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Lessons Learned and Implications for the Cold War

One lasting impact of the Bay of Pigs invasion was a resolved belief in communism for rebels all throughout Latin America. Cuba was a tiny island nation who was able to withstand the advances of the mightiest nation in all of the world.  Additionally it solidified Castro's position in Cuba and rose him to rock-star like fame in Cuba.

Some argue that the outcome of the Bay of Pigs invasion worked perfectly in Kennedy's favor.  A victory would have led to a U.S. uccupation of Cuba, but without the support of the masses.  Instead, Kennedy went forward with it, making good on his promise to take a hard stance on communism.  He also owed up to it as his mistake, appearing honest and vulnerable in front of a national audience.  

An important result from the whole debacle came the notion of "Groupthink".  This is a pyschological drive for consensus at any cost, which leads to suppression of dissent and appraisal of alternatives. For Kennedy's administration, it led an atmosphere of assumed consensus.  After the incident, Kennedy instituted a review of his administration and ordered changes in the decision making of his team, which are as follows (Hansen, 2013):

  1. Each participant should function as a “skeptical generalist,” focusing on the problem as a whole rather than approaching it from his or her department’s standpoint.
  2. To stimulate freewheeling discussions, the group should use informal settings, with no formal agenda and protocol, so as to avoid the status-laden meetings in the White House.
  3. The team should be broken into sub-groups that would work on alternatives and then reconvene.
  4. The team should sometimes meet without Kennedy present, so as to avoid people simply following his views

Kennedy's new thinking would be put to the test on the morning of October 15, 1962, when his team learned that the Soviets were placing nuclear missiles in Cuba.  His military advisors insisted on a massive strike to take out the missiles, but Kennedy, who was now hesitant about debating only one plan, called for other options.  And when someone suggested a naval blockade to force the Soviets to remove the missiles, Kennedy listened.  Robert Kennedy later recalled of the discussion "There was no rank, and in fact we did not even have a chairman...the conversations were completely uninhibited" (Hansen, 2013).  The result was not only an avoidance of a near disaster, but also a new style of management thinking that would become the guiding principle in boardrooms and future cabinet meetings.


Verbal note given to President Johnson before re-election in 1964 from Castro, hoping to ammend the relations between both nations.  The note appears very earnest on the part of Castro.

After tensions settled following the Cuban Missile Crisis, the two nations have lived in relative peace with one another, chosing rather simply to ignore the other.  The letter to the left shows and very earnest attempt by Castro to ammend these issues in 1964.  However, it appears futile.  The embargo against Cuba has been loosened and tightened over the years, with a current standing at the allowance of special medical and food products to be exported to Cuba.  Restriction and disapproval of the two nations seems to be ingrained in the political mentality of both states.

Lessons Learned and Implications for the Cold War