Mary Baldwin College, Staunton VA 24401
by Prof. Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
The Cold War Comes to the Americas
(Protected by the copyright laws of the United States. Exclusively for use in studying for PolS 128 and/or PolS 249 by enrolled students in these courses at Mary Baldwin College. Not for citation or quotation without written permission of the author: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Introduction to the structure of this reading. Themes in this supplemental reading include: (1) a review of US-Cuban Relations before the era of Fidel Castro, (2) a discussion of the impact of the 1959 Cuban Revolution on US policy there and (3) a brief look at the changing US strategy in Latin America in the wake of the Cuban Revolution.
U.S.-Cuban relations in the era before Castro.
The United States played a major role in Cuba's economy after 1875. From the time of the 1898 Spanish-American war until 1959, the U.S. also played an important political role in Cuba's internal and foreign policies. This section of the reading reviews this background to the conflict between the U.S. and the Castro government in Cuba (1959- to the present).
Economic roots greatly shaped the form of U.S. relations as well as the very presence of Americans in Cuba. US investment in Cuba greatly expanded in the last quarter of the 19th Century. US ownership of Cuban sugar mills placed the most valuable assets on the island in foreign hands. Similarly, US ownership of farmlands also engendered popular resentment against the "Yanquis." (See Wolf). No one really disputes the magnitude of these facts, but Americans and Cubans see their meaning quite differently.
For several generations in the US, students and diplomats gained little appreciation of many Cubans' perceptions of the US role in their independence struggle against Spain. While Americans typically saw the US and the Cubans as allies in ending Spanish colonial rule (1898), large numbers of Cubans, especially in the educated classes, saw the US to have stymied true Cuban independence. In our textbooks, at safe distance, we remembered Teddy Roosevelt and the "Rough Riders" rushing up San Juan Hill to secure Cuban freedom from Spanish tyranny. Cubans saw matters differently, and at closer range. Nearly 400,000 Cubans had died in simmering guerrilla wars of resistance against Spain, 1895-98. Yet, to Americans, Cuba's struggle for independence began in 1898.
Cubans and American also see events after 1898 differently. To Cubans, after the US invaded, those earlier Cubans sacrifices for independence were frustrated, at least in many Cubans' eyes. To American observers, this view seems overstated: we remember that formally we occupied the island militarily only for a brief time, 1898-1902. Cuban memories focus on the aspects of American domination that continued long after formal US rule ended.
U.S. influence in the Early 20th Century:
The US exit from Cuba was never total. Even today (1997), the US continues to hold a naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. More directly relevant to Cubans, 1902-1959, was the continuation of US economic dominance (which had begun with little reference to Cuban "freedom" even under the Spanish). Under the terms of the US-Cuban treaty of 1903, codified and known in the US as the Platt Amendment (i.e. a part of the Army Appropriation Act of 1901), major concessions were granted to the US. These terms also were incorporated into the Cuban Constitution (Wood: 49). Cuba granted to the US:
- naval bases in perpetuity;
- rights to approve or disapprove Cuban government loans from foreign banks;
- rights to approve or disapprove treaties the Cuban government might negotiate with third nations; and
- rights to intervene militarily on the island so as to protect US interests.
Cuba was, in essence, a US protectorate. In many Cubans eyes, US prerogatives -- which were liberally used by the US-- would have to be ended before true independence could be realized. Marines stayed with brief interruptions until 1909; landed again in 1912; and occupied the island, 1917-23. During this latter period, US Gen. Enoch Crowder even took control over the Cuban central government's finances.
By 1920, US private investors owned over 1/2 of the Cuban sugar industry. A popular tourist destination for Americans, US investors built casinos, racetracks, hotels and other facilities. They also made profitable professions which many Cubans thought the island could do without, e.g., gambling; organized crime; prostitution. During the 1920s and 1930s, US-based organized crime groups often called "the Mafia" gained great influence over a broad array of legitimate industries in Havana. In all, by 1933, over one billion dollars in US investments in Cuba existed (Wood: 48).
Many Cubans pointed to the heavy hand of US influence to explain their own inability to institutionalize democracy in the nation. These anti-American sentimentalists pointed to the US role in sustaining the dictatorship of Gen. Gerardo Machado (1925-33) for nearly all of its tenure. (US Ambassador Sumner Welles, however, proved instrumental in persuading Machado ultimately to step down). The regime of Fulgencio Batista (1934-44, 1952-58) also was seen in many Cubans' eyes as a US creation.
Moreover, Cuban nationalists perceived that the role the US had played behind the scenes had contributed to the removal of a popular democratic government led by civilian Grau San Martin, in 1933-34. There is little evidence that the US, in fact, did work actively to undermine Grau, but FDR's non-recognition of his government contributed to his fall nonetheless (see Wood, pp. 77-117). Grau San Martin was the first leader of the post-colonial Cuba to attempt to implement a land reform policy which would transfer lands into the hands of the poor rural peasantry and rural proletariat. For these and other efforts his government was labeled by the U.S. Ambassador to Cuba, Sumner Welles, as "frankly communistic" (Smith: 72). It would not be the last time a Cuban government would be so labeled.
