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Ocober 1962, President Kennedy

April 3, 2016 | Author: | Posted in history

p BLOCKADE , AIRSTRIKE , INVASION , OR NEGOTIATIONS AMERICAN RESPONSES TO THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS , 1962 Mr . Attorney General

To begin , I must point out that we must negotiate with the Soviet Union to some degree , no matter what alternative action we choose . The choice is not between negotiation and non-negotiation . The choice is between negotiation and mutual annihilation . Given that an all-out nuclear war with the Soviets is not a viable option , we must and should negotiate On the other hand , merely talking without aggressive action on our part to show that [banner_entry_middle]

we will not tolerate nuclear missiles in Cuba will be a show of weakness that would give Chairman Khrushchev an important victory , one which we should not yield to him if we can avoid it (Alison 1971 , pp . 58-60 ) Our goal should be the removal of the Soviet missiles from Cuba without going to war

I realize that some of my colleagues will suggest that this is the perfect time for an invasion of Cuba (Alison 1971 ,

. 206 , quoting General Curtis LeMay as advocating an airstrike after the Soviets had agreed to withdraw their missiles ) An invasion would be a huge undertaking , dwarfing the sort of operations we carried out in the Pacific theater during World War Two . In 1961 , we allowed ourselves to be convinced that a few hundred mercenaries trained at CIA bases in Guatemala could invade Cuba . We realized that these mercenaries were vastly outnumbered , but convinced ourselves that the Cuban people would spontaneously rise up in support of the invasion . To our embarrassment the Cubans did not come over to the side of the mercenaries . Instead they responded with discipline and courage against these invaders . The uprising on which we had so banked our hopes never occurred . This administration was embarrassed ( Cuban Missile Crisis , 2001 , pp 1-52

Cuba is not a tiny island . Superimposed on a map of the United States Cuba stretches from Washington , D .C , to Chicago . We estimate there are 20 ,000 Soviet troops in Cuba , in addition to that countries sizable forces (Allison 1971 ,

. 59 ) To mount the force that a full scale invasion of Cuba would require would take weeks , and perhaps months . By then , we will face ready missiles . Further , it will be easier for the Soviets to bring pressure to bear on Berlin than it will be for us to invade Cuba (George 1971 , 92-93 Allison 1971 , 45-46 , 242-43

As for the airstrike option , we now estimate that the sort of airstrike which will effectively neutralize the Soviet build-up in Cuba will require at least 500 sorties (Allison 1971 ,

. 60-61 ) They will undoubtedly kill Russians and the death of any Russians will increase the risk of retaliation , in Berlin or elsewhere , and the attendant risk that the situation get out of control (Allison 1971 , pp . 60-62 ) The Air Force reports that against the missiles that we have located , an air strike cannot take out every missile . If we launch an airstrike , we must assume that an will be given immediately to launch any missiles which survive the airstrike . For each surviving missile , we must anticipate the loss of an major American city . Further , the detonation of a nuclear device on American soil , even if it is targeted against a military installation and causes relatively few civilian casualties will probably have such an effect on the American psyche that we will have a hard time avoiding a response against a Soviet city . If that occurs , we are back to the annihilation scenario , which we must avoid if possible . Further , even if the airstrike might be successful what we would have is a Pearl Harbor in reverse . The American people are not prepared for us to do that (Allison 1971 ,

. 60

I understand that the President recently read The Guns of August (Tuchman 1962 , with particular interest I how miscalculations with each of the governments in Europe led to the disaster that was the Great War (Alison 1971 ,

. 218 ) We should avoid making similar mistakes . We must be particularly careful to avoid any action which leaves us no alternative but war

The Soviets have not yet brought these missiles to operational readiness . We have the Blockade , Airstrike , Invasion , or Negotiations Page option to deal with this crisis , or at least to come to some consensus on how to deal with this crisis before the Soviet have these missiles available as effective weapons (George 1971 ,

. 86

Of the courses available , the blockade gives up the greatest flexibility and control over the situation . I realize that Mr . Acheson is arguing firmly that the blockade may do nothing more than delay the point of critical decision , making any attempt on our part to deal with the situation all the more difficult . Nevertheless , the blockade has the advantage that it leaves us more options . It is an assertive matter . We will attempt to stop and board Soviet ships on the high seas . However , if we use an air strike , we will foreclose the alternative of trying to resolve this crisis without the use of force Mr . McNamara agrees that a blockade is possible and can be effective in forcing the Soviets to back down . That the Secretary of Defense has opted for this option rather than the military strike is , I believe very significant (George 1971 ,

. 87

The blockade is also important because it will allow our counterparts in the Soviet Union to maneuver . While I certainly do not favor giving the Soviets any unnecessary advantage in this situation , we must not put the Soviets in a position in which they feel that their only viable options are war or humiliation . If we reach that position , then we again risk war . In the case of the Soviet Union , this carries extra risks which we should avoid if possible : Premier Khrushchev is a moderate among the Soviet leadership . While he has vowed that we will be buried in his shoe-pounding incident at the United Nations , he is a vast improvement over Joseph Stalin . Our analysts warn that Mr Khrushchev is under tremendous pressure from the hardliners in his administration (Allison 1971 , pp . 112-13 ) In to ensure that Mr Khrushchev makes no miscalculation which could precipitate violence , I urge that the United States publicly proclaim an interdiction of missiles and related contraband , allowing the Soviet a brief period of time in which she may decide whether to try to force the issue or not (Allison 1971 , pp . 202-03 George 1971 , 95-98

Mr . Attorney General , the President has been profoundly solicitous of our candid opinions . I know that he has had this matter on his mind since October 10 , when our intelligence community first disclosed that the Soviets had placed the missiles in Cuba . He has absented himself from the Excom meetings not because he lacks interest in this matter but because he is aware that the presence of the President in such a meeting tends to distort the discussion , which he has stressed he wants to be full and free (Allison 1971 ,

. 42 ) I have drafted this memorandum as my own , most candid statement of what I expect . I thank you and the President for your sincere consideration of these views WORKS CITED Allison , Graham T (1971 . The Essence of Decision . Boston Massachusetts : Little Brown Company The Cuban Missile Crisis , 1962 (2001 . London , England : The Stationery Office George , Alexander (1971 . ’93The Cuban Missile Crisis , 1971 ’94 in George , Alexander , David Hall , and William R . Simons (1971 . The Limits of Coercive Diplomacy . Boston , Massachusetts : Little Brown Company Tucuman , Barbara . The Guns of August . New York , New York : MacMillan Company … [banner_entry_footer]

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