Despite the short geographical distance between the two countries, Cuba and the United States have had a complicated relationship for more than 150 years owing to a long list of historical events. Among all, the Cuban Missile Crisis is considered as one of the most dangerous moments in both the American and Cuban history. It was the first time that these two countries and the former Soviet Union came close to the outbreak of a nuclear war. While the Crisis revealed the possibility of a strong alliance formed by the former Soviet Union and Cuba, two communist countries, it also served as a reminder to U.S. leaders that their past strategy of imposing democratic ideology on Cuba might not work anymore and the U.S. needed a different approach. It was lucky that the U.S. was able to escape from a nuclear disaster in the end, how did the Cuban Missile Crisis affect the U.S. foreign policy in Cuba during the Cold War?
In order to answer this question, I will be focusing on three secondary sources. The first one is Edward Cuddy’s work “America’s Cuban Obsession: A Case Study in Diplomacy and Psycho-History.” The second one is “October Missiles and November Elections: The Cuban Missile Crisis and American Politics, 1962” by Thomas G. Paterson and William J. Brophy. The third one is “Trends: The Cuban Missile Crisis and U.S. Public Opinion” by Tom W. Smith. While these three works are all addressing the Cuban Missile Crisis, they contribute different perspectives that are useful for understanding the topic.
To begin, the Cuban Missile Crisis allowed the United States to reflect upon the application of the Containment Policy toward Cuba. This view was supported by Professor Cuddy’s work. He argued that the U.S. government had been obsessed with intervening in the political affairs of Cuba for a long time and the Crisis was a good example of that. He believed that the U.S. should neutralize the Cuban obsession since American interventionism had been a big reason contributing to Cuban nationalism and Cuba’s decision to turn to the Soviet Union for an alliance. He revealed that there were many myths held by Americans toward Cuba.
As an Emeritus History Professor of Daemen College, Cuddy did a great job in presenting his arguments and destroying the myths that the U.S. public had toward Cuba. His use of point form when addressing the common myths was concise and easily understood. The quote “Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present, controls the past” was a great embodiment and summary of Cuddy’s view. The U.S. government could be controlling the view that the public held toward Cuba for the political purpose of increasing the support for the Containment Policy. An example of that would be some of the over-exaggeration of the evilness of Cuba or communism under the Castro administration.
In contrast to the Cuddy’s work, History Professors Paterson and Brophy pointed out that the Cuban Missile Crisis had no significant effects on both the U.S. foreign and domestic policy during the Cold War. To prove their points, they tried to conduct research on the effects of the Crisis by looking at the change in public opinion towards Democrats and Republicans from October to November in 1962. Paterson and Brophy revealed that there was no direct relationship between the way the Kennedy administration handled the Cuban Missile Crisis and the voter turnout in the House and the Senate elections. There was a mix of factors that determined the House and the Senate election results, and neither party benefited significantly from the Crisis on election day.
Like Cuddy, Paterson and Brophy were clear on their arguments. It was great that they even included pictures and graphs to showcase the polling condition and research results. Yet, it was doubtful whether the result was able to conclude that the Crisis did not have significant effects on both the foreign and domestic policy. Since the research only focused on October and November, more could be done apart from collecting the polling result. Asking voters about their views toward the effects of the Crisis or extending the research period to at least a year would definitely be able to capture more of the effects of the Crisis. While Paterson and Brophy provided a new perspective on the Crisis’ effects, it was a pity that the conclusion was not convincing.
Despite the work by Paterson and Brophy was unable to fully reveal the Crisis’ effects, Dr. Smith’s work provided us with more information. As the director of the General Social Survey of the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, Dr. Smith examined the experiences of the United States citizens amid the Cuban Missile Crisis, the change of public opinions, and the way the U.S. public views the Cuban Missile Crisis in retrospect. Smith drew his data from two sources including the Gallup polls conducted before, during, and after the crisis, as well as two special surveys conducted by the NORC. Apart from presenting the data of his research, Smith cited from a wide range of scholarship and provides an overview of different aspects of the Crisis, like the Kennedy administration and the U.S. foreign policy in Cuba.
Like Cuddy, Paterson, and Brophy, Smith crafted his work nicely with good examples and quotes. It revealed that the Crisis did not change the public opinion toward Cuba and thus did not make changes to the U.S. foreign policy in Cuba. Only around 20 percent of the public supported the U.S. military action to remove Castro despite their concern over the spread of communism. Additionally, this was an interesting observation because it slightly contrasted Cuddy’s argument that the U.S. government would affect public opinion toward Cuba. The differences showed in these two works, therefore, provided a broader understanding of the effects of the Crisis on U.S. policy. While the public could believe in the way a certain country was portrayed by their government, it was also possible that the public kept their stances on the use of military action to overthrow other regimes.
In conclusion, all the three articles presented thoughtful insights on the effects that the Cuban Missile Crisis had on U.S. foreign policy in Cuba. Cuddy’s work pointed out that the Cuban Missile Crisis allowed the United States to reflect upon the application of the Containment Policy toward Cuba. While Paterson and Brophy believed that there was no direct relationship between the Crisis and the U.S. foreign policy, Smith revealed that the Crisis made no changes to the U.S. foreign policy. The differences in the focus of all these scholastic works provided a broader understanding of the Crisis.
Cuddy, Edward. “America’s Cuban Obsession: A Case Study in Diplomacy and Psycho-History.” The Americas 43, no. 2 (1986): 183–196. Accessed February 29, 2020. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1007438?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents
Paterson, Thomas G., and William J. Brophy. “October Missiles and November Elections: The Cuban Missile Crisis and American Politics, 1962.” The Journal of American History 73, no. 1 (1986): 87–119. Accessed February 29, 2020. http://doi:10.2307/1903607.
Smith, Tom W. “Trends: The Cuban Missile Crisis and U.S. Public Opinion.” The Public Opinion Quarterly 67, no. 2 (2003): 265-93. Accessed February 29, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/3521635.
 Thomas G. Paterson, and William J. Brophy. “October Missiles and November Elections: The Cuban Missile Crisis and American Politics, 1962.” The Journal of American History 73, no. 1 (1986): 87–119. http://doi:10.2307/1903607.