The Good Neighbor Policy: In 1933-34, President Roosevelt abandoned US claims under the Platt Amendment and announced a new "Good Neighbor Policy," which claimed to respect the national sovereignty of Cuba and other Latin American nation states. However, the dispatch of several US warships to Havana harbor during the Fall of 1933 cast an ominous shadow and FDR's "policy of non-recognition made Grau's success impossible" (Wood: 82-83). The US even worked to dissuade other western governments (e.g., Britain) from establishing normal relations with the reformist democrat (Wood: 99-100). Cryptically, after Grau was removed from office by a military man, Sgt. Fulgencio Batista (and others; e.g., interim president Carlos Mendieta), Grau told reporters as he arrived in a Mexican exile that the US only recognizes governments of "bandits and criminals" (quoted in Wood: 106). In time, the Batista regime would consolidate power and its ties with the US.
American Anti-Communism: Cuban anti-Americanism and the Castro revolt, 1956-59: Fidel Castro, a middle class lawyer, drew upon a deep strand of nationalist resentment of the US which traced its roots to earlier, frustrated Cuban revolutions (1896-8; 1933-34). On July 26, 1953, he began his military campaign within Cuba by mounting an assault on the Moncada Army barracks. Captured and convicted of treason, Castro later was pardoned and went into exile in Mexico. On December 2, 1956, Castro and 85 others invaded Batista's pro-American Cuba; of these invaders only 15 made it to the sanctuary of the Sierra Maestra mountains. All others died. In the next two years, Castro built a 10,000 man guerrilla army, drawing his greatest strength from peasants in the marginal areas filled with poor squatters. In the cities, his financial support came primarily from the middle classes; the official Cuban Communist Party considered him a "bandit" and, for a time, remained aloof from Castro's "26th of July Movement."
The ends sought by U.S. foreign policy were not compatible with a radically anti-American like Castro coming to power in Cuba. During the U.S. Eisenhower administration (1953-61), little or no differentiation had been made between the US goal of opposing "communism" and the (potentially somewhat different) enterprise of opposing the Soviet Union. Within the U.S., politicians suggested that the only debating issue was whether we should merely "contain" the Soviets where they were, or whether we should (more aggressively) work to "liberate captive peoples" from the yoke of communism. The possibility that a people freely might choose a communist government was not seriously entertained. All communists were viewed as similar betrayers of their nations to the control of Moscow. This monolithic view of our adversary evolved little in the early 1960s, in spite of the fact that, after 1960, relations between the USSR and the PRC (i.e., China) hardly were harmonious and in spite of growing popular support for radicals in several nations, especially Cuba. One observer, Peter Smith (107-109), has referred to this phenomenon as the evolution of a "culture of resistance," a contagion of anti-Americanism throughout the Cuban political culture. Communists ultimately would take advantage of this broad phenomenon, but many more than the small set of Marxist-Leninists subscribed to these views.
But in the US the presumption that all communists were alike, and that all anti-American conflicts were linked together in a chain actually became more broadly accepted as time passed. The 1960s of popular memory, of counter-culture and disrespect for the "establishment" actually came much later, after 1968. For example, the fired Cold Warrior, Korean War commander Douglas MacArthur, before his removal by President Truman had attempted to distinguish his view from that of Truman when he wrote to US Representative Joseph Martin (March 8, 1951; read to Congress on April 5, 1951) that: "if we lose the war to communism in Asia, the fall of Europe is inevitable; win it, and Europe most probably would avoid war and yet preserve freedom. As you pointed out, there is no substitute for victory" ( in Guttmann: 13).
These war drums, this belief that all aggression was interconnected, reverberated ten years later, in President John F. Kennedy's 1961 utterances. Unlimited US attention to the behavior of the enemies of the US punctuated his inaugural speech. There he stated: "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty." Later that year, when Berlin was again menaced by communist forces (who erected the notorious Berlin Wall), Kennedy stated that that "outpost is not an isolated problem. The threat is worldwide...[in] our own hemisphere [and] wherever else the freedom of human beings is at stake" (Public Papers: 553, 540).
In leading American political elites' minds, Republicans' and Democrats, the world (1947-61) still was seen as composed of the communist "bloc" and the "free world;" the world was conceived in Washington to have had but two centers; it was "bi-polar." But contrary trends were developing: the de-colonization of Africa and the deepening Chinese-Soviet dispute, to name but two. These presented to the US a world more complex than this bi-polar vision had led us to expect. Yet, until 1972, US foreign policy continued to be shaped by the visions influential men had developed to explain our situation earlier, visions which were derived from the consensus which had been forged, 1947-50. Cuba's attempt to break free from U.S. influence was viewed through these lens.
The impact of the Cold War in Latin America on U.S. - Cuban Relations
During the early Cold War the US acquired new formal ties to Cuba which shaped the context for renewed U.S. Intervention in Cuba in the late 1950s and 1960s. The Rio Treaty of 1947 drew Cuba and the U.S., as well as our other hemispheric neighbors into a mutual defense pact obliging others to join with us in defending the region --and each of its nations individually-- from external attack. This treaty established a regional body through which governments would consult about such threats as might arise: the Organization of American States (or O.A.S.). Clearly, this pact was directed against the Soviet Union. Latin attitudes toward the prospect of outside intervention, however, had been shaped by decades of experience with the U.S. Marines, not the Soviets. Treaty documents, therefore, required unanimous consent before O.A.S. forces could intervene in any regional nation.
