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The Cuban Missile Crisis as a Case of Crisis Foreign Policy

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Josh Gorringe

on 10 April 2016

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Transcript of The Cuban Missile Crisis as a Case of Crisis Foreign Policy

The Cuban Missile Crisis as a Case of Crisis Foreign Policy Decision Making
The Brink of Nuclear War
Crisis Foreign Policy Decision Making
Our Thesis
The Options...
Naval Blockade
2. Airstrike
3. Invasion
4. Do Nothing
Conditions of Crisis Foreign Policy Decision Making (Brecher & Wilkenfeld, 1997)

1. Threat to one or more basic values
2. Awareness of finite time for response to the value of threat
3. Heightened probability of involvement in military hostilities
Defensive Realism
States privilege
defensive power interests
and survival and defence. They believe states should secure their own borders to ensure their
(Van Evera. S., 1999, Walt. S., 2005)

It is unwise for states to try to maximize their share of world power, because the system will punish them if they attempt to gain
too much power
(Waltz, K., 1979)
Effectiveness of Realism
Classical Realism
States dominate the international system.
Great Powers
control world order.
Work towards satisfying
National Interests
in anarchic system. Defending sovereignty with unilateral action
States act individually or
as long as achieve their objectives (
Game Theory
a prevalent, prominent and common occurrence.
USSR and USA looked to maximise power and ensure survival through missiles, ensuing blockade and planned military invasion.
Grieco, 1988: 601, Keohane, 1986: 13, Mearshimer, 2001: 29, Morgenthau, 1973: 115, Herz, 1950: 176, Walt, 2005: 31, Waltz, 2001: 34.

Offensive Realism
States striving to acquire power and are willing to use
offensive action
to procure benefits.
Desire for
and power in hierarchical order (Mearsheimer, 2001: 138).
Hawkish foreign policy agendas.
foreign policy which could result in war seen as effective.
USSR’s deployment of missiles and US blockade and planned invasion. Statements of intent and description of power.
Mearsheimer, 2001: 138, Rose, 1998: 149, Herz, 1950: 157, McKeown, 2000: 71-72.

Can it explain the events?
In the context of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the USA was looking outside of its own borders to try and ensure its own
and was as concerned with its security as it was with its
geo-political influence

“Defensive realism has been unable to explain foreign policy decisions in the last century” e.g. Cold War/WWI/WWII (Mearsheimer, J., 2006)

The Cooperation
Rational Actor Model
Liberal Decision Making
The States found a way of cooperating to resolve the crisis representing a success for
liberal ideas
in crisis decision making.
Removal of Weapons from Turkey
US recognition of inviolability of Cuba's borders
Removed Missiles from Cuba
Allowed US to remove Turkish Missiles Covertly
Democratic Peace Theory
Key Theory
of Liberal International Relations Thought

The USA and USSR represent
competing ideologies
– does it still explain the decision to Cooperate?

Success of cooperation between liberal states compared to the imprudent aggression against non-liberals – especially in issues of security.

John Foster Dulles: "We shall never have a secure peace or happy world so long as Soviet Communism dominates one-third of all the peoples that there are, and is in the process of trying at least to extend its rule to many others.” (US Senate, 1953)

But, was this a
special case
1. The Cuban Missile Crisis is an important example of
Crisis Foreign Policy

Decision Making
in the context of the Cold War.

is, to an extent, helpful for analysing the USA’s foreign policy decision to enforce a
Naval Blockade
on Cuba in response to the crisis.

3. However, the
reached in the resolution shows the prominence of
liberal ideals

can help shape our understanding of the decision making behaviour.

5. The
Bureaucratic Politics Model
is the best way of understanding the decision making process.

It is necessary to explore
different levels of analysis
; the international system, state and society, and the individual, to understand the decisions taken by the USA during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

We will argue that the
Bureaucratic Politics Model
provides us with the best framework for understanding the Cuban Missile Crisis as a case of foreign policy decision making.
USA and USSR emerged from WWII as the two supreme, competing powers in a bipolar international system.
US invasion of the Bay of Pigs, 1961.
Following this, the Soviets deployed missiles in Cuba to gain increasing influence in a anarchic system which directly threatened America’s security and safety in this sphere of influence.
America had several options to respond which will be explored.

1) “
Great powers
are the main actors in world politics/operate in an anarchic system

2) All states possess some
offensive military capability

3) States can never be certain about the intentions of other states: little to
no cooperation
between states

4) Main goal of states is

5) States are
rational actors
, which is to say they are capable of coming up with sound strategies that maximize their prospects for survival”

(Mearsheimer, 2006)
Key Elements
Believe that the structure of the international system can shape foreign policy decision making

Believe that it is the anarchic international system which forces states to pursue power so that they are able to protect themselves in case of an attack by another state

Can Neo-Realism explain the Decisions of the Crisis?
The US decided that their
was best secured by responding with a
and not military action which risked nuclear war

It may be argued that it was the
rational decision
of the USA to respond with the blockade rather than with military action due to the threat nuclear war had to the US’ survival

However, during the Cuban Missile Crisis the USA and the USSR did eventually
, undermining the basis of neo-realist thought.

