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Aurora Dai M3 History

Cuban Missile Crisis

In 1947, during the Cold War, a doomsday clock was created to represent the threat of nuclear war, using `midnight` as an analogy for global catastrophic destruction. Having being initially set to seven minutes before midnight, the clock is adjusted based upon the perceived threat level of global disaster (TheBulletin, n.d.). Some critical events, like the Cuban Missile Crisis, however, are not specifically represented by the doomsday clock, mostly due to their brevity. This essay, however, will argue that, despite these discrepancies, the doomsday clock was indeed closest to `midnight` during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which both represented the climax of the Cold War, as well as the epitome of global danger since the clock`s creation (Thinkquest, n.d.). In support of this thesis, two main arguments pertaining to the irrationality of the main actors in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the lack of other international participantswill be presented.

Firstly, the Cuban Missile Crisis largely revolved around Nikita Khrushchev`s (the Russian leader of the Cold War) plans to plant nuclear missiles in Cuba (JFK Library and Museum, n.d.). The US, also capable of nuclear warfare, was therefore faced with a difficult choice; either to invade Cuba and destroy its missile infrastructure, or to use diplomatic or non-aggressive means to force Cuba to remove the nuclear warheads (Thirteen Days, 2000). The situation escalated when President Kennedy informed EXCOMM that he believed an invasion was the way the Cuban missile threat would be neutralized, with a nuclear strike on the USSR being inevitable as well. This, coupled with the active deployment of 80% of all long-range strategic bombers, firmly established that the US was both prepared for and willing to engage in nuclear waressentially stating that it would neutralize the Cuban missile threat at any cost (Kohn, 1998). The USSR was equally as fierce, having initially displayed no intent to remove the missiles. Fidel Castro also continually reaffirmed Cuba`s right to self-defence, and rejected any proposal for inspection. Both actors in this situationthe US, and the USSRwere therefore unwilling to stand down, and thus, it was this irrational pursuit of gaining a military advantage and protecting each countries respective territories at any cost that made the Cuban Missile Crisis the closest we`ve been to nuclear war. On the contrary, in previous scenarios, neither party was willing to risk nuclear-warfare, including the closest situation the clock has come to midnight, in 1953, when both countries tested hydrogen bombs. Still, in this critical moment, both countries chose to steer clear of each other, and avoid direct confrontation, highlighting the irrationality and extremeness of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Secondly, the Cuban Missile Crisis, due to many factors, was very much separated from the reason and control of the international community (Missiles of October, 1975). The main reason for this

Aurora Dai M3 History

rests in the condition of the previously powerful military powers at that time; World War II left the armies of Britain, France, and Germany (the most powerful forces in Europe) in a weak and barely operable condition. Thus, the USSR was free to expand its military and nuclear activity without the control and restriction of Eastern Europe; the only force that represented a threat, therefore, was the United States. In this way, the Cuban Missile Crisisunlike other events that caused a shift in the doomsday clockwas an especially critical situation due to the inability of the international community to respond militarily and economically (with sanctions) to the Soviet nuclear threat. Because of this, Cuba and the USSR were able to wage an individual war with the US, forcing the US to seriously consider using the only weapon that could permanently remove the Soviet threat; the nuclear bomb.

Some scholars, however, question both the severity of a nuclear war in relation to other more pertinent threats, as well as the gravity of the Cuban Missile Crisis as a whole, based upon the lack of analogous action from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (the group responsible for adjusting the doomsday clock). Both theses, however, are flawed. Firstly, nuclear war represents a much more imminent and assured threat than climate change; there is no doubt that the Soviets would have responded with nuclear weapons to any US action to remove the Cuban missiles. Moreover, scientists and politicians alike knew that, at best, this nuclear war would destroy most of both countries at best; at worst, it would completely render areas of both countries uninhabitable for all life for decades (Oman, 2013). Obviously, this level of severity of destruction is unparalleled by any other threatwhether that be climate change, or terrorism. Secondly, the Cuban Missile Crisis wasnt recorded by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists based upon its brevitywith a time span of only thirteen days, the situation arose and was resolved before an adjustment in the doomsday clock could occur. The assertion that only events that shift the doomsday clock can be severe, therefore, is false.

In conclusion, the nuclear threat that arose during the Cuban Missile Crisis was the most potentially destructive and immediately real threat that our world has ever experienced. Driven by opposite political ideals and each factions commitment to protecting their own territory, the irrationality of both parties escalated this particular crisis beyond other similar crises. In addition, the lack of military support from an international community severely limited the options of the US, thereby further pushing the US to engage in nuclear warfare. All in all, as nations, we must not only consider our own political ideals in resolving conflicts, but the survival of human life and cultures as well. We must recognize the potency of nuclear weapons, and their negative effects upon the global community. Through this commitment of peace and non-aggression, we can then strive to keep the doomsday clock as far from midnight as possible, in order to maintain peace for all.

Aurora Dai M3 History

Word Count: 977 Outline: Paragraph 1: Intro Paragraph 2: Why actors were irrational, and couldve turned out very badly Paragraph 3: Why no military support from other countries increased potential destruction Paragraph 4: Rebuttal > Other threats, wasnt recorded/noted Paragraph 5: Conclusion

Works Cited TheBulletin. "Timeline." It Is 5 Minutes to Midnight. Accessed April 07, 2013. http://www.thebulletin.org/content/doomsday-clock/timeline. Thinkquest. "Cuban Missile Crisis: Summary." An Overview of the Crisis. Accessed April 07, 2013. http://library.thinkquest.org/11046/days/. JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM. "Cuban Missile Crisis." - John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. Accessed April 07, 2013. http://www.jfklibrary.org/JFK/JFKin-History/Cuban-Missile-Crisis.aspx. Thirteen Days. Directed by Roger Donaldson. United States: New Line Cinema Presents, 2000. Kohn, R. H.; Harahan, J. P. (1988). "U.S. Strategic Air Power, 1948-1962: Excerpts from an Interview with Generals Curtis E. LeMay, Leon W. Johnson, David A. Burchinal, and Jack J. Catton". International Security 12 (4): 7895. The Missiles of October. Directed by Anthony Page. Performed by Martin Sheen. Viacom International, 1975. DVD. Oman, Luke. "Consequences of a Large Nuclear War." Nuclear Darkness & Nuclear Famine. 2013. Accessed April 07, 2013. http://www.nucleardarkness.org/warconsequences/.