The Cuban Missile Crisis

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To what extent was the Cuban Missile Crisis the inevitable result of US policy towards the Cuban Revolution?

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The United States government was heavily involved in anti-Castro efforts before, during, and after the Cuban revolution. Because of their frequent interference and attempts at sabotage and espionage towards Castro's regime, there was a large amount of ill will between the two nations.

While there are definite ways it could have been avoided, ever since World War II, the United States had taken a strictly anti-communist stance, and they were dealing with Cuba as a short-range, communist enemy. Because of this, they were very aggressive in trying to prevent Castro from taking over and instilling his views on such a nearby country, especially one that could easily be used by the Soviets as a pit stop to the Americas.

As a result, the Cuban government engaged in a standoff with the United States, threatening nuclear war, with the sympathy of the Soviet Union. Like we mentioned before, there are ways in which it likely could have been avoided or prevented, but the aggressive stance taken by the United States necessitated a strong approach, and with such a stubborn opponent in Castro and the Cuban government, the Cuban Missile Crisis was a natural result.

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This is an interesting question on several levels. The Cuban Missile Crisis took place from October 16 through October 28, 1962, when the United States confronted Cuba and the Soviet Union with a naval blockade over newly constructed ballistic missile facilities on the island. The year before, anti-Castro Cubans supported by the United States took part in an ill-considered, poorly and naively planned, and incompetently executed counter-revolutionary invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Cuban dictator Fidel Castro requested the Soviet Union's assistance with missiles in order to protect against any further invasion, which led to the naval blockade.

That said, under Castro's regime, thousands of Cubans had their property expropriated and livelihoods destroyed, and thousands of other Cubans were imprisoned, murdered, and "disappeared." Even though Cuba ostensibly has universal education and health care, it is apparent from journalistic reports that even today, Cubans criticize their government at their peril. More importantly for United States's national security interests, Cuba's very able military and intelligence services have fomented and supported revolutionary movements throughout Latin America, and they continue to do so in places such as Venezuela.

Therefore, this question could easily be rephrased to ask to what extent the excesses of the communist government of Cuba made confrontation with the United States inevitable.

A more neutral question to ponder is the best way for the United States to address such a destabilizing element 90 miles from its shores, since neither a trade embargo nor UN influence have been effective at bringing about positive change.

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First, it must be said that historians do not generally believe that anything is inevitable. Instead they usually see contigency, especially in complex events like the Cuban Missile Crisis that were basically created entirely by human agency. This being said, there is no doubt that American hostility toward Fidel Castro pushed him toward the Soviet Union in search of protection. The Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations had bitterly denounced Castro, and had attempted to spark a counter-revolution with the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. Additionally, the CIA planned several assassination attempts and otherwise actively sought to undermine his rule.

It did not necessarily follow, however, that Castro had to ask for nuclear missiles from the Soviet Union, which was the cause of the crisis. In addition, Khrushchev did not have to agree to the deployment, and indeed there was also plenty of disagreement within the Soviet Union on the wisdom of sending the missiles to Cuba. So while American policy toward Cuba drove Castro into the arms of the USSR, a move that he was ideologically inclined to make anyway,  and certainly exacerbated Cold War tensions, it did not make a nuclear showdown of the scale of the Cuban Missile Crisis inevitable. It was created by human agency.

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