NORMAN — Discussion hosted 50 years after Cuban Missile Crisis
A panel discussion on the now 50-year-old Cuban Missile Crisis provided guests expert insight on the United States’ reputation abroad and the consequences thereof — then and now — Thursday evening on the University of Oklahoma campus.
Panelists Charles Kenney, Paul Goode and Jonathan Monten of the OU Political Science Department, joined by Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies, provided the perspectives of Cuba, the Soviet Union, the United States and modern Iran, respectively.
Painting a picture of how the United States’ reputation of intervention and imperialism in Cuba and elsewhere aggravated the nuclear crisis 50 years ago, panelists argued for the value of a more detached, negotiation-centric strategy in an equally precarious modern world.
With Cuba anticipating invasion by the anti-communist United States, Russia seeking to reciprocate U.S. placement of missiles in Turkey and the United States consequently facing the terrifying prospect of nuclear weaponry in its backyard, the Cuban Missile crisis was a narrowly-avoided catastrophe which could have caused the loss of tens of millions of Russian and American lives, and which Goode called a “foreign policy cautionary tale” for the world at large.
“The genius of the crisis diplomacy we saw in the Cuban Missile Crisis was that it placed the burden of actually initiating a conflict in the hands of the adversary, the Soviet Union, rather than escalating the situation ourselves,” Monten said. “The lesson from this in modern policy with Iran should be that the U.S. isn’t seeking to change Iran’s regime or the culture. Rather, it’s to end its nuclear program.”
Supporting this stance, Landis described how what he called “American arrogance,” reflected in the United States’ logistical control of oil traffic in the Gulf region, has made it unpopular not just in the Middle East, but specifically in provocative countries like Iran and China.
“America has had good reason to be arrogant, it is extremely powerful, and has been a good steward in its years of supremacy,” Landis said. “America’s position in the Persian Gulf is fundamental to its status as a super power and its ability to halt adversaries by denying them access to oil. Iran is flexing its muscle and clearly wants the U.S. out of the Gulf, which it views as its own. Iran’s program is likely for deterrence and self-defense, much like Cuba’s.”