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The Situation Room

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The CIA had experience toppling anti-American foreign leaders. In 1960, the agency enlisted the aid of Mafia figures to assassinate Fidel Castro. By the time Kennedy became president, multiple attempts had been made. There is no direct evidence that President Kennedy knew of these activities, but if he knew, what should he have done? Later, in 1976, President Ford would ban the assassination of foreign leaders by executive order.

  • Options
    • Send a US military force to arrest or remove Castro
    • Allow the plan to proceed and deny all involvement
    • Halt plans immediately and use sanctions to undermine Castro regime
    • Use diplomacy to attempt to convince Castro that he is better off aligned with the US, not the USSR
kennedy s solution
Kennedy’s Solution
  • Allow the plan to proceed and deny all involvement
  • With or without Kennedy’s full knowledge, the CIA plot led to several unsuccessful attempts to assassinate Castro.

In 1960, the Eisenhower Administration approved the CIA plan to equip and train Cuban exiles to invade and overthrow Castro’s government in Cuba. The CIA had previously assisted in the overthrow of governments in Iran and Guatemala and felt confident it could do the same in Cuba. The plan was developed in secret. When Kennedy assumed the presidency in 1961, he was briefed on the plan and had to decide what to do with it.

  • Possible solutions
    • Alert Castro of the mission
    • Cancel the mission
    • Proceed with the mission
    • Fire the head of the CIA
kennedy s solution1
Kennedy’s Solution
  • Proceed with the mission.
  • President Kennedy ordered the plan to proceed. The Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs but were unsuccessful. The United States denied any involvement in the invasion.

Shortly after coming to power in Cuba, Fidel Castro began to informally align his policies with those of the Soviet Union. In 1961, after Castro’s government nationalized foreign-owned property in Cuba, the United States cut diplomatic ties with Cuba.

  • Possible solutions:
    • Maintain the status quo.
    • Open negotiations with Cuba.
    • Impose a trade embargo against Cuba.
    • Invade Cuba
kennedy s solution2
Kennedy’s Solution
  • Impose a trade embargo against Cuba.
  • The United States imposed a trade embargo against Cuba in 1962 that largely continues today.

In August 1962, the CIA notified President Kennedy that it suspected the Soviet Union was deploying missiles to Cuba. In October 1962, a U.S. reconnaissance plane photographed the missile bases under construction in Cuba.

  • Possible solutions:
    • Allow placement of the missiles
    • Negotiate with Cuba to remove the missiles
    • Invade Cuba and destroy missile sites
    • Persuade the USSR to remove missiles
kennedy s solution3
Kennedy’s Solution
  • Persuade the USSR to remove missiles.
  • The United States demanded that the Soviet Union remove the missiles or risk an invasion. The United States also secretly told the Soviet Union that it would remove its missiles from Turkey within the next six months.

In an attempt to keep East Berliners from leaving Communist East Germany to escape to the West, they built a wall in Berlin dividing East Germany and West Germany in August 1961. In October, the Soviet Union explodes a test hydrogen bomb, the largest detonated in history, over the Arctic Sea, and the Cuban Missile Crisis the following year causes further tension.

  • Possible solutions:
    • Take military action against the Soviet Unions
    • Pass the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
    • Diffuse the situation
    • Appease the Soviet Union
kennedy s solution4
Kennedy’s Solution
  • Pass the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
  • On August 5, 1963, the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union sign the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, ending above-ground nuclear testing, France and China being notable holdouts.

Now take 5-10 minutes and evaluate Kennedy’s decisions. Do you think he handled these situations in the correct manner? Why or why not?

Did the decisions your group decide on match Kennedy’s?