When confronted earlier by what the U.S. Eisenhower administration referred to as insipient pro-Sovietism in the Americas, the Latin American delegates to the O.A.S. (in Caracas, in 1954) refused to authorize armed intervention against a left-leaning government of Guatemala. The U.S. unilaterally chose to act to remove the Guatemalan Arbenz government in 1954. Unlike the use of the Marines in the past, CIA covert operatives armed an exile band in Honduras (led by Castillo Armas), encouraged Guatemalans to revolt against their government by radio and other means of psychological warfare, used diplomatic officials to block action in the U.N., and encouraged Guatemalan Army officers to remove the leftist president (Jacobo Arbenz). This affair was codenamed "Operation PB Success" (see Bowen, 1983; Immerman; and Schlesinger/Kinzer for details). The impact of Operation Success on US Cuban policy was enormous.
The Guatemalan Affair and its impact on U.S. Regional policy:
In the later 1950s the US placed new emphasis on allied militaries. As made clear elsewhere (Bowen 1984), after the removal of elected Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz, checking the rise of (proto-) communism there was not the only significant result of Operation Success. Significantly, the FDR-era emphasis on vigorous pursuit of a democratic alternative to military government there seems to have been set aside. Similarly, evolving US policy in the later 1950s throughout the region also would include the same new emphasis on the importance of Latin American militaries as agencies to protect US national interests as had been the case in Guatemala in 1954. The Eisenhower-era NSC, in the secret paper Number 5432 (August 1954), directed US diplomats and military personnel in the future to "foster closer relations between Latin American and US military personnel in order to increase understanding of, and orientation toward, US objectives." The means to this new intimacy would be expanded US military training so as to foster the "standardization of Latin American military organization, training, doctrine and equipment on US lines" (NSC 1954: 12, 5). In this same vein, in 1957, US training of Guatemalan and other Latin American police forces began, under the aegis of "Public Safety" programs administered through the Department of State (and, after 1961, through the Agency for International Development, or AID).
Economic goals for US foreign policy (e.g., "protect the economic health of Americans") which had been advanced in Guatemala also gained increasing importance during the later Eisenhower years. Directly, expropriated Guatemalan lands that had been taken over by the leftist Guatemalan government were returned to the United Fruit Company, sending a cautionary message to other regional governments about land reform that might damage private U.S. interests. A new Guatemalan oil exploration law permitting US oil companies incentives to drill there also was decreed, written in English, no less. These concerns heightened the attention to the safety of US investments by US diplomats throughout the region.
The Guatemala affair also had a deep impact on the balance among the US foreign policy bureaucracies. Within the US government, there were "winners" and "losers" from the lessons constructed by successful removal of Arbenz. First, substantially enhanced stature accrued to the CIA's "Office of Plans," the covert operations branch. This gave real promise within the Eisenhower Administration that its goal of a cheaper, more effective anti-communist policy could be at hand. As Richard Bissell of the CIA has said, "perhaps... excessive reliance" on covert means came to be thought wise. In particular, confidence developed that anti-U.S. regimes could relatively easily be removed by invasions of (CIA-trained) exiles who could set off a domestic revolt. Second, legalists in the State Department lost influence. Constraints of international law were shown to have been minor barriers to US anti-communist policy in Guatemala. Moreover, international organizations fell into less repute as the administration turned ever more toward unilateral rather than multilateral modes of action in the Americas. While the OAS had not authorized the CIA/exiles efforts, neither had that organization appealed to the UN for assistance against US aggression. Further, bureaucratic competition between Defense, State and CIA appeared from the Guatemala affair to have been no substantial obstacle to an effective anti-communist effort. Accordingly, only limited efforts were undertaken to resolve jurisdictional gray areas between the mandates of these agencies of US power. In time, this would prove to be a substantial mistake in terms of creating an efficient set of tools for carrying out US policy in the region.
Perhaps the greatest impact was within the CIA. The successful Iranian (1953) and Guatemalan (1954) covert operations engendered an upbeat, "can-do" spirit within the "Office of Plans" of the CIA, strengthening the hand of covert operations advocates in budget battles with the two other principal parts of the main US intelligence bureaucracy. These other parts were the bookish, analytical "Bureau of National Intelligence Estimates" and the explicitly anti-Soviet (especially, anti-KGB) "Counterintelligence" functionaries. Under Allen Dulles (Director of Central Intelligence) and his Deputy Director of Plans (i.e., covert operations), Richard Bissell, presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy were assured that a range of potent covert instruments remained available to undo whatever anti-Americans that might menace us. Combined with a lack of attention to coordination of CIA and Defense planning, this inflated sense of potency for covert operations would lead to a lapse in effective domination in the Latin American region.
