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Korea Brings to Mind the Cuban Missile Crisis

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The crisis over North Korea brings to mind a similar crisis with another communist country, Cuba, back in 1962. That was the Cuban Missile Crisis.

U.S. officials have long maintained that Cuba and the Soviet Union were the ones responsible for bringing the Soviet Union and the United States to the brink of nuclear war. The U.S. government is portrayed as the innocent party, one that was simply responding to the Soviet Union’s installation of nuclear weapons in Cuba.

But nothing could be further from the truth. In actuality, it was the U.S. national-security state, specifically the Pentagon and the CIA, that was primarily responsible for the crisis.

After all, what was the reason that the Cubans and the Soviets installed those nuclear missiles in Cuba? Was it to initiate a first-strike in a nuclear attack on the United States?

Actually, no. The installation of the missiles was intended to deter another U.S. invasion of Cuba on the part of the Pentagon and the CIA, an invasion intended to fulfill the U.S. national-security state’s undying hope of achieving regime change in Cuba, one that would oust Fidel Castro from power and install another pro-U.S. dictator in his stead.

After all, as we later discovered, the Soviet nuclear missiles were fully operational. If the Soviets had installed them for the purpose of initiating a strike on the United States, they could have easily fired them.

But they didn’t. Instead, once President Kennedy promised that the United States would never invade Cuba again, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev removed the missiles from Cuba. That is fairly conclusive proof that the missiles had been installed for purely defensive purposes — to defend Cuba against another U.S. invasion or to deter such an invasion.

Moreover, since Kennedy realized the incongruity of objecting to Soviet missiles in Cuba when the United States had nuclear missiles pointed at the Soviet Union in Turkey, which bordered the Soviet Union, Kennedy also secretly promised Khrushchev that the United States would remove the missiles from Turkey as soon as the crisis was over. That promise was fulfilled, much to the anger of Pentagon and CIA officials, who believed that Kennedy was surrendering America to the communists.

Were the Soviet Union and Cuba being paranoid about the possibility of a U.S. attack on the island?

On the contrary, they were being extremely rational. Don’t forget, after all, that the U.S. national-security state, operating through the CIA, had already invaded the island. That’s what the Bay of Pigs had been all about.

What motivated the CIA’s invasion of Cuba? Had the Castro regime attacked the United States? Had it engaged in acts of terrorism against the United States? Had it tried to assassinate U.S. officials?

None of the above. In fact, those were all acts of aggression that the U.S. national-security state engaged in against Cuba.

The indisputable fact is that the U.S. national-security state was the aggressor at the Bay of Pigs and that the Cuban communist regime was the defending power in the conflict.

Why did the CIA invade Cuba? Castro, unlike his predecessor, Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, refused to become a lackey or a puppet of the U.S. national-security state. Even worse, he was a believer in socialism and communism, as manifested by his nationalization of U.S. businesses operating in Cuba. As Jacobo Arbenz, the democratically elected president of Guatemala, learned after he nationalized lands owned by the big American corporation United Fruit, that type of action was likely to garner a regime-change operation on the part of the U.S. national-security state.

Castro knew that the Pentagon and the CIA were not going to give up after the failure at the Bay of Pigs. And they didn’t give up. They wanted Kennedy to authorize a full-scale military invasion of the island for the purpose of effecting regime change. It didn’t matter how many Cubans would be killed or maimed in such an operation. All that mattered was that the United States oust Castro from power and install its own man into power.

The best example of this extreme and obsessive mindset on the part of the Pentagon and the CIA was Operation Northwoods. That was the secret plan, unanimously approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and presented to Kennedy, that called for terrorist attacks on American soil and at the U.S. base at Guantanamo and airplane hijackings, which entailed the taking of innocent American lives. The plan was to blame the attacks on Cuba when in actuality they would be carried out by secret agents of the U.S. national-security state. Kennedy’s job would be to sell the lie to the American public and order a military invasion of Cuba in response to the bogus terrorist attacks.

To Kennedy’s everlasting credit, he rejected Operation Northwoods, to the anger and rage of the Pentagon and the CIA, who were convinced that Kennedy failed to appreciate the danger to “national security” of a communist regime 90 miles away from American shores. Never mind, of course, that the regime lacked the military means by which to invade, occupy, and conquer the United States and that it never initiated any acts of aggression against the United States. This was the Cold War, when U.S. national-security state officials were even more convinced that the communists were coming to get us than they are today with respect to the terrorists.

Castro was well aware of the Pentagon’s and CIA’s unwavering desire to invade Cuba. He also knew that while his forces could defend against a small CIA army of Cuban exiles, there was no way that Cuban forces could defend against a full-scale U.S. military invasion of the island. In the event of such an invasion, Castro knew he would be finished, either by death, incarceration for life in an American jail, or exile.

Thus, Castro had only one way to defend himself and Cuba from a U.S. military invasion: an alliance with the Soviet Union that would bring nuclear weapons to the island. And his strategy worked — the Soviet missiles in Cuba deterred the United States from invading the island and ended up securing a presidential promise to never invade the island again.

While Americans were relieved over the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis, such was not the case with the Pentagon and the CIA. They were outraged over what they considered was Kennedy’s surrender to the Soviets and the Cubans. With his promise never to invade Cuba, Kennedy had dashed what had become a full-time obsession with regime change on the part of the CIA, the Pentagon, and Cuban exiles. Kennedy was seen as soft on communism, a president who had stabbed America and the cause of freedom in the back.

Interestingly, throughout the crisis Pentagon and CIA officials wanted Kennedy to bomb and invade the island. Of course, they didn’t realize that the Soviet missile commanders had been given battlefield authority to use their nuclear weapons in defense. And many of them didn’t care, since they figured that a nuclear war was inevitable anyway, and the sooner it got going, the better. If Kennedy had done what the Pentagon and the CIA had wanted him to do, there is virtually no doubt that full-scale nuclear war would have been the result.

Is North Korea attaining nuclear weapons for offensive purposes or to defend against or deter a regime-change operation on the part of the U.S. national-security state? One thing’s for sure: if they had wanted to attack the 28,000 U.S. troops in South Korea, they have had 60 years to do so and still have not done so.

That raises an interesting question: How would the U.S. national-security state respond if North Korea stationed 28,000 troops on the Mexico-U.S. border with Mexico’s consent? My hunch is that the Pentagon and the CIA would go ballistic and view those North Korean troops as a bigger threat to U.S. “national security” than even Cuba. Why can’t they understand that North Korean national-security state officials might react in the same way to 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea?

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.