Sample Article Review On Lessons For Contemporary Policymakers In “The Cuban Missle Crisis At 50”
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Graham Allison’s “The Cuban Missle Crisis at 50” looks back at Kennedy’s showdown with the Soviet Union with historical hindsight and offers contemporary policymakers some valuable lessons on brinksmanship, diplomacy, military strategy and foreign relations. Allison compares the Cold War crisis to the current situation in Iran and U.S. relations, which makes the analysis and narrative so relevant today.
According to Allison, Kennedy’s advisors believed they had two options, attack the Soviet Union or accept nuclear missiles in Cuba. Kennedy however, ignored his hawkish advisors and developed an “imaginative alternative”; a more nuanced strategy that involved three parts. First, a promise that if the missiles were removed, the U.S. would not attack Cuba. Second was a threat, that the U.S. would attack within twenty-four hours if the missiles were no removed. Third was another promise, that if the Soviet Union played ball, that the U.S. would remove their missiles from Turkey. This seemed like a fair deal, allowing Khrushchev to save face and everyone to avoid World War III.
This worked well for Kennedy, but the situation with Iran is complicated, because Israel could attack Iran without the U.S. Allison asserts that Kennedy’s policy worked not only because it solved the immediate problem, but also discouraged further provocation from the Soviet Union. Kennedy set a clear precedent that there were lines that could not be crossed. It was a huge calculated risk that risked war for long term peace and stability.
The situations in Iran and North Korea on the other hand, have been slowly escalating for years, with dozens of warnings but no real threats of retaliation or attack b the U.S. Allison believes this is ineffective foreign policy that emboldens their leaders and allows them to use “blackmail” and other negative foreign policy to pursue their own agendas. There is a cycle of negotiations, promises, regulations, broken promises, new negotiations, etc. The cycle repeats with no clear resolution. Allison believes the leaders of North Korea and Iran are being tolerated and act without consequences, and may not even understand messages about limits and boundaries that cannot be crossed.
Likewise, Allison believes we are too soft on China because “there are no circumstances in which Washington is willing to risk a trade confrontation.” As a result, China feels that they can steal intellectual property and manipulate currency without reprisal or consequences. Kennedy stood up to Khrushchev, reinforcing the Monroe Doctrine. Diplomatic rules are established, and must be honored. This is needed today because China is becoming a second global superpower, which may lead to inevitable conflict and war. Allison believes the U.S. and China must create a status quo that is a win-win situation for both powers. He uses Athens and Sparta to highlight the importance of making sure the rules of diplomacy are established and followed.
Allison mentions that Kennedy had two days to create a strategy to deal with the Cuban missile crisis before the public knew and he was forced to act. Today, diplomacy happens much more quickly, and Allison recommends a “more tightly controlled flow of information” which allows for more prudent foreign policy that is not influenced by public opinion, hysteria or political pressure. Foreign relations between superpowers may is the most important kind of diplomacy in the world, which was seen during the Cuban missile crisis, when a bad decision could have sparked World War II. Allison believes that slow and responsible foreign policy involves setting up rules, boundaries, and working together by compromising to create amicable resolutions to conflicts. The Cuban Missle Crisis could been very ugly, but Kennedy was able to come up with his own solution, ignoring some of his advisors and not being influenced by news or public pressure. This slow and deliberate foreign policy that speaks loudly and carries a big stick is essential for managing foreign relations and geopolitical stability.
Allison, G 2012, 'The Cuban Missile Crisis at 50', Foreign Affairs, 91, 4, pp. 11-16, Military & Government Collection, EBSCOhost, viewed 1 November 2013.
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