In Cuba, rebels led by Fidel Castro had begun to wear down the armed forces of pro-US dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1956-58. But confidence continued to be high in Washington that, whatever the outcome of Castro's efforts, no insurmountable threat to US interests would come to exist. CIA covert actions were held to be a viable final check which could undo undesirable outcomes. While some in the State and Defense departments questioned this presumption, "politics within the US bureaucracy, and notably conflicts between various elements" contributed to belated perceptions that US national security might be at risk in Cuba (Blasier: 210).
It is not that the US was inattentive to the threat Castro's rebellion might pose. As is shown in the thinking revealed in the (secret) Taylor Report of June 1961, some US actions were undertaken as early as 1958 to block Castro from even coming to power. However, early anti-Castro actions were ineffective (Taylor 1961a). Top US foreign policy makers insufficiently appreciated the likelihood that any popular revolution in Cuba would likely engender an outpouring of anti-Americanism. Put bluntly, senior officials were ignorant of the history of US-Cuban relations, at least insofar as many in Cuba viewed this relationship. That these popular emotions might be used effectively to strengthen an anti-US government appears to have been little considered. Under the rule-of-thumb of the day, anti-US governments could be disposed of, as had been Arbenz's. Excessive confidence in the efficacy of covert actions in a real sense blinded Eisenhower administration officials from making a clear view of the potential damage to US national security which a fundamental change in Cuba might engender.
America and the Castro regime. Once Castro had taken Havana (January 1959), relations between the US and his new government quickly worsened. In May 1959, a Cuban land reform law authorized seizure of US citizens properties, which began a month later. Official USSR news agents (TASS) and trade officials arrived in December 1959 and, in February 1960, a high level Soviet diplomat (A. Mikoyan) toured the "new" Cuba. In March 1960, the Rio Treaty of 1947, which tied Cuban external defense to the US and its hemispheric allies, was repudiated by Castro's government. In that same month, President Eisenhower authorized planning for a secret operation to remove Castro's government. Three weeks later, the first Soviet oil tanker arrived in Havana; in May 1960, formal Cuban-Soviet diplomatic relations were established. In June 1960, US oil companies' properties (Texaco; Esso; and Shell) were taken over by the Cuban government. That same month, Fidel's brother Raul traveled to Moscow. In July 1960, all remaining US-owned properties were taken over by the Cuban government. Cuban exports of sugar to the USSR grew: 700,000 Tons in 1960; 2.7 million Tons in 1961. (However, it is also true that the pro-US Batista regime had traded sugar to the USSR, including 703,000 Tons in 1955!)
Diplomatic strain quickly had become profound between the two nations. On January 3, 1961, the US broke off diplomatic relations with this increasingly anti-US government. When the US suspended imports of Cuban sugar, Cuba invited Soviet economic aid.
U.S. Covert Operations against Cuba: invasion. In this atmosphere of a resumed "Cold War" in the Americas, a second Guatemala-type operation was born. Like the Castillo Armas movement in Honduras in 1953, a force of Cuban exiles also had organized, in Florida, shortly after Castro had come to power. In March 1960, Eisenhower authorized US support and direction to be given to these groups. Training centers run by the CIA were established in southern Florida and in Guatemala. While these groups were trained by the CIA, and ultimately were carried on US ships to the southern Cuban coast, no direct US involvement in fighting alongside them ever was authorized. On April 17, 1961, this force landed at the "Bay of Pigs," and were quickly captured by the Cuban armed forces (after some pitched battles). Interestingly, despite orders to the contrary, it appears that the first invader to set foot onto Cuban soil was a US citizen and US military employee (see Wyden). Despite the long grooming given these invaders by US officials, President Kennedy refused to authorize US air forces to assist the exiles' once the tide of battle turned against them (Wyden; Taylor).
As is the case in the war of words over "who lost Eastern Europe" (or China, etc.), much post-hoc scholarship then focused on who to blame for this fiasco. This tendentious topic need not concern us here (see Bowen "American..." for details). Generally speaking, Kennedy supporters tend to blame a confused White House advisory/authorization system; supporters of the US military services tend to blame the CIA for having chosen the wrong beachhead; supporters of the CIA tend to blame Kennedy; and Cuban exiles in the US tend to blame all three.
Whomever we may wish to fault, there were significant differences in the Cuban situation in 1961 when we compare it to Guatemala, 1954. Most significantly, Castro had purged the Cuban Army of commanders who were not loyal to him; Arbenz had not. And it was a local military uprising, not a CIA-backed exiles Army, that had removed Arbenz from office. Moreover, Castro's loyal Army also had organized and mobilized a large popular militia to assist it, should the exiles have in fact won the initial battle (which they did not). Arbenz, on the other hand contemplated distributing arms to unionists and other supporters but physically was prevented from doing this by his Army. Castro's regime --however we may despise its alliances and objectives-- therefore, should be seen as having been, in 1961, much more firmly rooted in power than was Guatemala's Arbenz seven years earlier.
