Those officials who did look at the question of Japanese intentions decided that Japan would never attack, because to do so would be irrational. Yet what might seem irrational to one country may seem perfectly logical to another country that has different goals, values, and traditions. (Kessler 98)
The failures apparent in the onset of World War II and during the course of the war led indirectly to the creation of the CIA in 1947. During World War II, Colonel William J. Donovan headed the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), and in 1941 Donovan submitted to the president a plan outlining the need for a government-wide organization that would pool and coordinate existing intelligence. Roosevelt followed this recommendation and created a Coordinator of Information as part of the Executive Office of the President. This office evolved into the OSS, and this would become the model for the CIA. During the war the OSS organized resistance movements and sabotage operations behind enemy lines and also tried unsuccessfully to centralize intelligence functions within the government through an analytical section known as Research and Analysis. When the OSS disbanded after the war, the State Department absorbed many of its functions.
The agency was reconstituted at Donovan's urging with the creation of the Central Intelligence Group and a year later the Central Intelligence Agency. The agency was established by the National Security Act of 1947, with the new agency absorbing the institutional values of the OSS.
Before and after Pearl Harbor, the idea of a centralized intelligence agency had been opposed by many in the War Department who saw it as an infringement on their turf, and it was now considered important that the new CIA be independent and not tied to the interests of the military. The defense Intelligence Agency would be created in 1961 to focus more on tactical questions, and it did indeed reflect the biases of a military that constantly sought bigger budgets. The concept of a centralized intelligence agency, one bringing together all the available information on a subject and analyzing it objectively, is embodied in the Directorate of Intelligence, which with 3,000 employees is the smallest of the CIA's directorates. This is the analytical side of the house, made up of eggheads rather than spies, with analysts who openly identify themselves as CIA employees and who contribute to academic publications and attend conferences in their field just like university professors. The operations side gathers the information:
Typically, the analysts want to disseminate material obtained by the operations side, and the operations officers object because they are afraid it will expose a source. (Kessler 100)
Much of the attention of the CIA was directed at monitoring activities in and around the Soviet Union, but in this hemisphere, a major locus of attention after 1959 has been Cuba.
Fidel Castro was the son of a Spanish immigrant farm worker and was born in Oriente province in 1926 or 1927 (there is some dispute about the date). He became a political activist as a student and joined the Cuban People's Party about 1947. He obtained a law degree in 1950, and in 1952 he was a candidate for a seat in the House of Representatives. On March 10, 1952, however, General Fulgencio Batista overthrew the government, and in 1953, Castro began to organize a revolution against Batista. This effort failed, and Castro was jailed. When he was released under a 1955 amnesty, Castro went to Mexico and organized the next steps of his revolution. In 1956, he led a small force into Cuba and forced Batista to flee. He took control of Havana on January 2, 1959, became prime minister in February, became the president of Cuba in 1976 ("Year in Review 1994: Biography" online).
Socialist Cuba made the transition from capitalism after 1961, and it had many noteworthy achievements as well as notable disappointments. The evolution of Cuban developmental strategies is noted by Louis A. Perez Jr., who says that Cuba undertook a system of planning to overcome the conditions of underdevelopment. This meant a reduction in the historic dependence on sugar exports. Sugar "symbolized the source of old oppression, slavery in the colony, and subservience to foreigners in the republic" (Perez 337) while also being a constant source of unpredictability. Sugar dependence was reduced through industrialization and agricultural diversification, a simple idea that never worked and was finally abandoned (Perez 337-338). Sugar production was indeed given preference and priority after the mid-1960s because it was a good economic move (Perez 337). A new campaign was started to improve production through an emphasis on moral incentives:
Material incentives were proclaimed incompatible with the goals of the revolution. Workers were no longer paid for quality of production or for meeting -- or surpassing -- production quotas. Overtime pay was eliminated. Production achievements were acknowledged in a non-monetary way with badges, medallions, scrolls, and awards, frequently distributed by Castro himself. (Perez 340-341)
This predilection to choose ideology over economic stability certainly contributed to the downturn taken by the Cuban economy after Bautista.
In 1968, Castro personally assumed the planning and execution of economic policies, transforming himself into "a total dogmatist ideologically, societally, and economically, in absolute disregard of the experiences of other men and other societies, but also in contemptuous rejection of many Marxist and Soviet views" (Szulc 608). At the same time, though, Cuba was nearing bankruptcy, a condition worsened by hurricane damage and a drought in 1968. Castro proclaimed a new radical revolution in Cuba and moved to nationalize the entire retail trade sector, perhaps feeling the need to inject a new ideological fervor in the people (Szulc 608).
An American who had lived in Cuba in the 1950s returned in 1979 and found the area of Havana to be shabbier but otherwise little changed over a thirty year period. The stores were now run by the government, and purchases required a ration book. The visitor found that where there had been no public beaches thirty years ago, now there all beaches were open to the public. He also found some evidence that the basic needs of the people were being met:
One sees no beggars in the Havana of 1979, nor any of the poverty and misery which abound in so many other Latin American cities. In Cuba, the basic needs have been provided to all. Everyone is guaranteed enough to eat, adequate clothing, access to education, medical care, and a place to live. The diet is monotonous, and one may have to stand in line to buy food; some of the housing remains substandard. Still, that no one goes hungry or homeless is no small achievement. (Smith 195)
It is not clear that this condition still prevails, and the standard of living has actually decreased since that was written.
The existence of a Communist regime only a few hundred miles from the coast of the United States was a matter of special concern for the CIA from the time of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. The CIA had an operations headquarters in Miami seen by many as a state within a city because it was over, above, and outside the laws of the United States as well as of the international community. The headquarters had a permanent staff in excess of 300 Americans directed a few thousand Cuban agents in different actions, with a budget of more than $50 million a year (Blum 210). In 1961, Kennedy unveiled a program known as the Alliance for Progress, conceived as a direct response to Castro's Cuba. It was intended to prove that genuine social change could take place in Latin America without the need for revolution or socialism. It would also become part of the ongoing CIA effort to discredit the Cuban government, an effort that would continue long past the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis (Blum 214-215).
The CIA monitored activity in Cuba and attempted to assess the military capabilities of the Cubans. This was accomplished through the use of Cuban agents, spy planes and satellites flying over Cuban territory, and the monitoring of ships, planes, and other outside means of travel and communications. CIA information served to indicate the potential threat from Cuba and particularly the threat of Soviet missiles that might be fired from Cuban soil. The missile crisis developed when it was clear that the Soviets were placing nuclear missiles in Cuba and were preparing to bring in more. This is a brief outline of the events that transpired, but more and more it is being noted that this is not the whole story and that much more was involved than was reported at the time:
The real history of the missile crisis has been coming out bit by bit for years, partly from Soviet sources and now from secret U.S. documents released by the CIA. Taken as a whole, that history is far less…