Cuba Missile Crisis: US Actions Justified by Imminent Threat?

How did we , (the US), justify our acts of war during the Cuba Missile Crisis?
Did we use ‘imminent threat’?

Er, what “acts of war”? The naval quarantine? I wasn’t aware that a blockade counted as an act of war, exactly. Or did I miss something?..

IIRC, blockades are acts of war.


BLOCKADE: the surrounding or blockading of a place, especially a port, by an enemy to prevent entry and exit of supplies. It is an illegal act under international law as it is construed as an act of war.

We had the direct evidence and it was broadcast to the world.

Missiles that are in place and ready to launch at you in a matter of minutes do constitute an “imminent threat”, don’t they?

Did we assert that our blockade was justified by an imminent threat?

The Admin compared the justification for the invasion of Iraq w/ the Cuban Missile Crisis. So techbicalities have bearing.

My adult politically minded memory doesn’t reach quite so far back as then. I’m ignorant of the history. So, I’m asking history buffs and those who remember.

While the “embargo” was a technical “act of war” as a blockade, it was a minimal step in the array of measures available to the United States. While we can get all International Lawyerly about it, there is a fair argument that when a hostile power plants offensive missiles within easy range of you, you are authorized by common sense, if not by a strict reading of the customary rules of behavior between nations, to take some action to neutralize the hazard.

There was, however, a deal cut with the Soviets on this thing. The US/NATO removed (or forebear placing) missiles in Turkey in exchange for the removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba. In any event, the next step, an air strike on the Soviet facilities in Cuba or an out right invasion of Cuba, either of which would have placed the USSR in an untenable position, was avoided. Had the Soviets not accepted the withdraw of missiles from Turkey in exchange for the withdraw of their missiles from Cuba God knows where the whole thing would have ended.

It may well be that the Soviet objective was to get rid of the Turkish missiles and the Cuba thing was a gambit to have something to exchange.

When I get home, I’ll give you the KGB’s opinion of things.

To expand on your point, and clarify a little, the “embargo” refers to the current state of economic relations between Cuba and the US. The “blockade” as indicated in the OP was the short term interception of USSR ships headed to Cuba. As I recall it lasted less than two weeks.

The Cuban government creates some confusion by refering to the “embargo” and “el bloqueo”, or the blockade, and some people I’ve talked to are under the impression that the US Navy patrols the water around Cuba boarding and stopping all ship traffic to the island. This is, of course, not so.

If you will pardon the totally person nature of my recollection:

I was a sophomore in college. I came back to the dorm from supper to find everyone watching President Kennedy addressing the nation. Other than the President’s voice, there was no sound in the room. The faces of my friends were pale, open-mouthed and staring. When I tried to ask what was going on, some one held up a hand to silence me and then I listened to just the last few words…

All I learned immediately afterwards was that ninety miles off the coast of Florida, Soviet nuclear missles were pointed at the United States. We were on the brink of the fulfillment of the greatest fear of our childhoods. We literally thought that at any hour all of our lives and all we loved might be destroyed in a nuclear holocaust.

When we realized that Kennedy’s ultimatum gave us a few days, many of us changed our routines. I wasn’t about to leave this world sitting in an economics class.

I read more poetry, listened to more music, spent more time with friends, went for walks and wrapped myself in the comfort of my faith.

There was an instant when the news came that the Soviet ships had stopped. Even then we remained quiet – obviously a little relieved, but still uncertain. I don’t know that we were ever really the same after those days.

It was thirteen months later in the same room with the same friends that I learned that the President was dead.

We were so young until then.

Okay. According to The Sword and the Shield, the Mitrokhin Archive and the KGB, which is mostly made of notes that a gentleman archivist of the KGB kept and smuggled out…

Lesse. GRU was more in ascendency, thanks to contacts with the Kennedy Administration. Krushchev was thinking fairly poorky of JFK, thanks to abortive Bay of Pigs. Was of the opinion JFK would be easy to hoodwink. March, 1962, Castro asked Krushchev for a base in Cuba to export revolution across Latin America. The GRU released a report that the previous June, the US had made a decision to launch a surprise nuclear attack in Sept 1961, but had been deterred at the last moment by superior USSR nuclear arsenal. Previously, the KGB had declared the Pentagon was planning a nuclear first strike. Coupled with the actual, fairly stupid attempts to topple Castro, the USSR was pretty nervous. So, May 62, Krushchev decided on the base. He didn’t believe that Washington would know until far too late.

He didn’t know the capabilities of the U-2, and he didn’t know that the Americans had plans of the sites, thanks to Col. Oleg Vladimirovich Penkovsky. (Codename IRONBARK).

Bolshakov, the ambassador, at that point, was telling the Kennedys that the USSR would never do such a thing. The KGB had no agents even near the president, or any assessment of what he might do. So Krushchev was going in blank. Oct 25: KGB suggests that it might be necessary to dismantle the bases or the US might invade. Night of Oct 25-26. GRU reports that SAC has been placed on nuclear alert. At that point, K’s will broke, and he dictated a rambling letter asking for a US guarantee of Cuban territorial integrity with no mention of the Turkish missile bases. Oct 27: Second letter sent, insisting Turkish bases be part of deal. Oct 27. Soviet Air Defense in Cuba shoots down a U-2, killing the pilot. K. is given reports that JFK is about to make a speech on television to the nation at noon. K’s will breaks a second time, accepts JFK’s terms for a unilateral withdrawal of all Soviet arms from Cuba. Orders it broadcast over Radio Moscow.

E-Sabbath, my comment about Turkish missiles as a tit-for-tat was pure supposition on my part. As I read your post it seem to be that the move to put Soviet missiles in Cuba was a Soviet reaction to fear that the US was on the verge of making a first strike on the USSR. As I understand it, the missiles were either a deterrent to that US attack or a response to a US attack–in any event the Soviets did not then think that they had a viable deterrent/response using conventional aircraft or missiles based in Eurasia. Right?

Zoe, like you I was a college student when the Cuban Missile Crises happened. The evening of the President’s speech we were at the height of the run up to Homecoming–a major big deal at a Big Ten University in the early sixties. The one amusing aspect of the whole thing is that the sorority skits for their particular candidate for Homecoming Queen went right on with no audience–the students were all in the TV lounges watching the President. And, yea, we thought that the actual end of the world was upon us. As I remember it it was on a Wednesday evening that the President announced the embargo/blockade.

As far as drawing a parallel between the embargo of Soviet missiles going to Cuba, or if you would the lose blockade of Cuba, and the invasion of Iraq, there are so many factual and political differences between them that any comparison is out of the question. Cuba simply does not provide a precedent for Iraq.

Spavined: Appears so. I swear, this book is both amazing and incredibly scary. Subversion everywhere. It was also, of course, part of their continuing goal to conquer the world and destroy the US.

No, seriously. Look, it was the eventual goal.

And they were getting really bad intel.

How did we justify our acts?

It was understood by both the United States and the Soviet Union, at least those in power, that missiles in Cuba could begin striking US targets within a few minutes and Washington DC not much after that. If missiles had been placed in Cuba the chances of an accidental nuclear exchange would have gone up manyfold. It’s hard to imagine the state of alert that would have existed without imagining India and Pakistan, but over water with far more nuclear weapons.

There is so much radar clutter, sailing, and flying in that area, I’m pretty sure WWIII would have resulted almost immediately.

But, let’s face it, the real reason to sneak missiles into Cuba is to launch a surprise first strike on the United States from the exact oppisite direction from which we’d expect it.

BTW it was called a “Quarentine”, not a “Blockade”, precisely because the latter is considered to be an act of war.