U.S. Covert Operations against Cuba: Early attempts by the US to Kill Castro. Even before the exiles invaded (i.e., April 1961), the US had tried more covertly to remove Castro from power. On December 11, 1959, CIA Chief Allen Dulles had approved "thorough consideration" of all possible ways to stop Castro, including his "elimination" (US Senate:. 92, 268). On March 10, 1960, the NSC discussed and rejected proposals that would lead to the unexplained "disappearance" of the Cuban leader (US Senate: 114). Nevertheless, on July 21, 1960, the CIA issued an order calling for operatives to "neutralize" Raul Castro (US Senate: 73). In February 1961, cigars contaminated with deadly botulism toxin were sent as a "present" to Castro. None of these incidents succeeded.
U.S. Covert Operations against Cuba: Attempts to kill Castro after the Bay of Pigs. Soon after the April 1961 failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, a program of US covert operations in Cuba (which began in 1959) was greatly expanded. These aimed toward overthrowing the Cuban government by stimulating an armed uprising there; by assassinating Fidel Castro; and through a variety of other means. The efforts to overthrow Castro, 1961-65, grew to become a deep fixation within the US government, especially during the Kennedy administration.
Plans to kill Castro were authorized US Government policy. US Senate (266-267) investigators who thoroughly reviewed this affair in the 1970s stated that "the perception of certain Agency officials that assassination was within the range of permissible activity was reinforced by the continuous approval of violent covert actions against Cuba that were sanctioned at the Presidential level". As the Taylor Report of 1961 darkly had stated, "there can be no long-term living with Castro as a neighbor" (Taylor 1961c: 8).
The implementation of these plans was carried out through agencies of the US Government. These activities were coordinated and supervised by the CIA's Deputy Director for Plans (i.e., covert actions), Richard Bissell. He also had played a key role in the simultaneous planning for the Bay of Pigs invasion. These were not minor or incidental actions of low level officials, and there were a large number of plots. One of the most sensational involved the use of the Mafia. Later in 1961, the CIA informed Mafia contacts in the US (i.e., Sam Giancani and others) to inform their operatives in Cuba that a fee of $150,000 would be paid to those who would assassinate Castro (US Senate: 74-85; Wyden: 9-65; Powers:. 36-45). Regular reporting on the progress of this effort continued for several years.
A second strand of policy was called Operation MONGOOSE. Begun on November 30, 1961, and headed by Gen. Edward Lansdale, it sought to aid anti-Castro Cubans in mounting an uprising. To this end, factories were bombed, mines and harbors were sabotaged and contact was made with cells of anti-Castro Cubans within Cuba. MONGOOSE was suspended during the October 1962 Cuban Missiles Crisis. As part of MONGOOSE, Kennedy's National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy and Bissell each authorized project ZR/RIFLE which, as it was applied in Cuba after April 1962, sought the assassination of Castro (US Senate: 181-188). Again, these actions were authorized and supervised at the highest levels of the US Government. One CIA official told the US Senate investigators that the plans of this project were submitted to Robert and John Kennedy in "nauseating detail" (US Senate: 144). Other methods of attempted assassination of Castro, 1962-63, included providing poison pills, explosives, detonators, rifles, etc. to assassins. Yet another plot involved placing an exploding sea shell in the area where Castro liked to scuba dive. Another involved a "gift" to him of a virus-contaminated wet suit for skin diving.
Still other efforts to get rid of Castro continued after Kennedy's assassination. Extending into 1965 (i.e., into the Johnson Administration) was operation AM/LASH. This involved supplying a disgruntled "high ranking [Cuban] leader who enjoyed the confidence of Fidel Castro" with various weapons with which he might kill the dictator (US Senate: 86). In an eerie accompaniment to the shrill propaganda campaign then being waged toward Cuba over the radio waves toward, AM/LASH was provided, literally, with a poisoned pen that was to be given to Castro.
The final irony in this entire, very secret set of efforts lies in the harvest they may have sowed. As the Senate investigators concluded, "it is likely that the very moment President Kennedy was shot, a CIA officer was meeting with a Cuban agent... and giving him an assassination device for use against Castro" (US Senate: 89; see also Schulz).
Cuban initiatives and responses to US actions.
In December 1961, Castro declared publicly that he was a Marxist-Leninist and would so remain throughout his life. This further goaded the U.S. policymakers. As much as a year earlier, the Castro regime had provided safe haven to anti-U.S. figures from other regional nations. Arbenz, for example, turned up to denounce U.S. imperialism on Cuban radio stations. Cuba under Castro withdrew from the O.A.S., reconfirming in the minds of U.S. policymakers the "alien" character of the regime there.
Training of revolutionaries from other Latin American nations also was begun by the Cubans early in the Castro regime. Seeing it as their "internationalist obligation," Castro recruited students for courses on insurgency and guerilla war through anti-U.S. parties (communist and non-communist) throughout the region. Many of the individuals so tranined did return to their homelands in attempts to foment revolutions there. Tomas Borge, Minister of the Interior of Sandinista Nicaragua in the 1980s, for example, was one of these early pupils.
Evidence pointing to direct supply of Cuban arms to Venezuelan and Guatemalan guerrillas surfaced in the early 1960s. Arms that were found tended to confirm the highly provocative radio broadcasts from Havana were, in fact, borne out by a provocative Cuban foreign policy. Some of this evidence later turned out to have been forged and planted in these nations by the CIA (and/or allied regional intelligence agencies founded in cooperation with the CIA).
