Imagine living with the fear of a nuclear war arising, making everyday feel like your last. This is what it was like to live in the sixties. The world was literally on the brink of a nuclear war.This unit really made me realize how lucky we are today. Sometimes it may not feel like a peace era, we have to deal with small issues but nothing compared to what living was like in the sixties. I could never imagine living with that kind of fear. In this unit we looked back at the sixties to learn and understand how the world was on the brink of destruction. This unit we got to write an essay arguing why we thought the world was on the brink.
How the world was on the brink politically
The trust between the government and the CIA is such a significant relationship. The two work together to come up with solutions towards world problems. However the president will always get the final say. JFK an inexperienced president, was blind to what the CIA’s priorities were back in 1961. The past exemplifies that breaches of trust between few individuals with a position of power, can steer the world to the brink. Some may have said it was,“The brilliant disaster”(Feinberg &Richard.The Brilliant Disaster 2012). It is the flaws that were made in the past, that influence our views today.
With Cuba being only 90 miles away from the coast of Florida, on going conflicts between the Communist government in Cuba and Capitalist government United States, tensions inevitable. The Bay of Pigs was an invasion to remove the Communist Castro government from power in Cuba. At this point, John F Kennedy (JFK). was new to his position of presidency. He was inexperienced and young “But he was so young!”(Feinberg & Richard. The Brilliant Disaster, 2012), implying that he was easily persuaded by his Central Intelligence Agency(CIA). Basically JFK had pressure to make a decision that could either make or break America. It is important to realize that by sitting around a group of experienced members of government with the tendency to invade, would have swayed JFK’s overall opinion. Being confused by his wise advisors telling him one thing, he let his inexperience shadow over him. So what would you do if you had to make a decision that you knew was morally wrong, but your advisors were telling you different?
The decision to invade the Bay of Pigs, was up to two of the most powerful influences in America, JFK and the CIA. When you have individuals with an abundance of power, they have the capability to steer the world to the brink with one decision. In this case it was a biased military approach that brought the world to a tipping point. It may have been “the worst foreign-policy decision of Kennedy’s administration” (Feinberg & Richard.The Brilliant Disaster 2012) many people would have recalled it as. Nevertheless surly it isn’t fair to push the blame onto JFK for a decision that was shaped by the CIA.
At the time JFK was the president of the US, and had the overall final say. Although this may be true, as I mentioned earlier the CIA had a huge impact on JFK’s views. By putting all of JFK’s trust into the CIA made them have control over the operation “the CIA drew up these plans”(The Bay of Pigs, JFK Library). JFK was like a puppet on a string with the CIA constantly shadowing over him. This breach of trust lead to the invasion of the Bay of Pigs which brought the world to the brink.
The invasion caused destruction in Cuba and made America look inadequate as a nation. A key strategy that the CIA imposed, was to try and cover up America’s footsteps, by recruiting Cuban exiles to overthrow Castro’s government. The CIA believed that the invasion would lead to a rebellion inside the country, “Efforts of the US State Department to hide the involvement of the CIA”(The Bay of Pigs Invasion, Central Intelligence Agency, 2016). With this in mind, there was a lot of information that JFK wasn’t aware of involving the invasion. Reports said that the CIA should have told JFK the mission had changed strategies. A once tactful plan soon turned into a war, “[Castro] assumed it was just the start of a war”(Bradlee & Benjamin C.11.22.63, What Was Lost, 2003). This was not JFK’s intent, to result in a war.
Following the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis became JFK’s priority. His approach to the Cuban Missile Crisis was completely to opposite to the Bay of Pigs. From his previous misjudgment in the CIA, he resolved this problem by following his own instincts and morals. Like in the past invasion, the CIA were adamant to go with their militant approach. If JFK followed along again with the CIA, the world would have passed the tipping point and a nuclear war would have occurred. JFK’s instinct was acted upon and he was able to avoid a nuclear war.
All in all, trust between the government and the CIA have grown apart. JFK’s decision has been recognized by many other members of the government, which makes the government second guess the CIA’s judgments. To steer the world to the brink it doesn’t take much, just a poor decision made by someone with the position of power. So the real question is, if a new president were to trust the CIA’s militant approach, could history repeat itself and have another crisis?
