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Many did not agree with this action because Senators Fulbright and Russell believed it would lead to an air strike on West Berlin or a blockade of that city. They knew it would lead to war. Kennedy had few choices but instead did not back down and lead the country through the crisis. He never "lost sight of the fact that once military action started, there was no telling at what level of escalation it could be stopped" (Stern 2003, p. 108).
Timing caused many of the problems Kennedy faced during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Many critics surmise the failure of the blockade but really its lack of strength came down to the fact Kennedy hesitated because he waited for OAS approval. This allowed for Soviet ships to arrive safely to Cuba before the escalation and this represents weakness on Kennedy's part. Why couldn't have acted aggressively? He was not being too careful considering what was at stake. As it stands, Khrushchev reacted by stating "the Soviet government cannot give instructions to the captains of Soviet vessels bound for Cuba to observe the instructions of the American navel forces. If Americans insisted on taking piratical actions, we will be forced for our part to take measures which we deem necessary" (Fursenko 1997, p. 256). As with Kennedy, Khrushchev was taken with plans from his advisors. He reasoned his decision to not back down by stressing "the continuing American hostility to the Soviet system and advocated military policy" (Brugioni 1990, p. 79). Neither leader would back down and found stubbornness an ally. Both leaders may have had many different advisors aiding their decisions, but what it really came down to was their leadership styles. This made more impact upon the crisis.
JFK and Khrushchev, a Relationship
Through the withdrawal of the missiles, Kennedy achieved the hero status that allied to his youthful college boy looks and turned him into a legendary figure. His charismatic image survives in American culture despite rumors of his womanizing, his commitment to Vietnam and other political shortcomings. He displayed extraordinary skill playing a military game without striking. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, "the American leadership faced the specter of political upheaval with the Kremlin and the possibility that the Soviets might have initiated or provoked war" (Blight 1989, p. 213). Kennedy struggled with sparse communication from the Soviet leader Khrushchev. "During the first two years of Kennedy's presidency there had been virtually no meaningful dialogue between the superpowers on issues that divided them (Blight 1989, p. 213). Rather it is differences in culture or communication, the two men both remained true to their beliefs during the crisis.
Surprisingly, they both had much in common regarding leadership traits and backgrounds. Both men were war heroes for their countries and both "appear to have shown qualities of statesmanship to meet what has been perhaps as grave as any threat to world peace" (The Birmingham Press 2001). This type of leadership takes a display of curiosity and the guts to be daring. A leader must be a dominant force within the team. Bennis reflects, there are two kinds of people "those who are paralyzed by fear, and those who are afraid but go ahead away. Life is not about limitation but options" (Bennis 1989, p.185). A healthy leadership inspires options and the innovations that grow out of creativity. A good leader provides vision and clarity for the people. Such a leader will be able to communicate and create a repoire with their country. Both men strived to reach this goal in the aftermath of the crisis. Still as much as they performed poorly at crisis avoidance due to communication issues, it must be said that they fared much better at crisis management. Their failure to understand each other during the crisis and this inability did not set the tone for their post crisis relationship. They had every reason not to trust each other after all the behind your back type maneuvers. Still the two men were able to put these transgressions aside and move forward toward peace.
Ross Reyburn writes, " ten months later came another triumph when Kennedy, Khrushchev and Macmillian signed a Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty" (The Birmingham Post 2001). Putting aside their differences and past hostilities, the peace process was on the road to reality for relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. This would open up a whole new world for both countries as far as communication and strengthening the allied bond from before the Second World War. It was a difficult road to face because of the constant competition that would remain in other areas such as the Space Race and other technologies. Khrushchev not only became alarmed for the safety of his country after Kennedy's assassination but also grieved the loss of such a dynamic leader along with the world. It was feared because of Oswald's ties to Marxism that there would be retaliation or backlash toward the Soviet Union. Fursenko reflects, "News of Kennedy's death shocked and alarmed Khrushchev. He feared that the enemies of the detente that he and Kennedy had been trying to achieve were not successful" (Fursenko 1997, p. 339). There was uncertainty in changes of foreign policy during this time. Khrushchev rushed to establish communication with the new administration and assess the skills of the new president Johnson. He expressed his condolences to a grieving nation and worried that Kennedy's death had happened at the worst time possible. He worried that this event would impact not only relations with the United States but effect progress of peace. He and his advisors scrambled to relieve their relationship with Castro for fear that this debate would be opened again. This strategy, however, was only temporary in nature and maintained a level of damage control for the Soviet Union.
This paper explored with detailed analysis the diplomatic problems Kennedy faced during the Cuban Missile Crisis. This paper included a brief look as the historical event for a frame of reference. This paper looked at issues of foreign policy and strategies used to remedy this troubling event. This paper displayed how these strategies only worsened the situation by causing diplomatic troubles between the United States and the Soviet Union. The paragraphs above also examined the relationship between President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev and how their leadership styles varied but also made strides toward a peaceful solution possible. This paper discussed the nature of diplomatic problems and explored strategies. Suffice it to say, history has a way of foreshadowing the present. Diplomatic problems found in American foreign policy never really find solutions. Possibly for a moment or that particular country is no longer a threat, but America continues to dominate the global chessboard and sees itself as the peace provider.
1997. Cuban Missile Crisis Left Kennedy with Little Choice But to Act, Congressional
Leaders No Help To President. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 21. Oct.
Bennis, W. 1989. On Becoming a Leader. Reading, Massachusetts:
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Blight, James and David Welch. 1989. On the Brink: Americans and Soviets Reexamine the Cuban Missile Crisis. New York: Hill and Wang.
Brugioni, Dino. 1990. Eyeball to Eyeball: The Inside Story of the Cuban Missile
Crisis. New York: Random House.
Fursenko, Aleksandr and Timothy Naftali. 1997. One Hell of a Gamble: The Secret
History of the Cuban Missile Crisis. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.
Pont, Jonathan. 2001. Peace on the Brink of War: After Home Bunkers and Duck & Cover Drills. New York Times, 26 Nov.
Reyburn, Ross. 2001. October 1962: The Cuban Missile Crisis Dark Days When the World Held Its Breath. The Birmingham Post (United Kingdom), 22 Sept.…[continue]
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