It was the importation into Cuba of Soviet short and medium range missiles carrying nuclear warheads during the early 1960s, however, that nearly brought the US and Cuba to blows. More significantly, the animosities between these neighbors took the US and the USSR to the brink of global thermonuclear war in October 1962. Let us briefly review that crisis. (For a thorough account, see Blight, and Garthoff). In two tense weeks of the Cuban Missiles Crisis both major powers confronted the awful implications of allowing regional animosities poison superpower relations and endanger the future of life on earth. Military measures seriously were prepared: thousands of troops were mobilized in Southern Florida, apparently to ready for an invasion of the island. After considering and rejecting a massive air strike against Cuba, Kennedy authorized a U.S. naval blockade. Even as the interception of ships on the high seas was begun, diplomatic solutions strenuously were pursued by both the superpowers.
As secret U.S.-Soviet negotiations proceeded, top leaders struggled to keep the acts of their subordinates from pushing events to a precipice from which no one could return alive. Most problematic were the Cubans. It is now clear that Castro was disturbed by the Soviets' efforts to mitigate the crisis. Feeling his island regime already under siege of many types, Castro wrote to Khrushchev some of the most apocalyptic phrases ever penned by man. On October 31, 1962, Castro stated: "Once aggression has been launched, you cannot allow the aggressors the privilege of choosing the use of nuclear weapons... The first use of the nuclear weapon gives a great advantage to the user" (Hoagland: 23). Americans long have assured themselves that the imbalanced Castro at least was not at center stage, and could not himself have set in motion real acts consistent with this shocking posture. We long have assumed that the Kremlin fully was in control of the actual missiles. Yet, in 1992, it was revealed that the only authority needed to use some of the smaller, short range nuclear weapons there was that of the local Soviet commander, Gen. Issa Pliyev (Oberdorfer 1992b: 14). His orders apparently would have permitted him to use the weapons had his soldiers been menaced by a US invasion.
Both Castro and much of the US public believed the world to be on the verge of nuclear war; indeed, the secretive Castro virtually urged a Soviet first strike on the US. Khrushchev, however, knew the certain ruin of the USSR in following such a course: at the time, the USSR actually possessed only 20 Inter-continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), compared to the 230 then in US arsenals (Nye: 18). Devastating as could have been the impact of those missiles on 20 US cities, the damage would have been minor compared to the impact of a full US counterstrike onto the USSR.
As the crisis lingered, the danger of accidental escalation into direct US-Soviet military hostility at sub-nuclear levels increased. US naval vessels were assigned to stop Soviet freighters bound for the island, an inherently risky process. Spy planes over-flying the island were tempting targets for Soviet or Cuban gunners. Any of these points of contact could explode, creating new military pressures within either the US or the USSR government, pressures that might have made a non-military solution less tenable. The longer the crisis lingered, the greater were these risks.
A diplomatic compromise, with terms acceptable to both the superpowers, ultimately was worked out. All of the Soviet missiles were withdrawn in exchange for a secret written U.S. pledge not to invade Cuba, and in exchange for the removal of some US Jupiter missiles from Turkey. In the days following the end of the crisis, Kennedy further qualified his promise about invasion, insisting to Khrushchev (November 6, 1962) that submarine bases never be built in Cuba, and continuing to insist that verification of the removal of the missiles in Cuba was an "explicit condition" of his no invasion pledge (Oberdorfer 1992a: 12). Khrushchev apparently accepted these additional conditions.
In the years since, US-Cuban relations have remained tense, but no further crises of these proportions have developed. The U.S. still does not maintain formal diplomatic relations with Cuba, though there is a "U.S. Interests Office" in the Cuban capital. Travel between the two nations --separated by a bare 90 miles of water-- remains restricted; Americans cannot for example, use VISA or Mastercard when visiting there. All US travelers must leave from Canada or Mexico, or elsewhere.
U.S. Strategy in Latin America was Deeply Influenced by the impact of the Cuban Revolution.
New U.S. policy grew out of new perceptions. The perception of the lack of utility of nuclear weapons was directly related to Cuban-US relations. US policymakers perceived that the US lead in nuclear forces had ended. In the Kennedy Administration, by mid 1962, a growing tension had emerged in US global strategy. First, Soviet nuclear capabilities rapidly had advanced, while the US edge in delivery systems completely had evaporated. In five years since the 1957 launch of the Soviet Sputnik spacecraft, the US NASA program had not yet perfected even orbital space flight by US manned satellites. Thus, the position of nuclear superiority which had permitted policymakers' trust to be formed around the original "massive retaliation" concept greatly had eroded, making (hypothetical) US nuclear threats far less credible than had been the case in the early 1950s. Second, the far-flung commitments of the Truman and Eisenhower years remained essentially unaltered.