Therefore, the
structural level
of analysis (which neo-realism provides) does not give us an adequate explanation of the foreign-policy decisions that were made.

We need to be able to look at the individual level
to fully understand the decisions
To an extent...
Classical Realism in particular cannot explain why the superpowers decided to
Removal of missiles in Cuba and Turkey made countries
less secure
, undermines Realist arguments of maximising power, security and defending sovereignty.
Did not utilise
military action
like offensive realists would suggest.
Instead focused on tit for tat agreements rather than power politics.
Axelrod, 1986: 1097. Keohane, 1986: 8.
, not only possible, but beneficial (Snyder, 2004)

mutual benefits

Even in crisis situations, states can find ways to avoid war and
(McWilliams and Piotrowski, 1994), pursuing
conceptions of foreign policy (Doyle, 1997)
Relative Gains
Greater Security
Removal of Nuclear Weapons
Direct Phone Line
Restoration of Kennedy's Reputation

"combination of toughness and restraint, nerve and wisdom, so brilliantly controlled, so matchlessly calibrated, that dazzled the world" (Schlesinger, 1965)

Allison’s (1969) three models of analysis : Referred to as Bureaucratic politics or Government politics model ( Model III)

Looking at the domestic, bureaucratic level rather than the state

no unitary actor but a plethora of them as players who don’t focus on a single strategic issue but on multiple intra-national problems

Individuals are political beings vs rational
 behaviour therefore driven by preferences, priorities and perceptions

Bargaining : result of compromise amongst government officials

Wittgenstein’s “game” approach (Brenner, 1999) : “national behaviour in international affairs can be conceived as outcomes of intricate, subtle and simultaneous overlapping games among players located in positions of hierarchy, this hierarchical positioning is what constituted the government” (Allison, 1969)

In Theory
In the Context of the Missile Crisis

Cuba was a strategical piece in Kennedy’s discourse in domestic politics around the Congressional elections : importance of domestic politics which the state level neglects  explains Kennedy’s reaction (Sorensen, 1965)

Khrushchev had assured Kennedy that the USSR would not act offensively

=> Secretary of State McNamara vs McGeorge Bundy, the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs : wanted the diplomatic track over the not doing anything (Hilsman, 1967)

14 people took part in making the decision to blockade : contention
Air strike --> Blockade

Understanding the Crisis: Social Construction
Decision Making on the actor level
decision-making process within the ExComm

“Our principal problem is to try and imaginatively to think what the world would be like if we do this, and what it will be like if we do this, and what it will be like if we don’t.” – McGeorge Bundy, National Security Adviser

political, strategic and psychological contexts equally important (Welch, 1989)
significance of beliefs, perceptions, cognitive processes in crisis decision making (Keller, 2005)

Discussion Questions
1. How has the Cuban Missile Crisis affected Foreign Policy Decision Making today?

2. How would this crisis have played out if it took place today?

3. Has the nature of crisis decision making changed due to rise of Non-State Actors?

Kennedy - 'The man at the dramatic centre' (Gibson, 2012)
unique position of Kennedy - both chair, decider and addressee of choice
aware of himself as the final decider
style - questions and summaries
power to persuade
success to reach consensus
Main purpose of constructivism: To understand interesting patterns, behaviours and puzzles

--> Change in FPA because they go beyond positioning themselves as statesmen and determining "what are the rational alternatives from which state must choose" and "which of these rational alternatives this particular politician is likely to choose" (Morgenthau, 1967, 5)

"Ideas are not so much mental as symbolic and organisational; they are embedded not only in human brains but also in 'collective memories', government procedures, educational systems, and the rhetoric of statecraft" - Jeffrey Legro (2005, 6)
1) Threat to one or more basic values: a threat to peace
"The mere existence of an alternative mode of being, the presence of which exemplifies that different identities are possible and thus denaturalizes the claim of a particular dentity to be the true identity, is sometimes enough to produce the understanding of a threat" - Campbell (1998: 3)

Opposing socially constructed realities; different conception of ideas of 'peace', 'liberty' and 'justice':

•Allison, G. (1969). Conceptual Models and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Am Polit Sci Rev, 63(03), pp.689-718

•Allison, G., Zelikow, P., 1999. Essence of Decision. 2nd ed. New York: Longman.

•Axelrod, R., 1986. An Evolutionary Approach to Norms. The American Political Science Review, 80(4), pp.1095-1111.

•Brecher, M., Wilkenfeld, J., 2000. A Study of Crisis. 4th ed. The University of Michigan Press.

•Brenner, W. (1999). Wittgenstein's philosophical investigations. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

•Campbell, D. 1998. National Deconstruction: Violence, Identity, and Justice in Bosnia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

•Doyle, M. (1997) Ways of War and Peace: Realism, Liberalism, and Socialism.

•Gibson, D. R., 2012. Talk at the Brink. Princeton University Press.

•Grieco, J., 1988. Realist Theory and the Problem of International Cooperation: Analysis with an Amended Prisoner’s Dilemma Model. The Journal of Politics, 50(3), 600-624.

