?
“A state is not, like the ground which it occupies, a piece of property (patrimonium). It is a society of men whom no one else has any right to command or to dispose except the state itself. It is a trunk with its own roots. But to incorporate it into another state, like a graft, is to destroy its existence as a moral person, reducing it to a thing; such incorporation thus contradicts the idea of the original contract without which no right over a people can be conceived.” (Kant, 1795)
Karl Marx however views peace as something that is resisted by class struggle. He begins his Communist Manifesto with:
The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes. In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations. The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, and new forms of struggle in place of the old ones.” (Marx, 1848)
In the Cuban scenario, the United States certainly didn’t follow concepts of positive peace promoted by Galtung. Their foreign policy seemed to be more in line with pro-war authors such as Hobbes and Vattel. As far as Locke’s “liberal education” concept: the United States educational system, entertainment, and media primarily promoted anti-communist propaganda. Spinoza certainly would not find the US actions in Cuba to be virtuous. Luther would see this as a violation of both the spiritual and secular kingdoms. Rousseau would have encouraged the US to find some sustainable contract with their neighbors rather than attempting to deplete their resources by nefarious means. Kant clearly would have opposed corporate control of another state’s resources. His Categorical Imperative forces one to ask, “What if every country conducted its foreign relations in this manor?” And therefore, “How would the US respond to another country if they had treated them the way the US treated Cuba?” Finally, Marx would likely have the most to say about this particular time in history. He would have seen this behavior as the direct result of capitalistic empiricism. Marx would have brought attention to how the United States acted as a military force for the corporations of its country and fought against democracy and particularly the labor class. Here Marx comments to the conflict between industry and laborers:
“The essential conditions for the existence and for the sway of the bourgeois class is the formation and augmentation of capital; the condition for capital is wage-labour. Wage-labour rests exclusively on competition between the labourers. The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the labourers, due to competition, by the revolutionary combination, due to association. The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.” (Marx, 1848)
The United States could have avoided inspiring revolutionaries by not toppling South American governments. They could have supported other democracies no matter what form of economy they chose. The US could have avoided nearby countries allying themselves with foreign super powers by simply maintaining trade with them. It seems quite easy to reevaluate what the United States could have done differently but rather difficult to evaluate whether or not this was positive or negative peace. Clearly the US wasn’t attempting positive peace initially but at the end of the Cold War, the fear of global destruction gave Kennedy (and Khrushchev as well) the immediate necessity for positive peace. The struggle against this peace seemed to continue however. Shortly thereafter, Khrushchev was replaced and President Kennedy was assassinated.
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