Flexible Response: Nuclear dimensions. One element of Kennedy's new global approach, therefore, was a shift in US nuclear policy. From the increasingly incredible threat of "massive" nuclear retaliation for non-nuclear Soviet (or Soviet-allied) aggression, the US substituted a new concept: flexible response. Under this doctrine, the US did not play its hand of cards so openly. Instead, while not ruling out the possibility of the ultimate first use of nuclear weapons, the US claimed that it would respond flexibly to Soviet threats.
Especially, in the Cuban Missiles Crisis of October 1962, both the US and the Soviet Union came to realize the inherent danger in relying too heavily on threats of all-out nuclear war as tools to induce adversaries to change their behavior. Both recognized that accidental and inadvertent outbreak of nuclear war could grow out of misperception of signals during a crisis. To combat this possibility, a direct "hot line" telephone between the White House and the Kremlin then was established.
Thereafter, deployment of battlefield or "tactical" nuclear forces was speeded in Europe, so as to counter-balance the vast superiority of Warsaw Pact conventional forces when they were compared to NATO conventional deployments. These devices blurred the distinction between "conventional" and "nuclear" forces, suggesting that the clear "fire break" between types of weaponry that might be involved in a US-Soviet conflict was, in fact, a narrow one.
In summary, what flexible response, in practical terms, really meant deliberately was kept vague, so as to introduce uncertainty in Soviet strategists' minds regarding just exactly what the US would do in the face of various potential provocations.
New perceptions extended to sub-nuclear levels, also due to lessons taught by US-Cuban relations. Most basically, confidence in the efficacy of "covert" means by which to achieve US goals greatly had diminished as a result of the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Yet, the United States (Kennedy) administration continued to emphasize it would "defend any ally, oppose any foe." These foes increasingly seemed more to resemble Castro than the Red Army. The dilemma centered on a practical question: how could a anti-communist defense strategy stop an adversary that did not cross borders so much as foment peoples to revolt? U.S. regional treaties (Rio Treaty) emphasized united action against the threat of foreign invasion. Some revision, therefore, was needed in the definition of what constituted an "invasion" --and in the types of military and political preparedness that allied armies would assume in such a mission.
To respond to the Castro-like threat of guerrilla insurgencies in Latin America, a new US foreign policy doctrine was developed. This emphasized the partnership of allied (regional) nations in protecting the "National Security" of the Americas from invasion by foreign ideologies and beliefs. In such a campaign, nationals of the Latin nations themselves, not foreign armies were perceived as the primary instruments of the communist challenge. New US and allied Latin American military doctrine and military policies, therefore, had to be developed (i.e., at all levels of politics and military preparedness; e.g., riot control, etc.).
There were a number of components to this new National Security doctrine as it was applied to the military preparedness of allied Latin American armies.
1. Counterinsurgency: Irregular warfare capabilities were developed within the regular mission of the US and allied Latin American Armed Forces. Specifically, new doctrines of war-fighting were developed to engage and defeat communist "guerrilla tactics" which had been so effective in China, Cuba and elsewhere. So was born "Counterinsurgency Warfare."
2. Civic Action and Internal Security: Allied armed forces in Latin America and throughout the Third World were encouraged to improve their relations with their own populations in order to facilitate cooperation in the (expected) campaign against communist subversion. Remember, this change involved a substantial break from the extant mission of Latin American armed forces under existing treaties and military doctrine. Under the Rio Treaty of 1947, joint resistance to external aggression was pledged by the US and its hemispheric allies. But external invasion no longer was defined by the US to be the real threat: internal security from communist subversion --conducted by national citizens, not invading armies-- now was said to be the common threat. Thus, the mission of allied armed forces needed to shift away from perimeter defense (hence, the abandonment build up of aerial reconnaissance and naval "coastal watch" capabilities); and toward enhancement of the capacity to protect "internal security."
The "soft" side of this was called Civic Action: US Military Assistance Program (MAP) courses and advice began to feature the armed forces in a teamwork relationship with domestic police and civic groups. Bridges, schools and clinics would be built by Army engineers; even Boy Scouts troops would be organized by armed forces personnel as part of this makeover in civil-military relations. (For examples on how this played out in Guatemala, see Bowen, "US Policy...,": 169). Collectively, the new doctrine called these labors "Civic Action" by allied military forces.
The harder edge was called Internal Security preparedness. Special police agencies and special components within the Latin American armed forces were established to monitor those involved with, or suspected of involvement with, "subversive" political parties, unions, personalities, publications, and any other social organization under suspicion. This expansion of surveillance ran parallel to COINTELPRO and other "internal security" campaigns within the US, but in Latin America they (usually) were unfettered by considerations of constitutional rights of citizens that slowed efficient purging of "subversives" in the US (see Langguth; and Lernoux).
A broad range of additional instruments of assistance to US Latin American allies also were refined and expanded in the Kennedy/Johnson years (1961-69). Hundreds of new US employees funded through the US Peace Corps and US Agency for International Development (AID) augmented the burgeoning number of US Military Assistance Program personnel within the allied Third World nations. US Public Safety Programs (of international police training) and CIA intelligence-training efforts drew the US more intimately into relations with local Latin American bureaucracies of social control. All of these forms of US penetration of the allies' societies complemented a great expansion in private US investment in the economic development of these nations. In short, the US presence, in these ways (and many more) grew greatly in its importance during the Kennedy and Johnson years. While in Guatemala (1954) we had been the "fireman" to help the local Army rise up to put out the fire of communism, in the 1960s throughout the Latin American region we became the fire prevention team, and the trainer of various types of anti-communist firemen.