•Herz J., 1950. Idealist Internationalism and the Security Dilemma. World Politics, 2(2), pp.157-180.

•Hilsman, R. (1967). To move a nation. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.

•Hume, D. , 1963. The Philosophy of David Hume. New York; Modern Library.

•Keller, J. W., 2005. Constraint Respecters, Constraint Challengers, and Crisis Decision Making in Democracies: A Case Study Analysis of Kennedy versus Reagan. Political Psychology, 26(6), pp.835-867.

•Kennedy, J.F, 1960. “Senator John F. Kennedy on the Cuban situation: Presidential campaign of 1960.” Inter-American Economic Affairs 15 (3) (1961): 79-95.

•Kennedy, J. F. , 1962. The U.S. Response to Soviet Military Buildup in Cuba. In D. o. State (Ed.) (Vol. Series 80). Washington DC: Government Printing Office.

•Keohane, R., 1986. Reciprocity in International Relations. International Organization, 40(1), pp.1-27.

•Legro, J. , 2005. Rethinking the World: Great Power Strategies and International Order. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

•McKeown, T., 2000. The Cuban Missile Crisis and Politics as Usual. The Journal of Politics, 62(1), pp.70-87.

•McWilliams, W. & Piotrowski, H., 1994. The World Since 1945: a History of International Relations. Boulder, Colorado: Rienner, 1990.

•Mearsheimer, J., 2001. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, New York: W. W. Norton.

•Mearsheimer, J., 2013, “Structural Realism.” In: Dunne, T., Kurki, M., Smith, S., 2013, “International Relations Theories”, Oxford, Oxford University Press, pp. 77-93

•Morgenthau, H., 1973. Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, 5th edition, New York: Knopf.

•Ó Tuathail, G., 2006. General Introduction: Thinking Critically about Geopolitics. In G. Ó Tuathail, S. Dalby & P. Routledge (Eds.), The Geopolitics Reader (2nd ed. ed., pp. x, 302 p.). London: Routledge.

•Rose, G., 1998. Neoclassical realism and theories of foreign policy. World Politics, 51(1), pp.144-172.

•Schlesinger, A. (1965) A Thousand Days. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Publications.

•Snyder, J. (2004) One World, Rival Theories. Foreign Policy, No 145, pp 52-62 Nov-Dec 2004.

•Sorensen, T. , 1965. Kennedy. New York: Harper & Row.

•U.S. Department of State (1957). A Case History of Communist Penetration: Guatemala. Department of State publication 6465, Inter-American Series 52. Washington, D.C: Government Printing Office.

•US Senate (1953) Hearings before the Committee on Foreign Relations on the Nomination of John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State Designate, 15th January 1953, 83rd Congress, 1st Session. Washington, DC. GPO, 1953. PP 5-6.

•Van Evera, S., 1999, “Causes of War: Power and the Roots of Conflict”, Ithaca NY, Cornell University Press.

•Walt, S., 2005. Taming American Power, New York: W. W. Norton.

•Waltz, K., 1979, “Theory of International Politics”. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley Publishing Company.

•Waltz, K., 2001. Man, the State, and War, New York: Columbia University Press.

•Welch, D. A., 1989. Crisis Decision Making Reconsidered. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 33(3), pp.4300-445.

•Weldes, J. , 1999. Constructing national interests : the United States and the Cuban missile crisis. Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press.

•Wendt, A. ,1992. Anarchy is what states make of it: the social construction of power politics.International Organization, 46: 391–425.

•Wendt, A. , 1995. Constructing international politics. International Security, 20: 71–81.

US department of State: "
Communist Trojan Horse strategy" aimed at "penetrating and subverting independent Latin American Countries" (1957: 6)
Sorensen (1965: 634) believed that Soviet internvention in Cuba was what "
Khrushchev somewhat hypocritically called 'wars of national liberation'"

--> emphasises the fact that both sides believed they were doing 'good' and saw their opponent's intentions as a threat
"500 British Nuclear weapons are less threatening to the United States than 5 Korean nuclear weapons" - Wendt (1995, 73)
- Meanings and relations socially constructed and determine what objects need to be protected and what objects constitute threats;

- Also applies to:
- What states are and what they want
- Social relations between actors

Power can be located in objects such as nuclear weapons and missiles BUT main emphasis here on their
rather than their materiality
2) Awareness of finite time for response to value threat
"New foreign policy ideas are shaped by pre-existing dominant ideas in their relationship to experienced events" - Legro (2005, 4)
In case of Cuban missile crisis:

"The 1930's taught us a clear lesson: aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged ultimately leads to war" - Kennedy (1962)
--> willingness to avoid war


"A fundamental principle of constructivist theory is that people act towards objects, including other actors, on the basis of the meanings that the objects have for them" - Wendt (1992, 3967)
3) Heightened probability of involvement of military hostilities
Military significance of missiles and huge tensions:
--> military hostilities highly probable
Difficult communication and different realities:
--> increases risk of military action
Role played by security imaginary:
Historical background and ambitions of both powers highly impacted the crisis
Can be linked with Symbolic interactionalism
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