Using our past knowledge of the Cold War, we started this unit off by learning about the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Cold War was significantly different to a war such as WWI and WWII. I soon learnt that the reason the Cold War is called a COLD war as a pose to a HOT war is because there actually wasn’t any physical fighting involving a battle. The Cold War was essentially a war of fear. With two powerful individuals with very powerful weapons is enough to start a war but with no contact.
Something that I noticed, is that the Cuban Missile Crisis was just a few individuals (JFK, Castro and Khrushchev) with a position of power fighting like children. The ideologies between Communist Cuba and the Capitalist US were very different. The fear of communism spreading, shadowed over the US and caused major tensions between the two nations. I didn’t quite realize that one small disagreement could lead to something so serious.
JFK: Capitalist Castro and Khrushchev: Communist
In class we watched a movie called Thirteen Days. This movie was all about the tense 13 days where everyone was in panic mode. It was interesting to watch a movie instead of a documentary. I think it has its pros and cons. For example, the movie was good in a way that the important events were highlighted, and it was more dramatic. However, with a movie some things could have been left out or over exaggerated events.
Anyways, the movie definitely gave me a better understanding on the behind the scene on the political side. Within the government there are two approaches to these types of conflicts. You can either have a militant approach and just invade, or think of the picture. Think of a solution that won’t end up in a worse conflict. John F. Kennedy (JFK) was the president at the time. I was pretty surprised how well he dealt with the situation. Instead of letting the CIA task over and invade Cuba, JFK went with his instinct to compromise instead.
JFK’s decision may have been for the best, and I was surprised that such a young president would stand up to the CIA. However, something that I realized is that the reason he ignored the CIA in the Cuban Missile Crisis, is because of his past mistake or trusting the CIA.
This leads us to our essay/ project for this unit. This term we went into depth with English. We discovered different writing techniques and just practiced writing. You could day we were on a writing boot camp. This writing unit I think really benefited me! I learned a lot about my writing which was one of my goals from last year, to find my own writing style. By knowing my writing style I was then able to improve it and make it stronger. I stepped out of my comfort zone you could say when we wrote an essay using imagery and metaphors.
Topics we had to chose from:
Bay of Pigs,
League Of Nations (United Nations)
Something that really sparked my interest was the Bay of Pigs invasion, and how different the approach was compared to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The Bay of Pigs Invasion
The purpose of the invasion was to remove the Communist Castro government from power in Cuba. Castro had signed with Khrushchev and proclaimed himself a communist and had formally allied Cuba with the Soviet Union. With America only being 90 miles from Cuba, the fear of communism spreading shadowed the US. This fear resulted in a invasion that lead the world to the brink on a nuclear war.
To put it simple, the Bay of Pigs was one heck of a disaster. It was one of JFK’s worst decisions. The Bay of Pigs was in my opinion the closest the world came to being on the brink politically.
That was the political side of how the world was on the brink. To get a different perspective of how the world was on the brink, we looked into the social perspective. We watched an episode of the Sixties to get a better understanding of the social issues. I decided to go in depth into the environmental issues.
How the world was on the brink environmentally:
Back in the Sixties, there were multiple factors for how the world was on the Brink. Today everyone is aware of major environmental issues. We have the technology to discover new cures, climate change patterns, etc. Back in the sixties, health and environmental issues was a new idea to society. It was a concept that people weren’t prepared for. There were so many things people were doing, using or eating in their everyday lives that turned out had a negative side affect. An example is synthetic pesticides. Synthetic pesticides are what help food grow, and they are located on many different kinds of food. It was only soon after people started to get sick, scientists discovered that the pesticides can cause cancer. In fact, Rachel Carson, a marine biologist was a “game changer” she passed away due to cancer. She was a legacy whom wrote books and other writings to try and advance the global environmental movement. After she passed away, people were left with a fear of, will it be me next? Many other environmental factors lead the world to the tipping point. However the synthetic pesticides were individuals priority.
In my argument I mention Rachel Carson. She wrote a book named Silent Spring. It was her most important contribution to the world since it launched the global environmental movement today.
The big take away from the whole unit is how easy it is to tip the world to the brink. It can start from the smallest disagreements between individuals with power, to something the has escalated so much that change is inevitable.
Work Cited for environmental argument:
Lear, Linda. “Rachel Carson, The Life and Legacy.” Rachel Carson, The Life and Legacy, www.rachelcarson.org/.
“Rachel Carson.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 May 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Carson.