Newly declassified additional elements of the original Taylor Report of 1961 are available on the worldwide web, courtesy of the National Security Archive, a private Washington DC based organization.
Nicholas Berry, ed., US Foreign Policy Documents, 1963-1977 (Brunswick OH: King's Court, 1977).
Cole Blasier, The Hovering Giant: US Responses to Revolutionary Change in Latin Aemrica (Pittsburgh PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1976).
James G. Blight, On the Brink (NY: Hill and Wnag, 1989).
Gordon L. Bowen, "American Covert Actions against Castro's Cuba," unpublished paper presented to International Studies Association, 1980.
Gordon L. Bowen, "American Foreign Policy Toward Radical Change: Covert Operations in Guatemala, 1950-1954," Latin American Perspectives X, no. 1 (Winter 1983): 88-102.
Gordon L. Bowen, "United States Policy Toward Guatemala, 1954-1963," Armed Forces and Society X, no. 2 (Winter 1984): 165-191.
Jerald Combs, The History of American Foreign Policy (NY: Knopf, 1986).
Raymond Duncan, Soviet Policy in Developing Countries (?: Kreiger Publishers, 1981).
Raymond Garthoff, Reflections on the Cuban Missile Crisis (Washington DC: Brookings, 1989).
Allen Guttmann, Korea and the Theory of Limited War (Boston: DC Heath, 1967).
Jim Hoagland, "Castro and Saddam: Apocalypse Then and Now," Washington Post (November 29, 1990): 23.
Thomas Wolfe Hosmer, Soviet Policy and Practice Toward Third World Conflicts (Lexington,MA: Heath, 1983).
Richard Immerman, The CIA in Guatemala (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1983).
Walter LaFeber, America, Russia and the Cold War, 1945-1985 (NY: Knopf, 1985).
A. J. Langguth, Hidden Terrors: The Truth About U.S. Police Operations in Latn America (NY: Pantheon, 1977).
Penny Lernoux, Cry of the People (NY: Doubleday, 1980).
National Security Council, "US Policy Toward Latin America: NSC 5432," August 18, 1954; reprinted in Declassified Documents Reference System (Arlington VA: Carrollton Press, 1981): microfiche card 79-C.
John Nogee, Soviet Foreign Policy Since World War II second edition (Elmsford, NY: Pergammon, 1985).
Joseph Nye, "Cuban Graffiti," The New Republic 200, 11 (March 13, 1989): 16-18.
Oberdorfer 1992a: Don Oberdorfer, "Kennedy Qualified Vow Not to Invade Cuba After '62 Crisis," Washington Post (January 7, 1992): 12.
Oberdorfer 1992b: Don Oberdorfer, "Cuban Missile Crisis More Volatile than Thought," Washington Post (January 14, 1992): 1, 14.
Thomas Powers, "Inside the Department of Dirty Tricks," The Atlantic 224, 2 (August 1979): pp. 33-69.
Public Papers of the US Presidents: John F. Kennedy (Washington: USGPO, 1961).
Myron Rush, editor, The International Situation and Soviet Foreign Policy (Columbus OH: Merrill, 1970).
Donald E. Schulz, "Kennedy and the Cuban Connection," Foreign Policy 26 (Spring 1977): pp. 57-64, 121-139.
Peter Smith, Talons of the Eagle: Dynamics of U.S.-Latin American Relations (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).
Soviet Foreign Policy: A Brief Review, 1955-65 (Moscow USSR: Progress Publishers, 1967).
John Spanier, American Foreign Policy Since World War II (New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1986)
Gen. Maxwell Taylor et.al. 1961a, "Memorandum for the Record," April 23, 1961; reprinted in Declassified Documents Reference System (Arlington VA: Carrollton Press, 1978): microfiche card 436-B.
Gen. Maxwell Taylor 1961b, Admiral Arleigh Burke, Allen Dulles, and Robert F. Kennedy, "The Taylor Report: Memorandum No. 1: Narrative of the Anti-Castro Cuban Operation Zapata," (unpublished: JF Kennedy Library, June 13, 1961).
Gen. Maxwell Taylor et. al. 1961c, "The Taylor Report: Memorandum No. 4: Recommendations of the Cuban Study Group," (unpublished: J.F. Kennedy Library, June 13, 1961).
US Senate, Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders Senate Report # 94-465 (Washington: USGPO, November 20, 1975).
Eric Wolf, Peasant Wars of the 20th Century (NY: Harper Torchbooks, 1969): pp. 251-275.
Bryce Wood, The Making of the Good Neighbor Policy (NY: Columbia University Press, 1961): pp. 48-117.
Peter Wyden, Bay of Pigs: The Untold Story (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979).
Jose Yglesias, "Training Latin America's Finest," Nation 227, 5 (August 19-26, 1978): pp. 149-52.
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