Kennedy, Cuba, and the “Sand War”


By Bruce Riddell

This year marks the 60th anniversary of one of the greatest disasters in American intelligence history, the Bay of Pigs. A poorly designed operation to oust Soviet-allied Cuban leader Fidel Castro was an early failure for new US President John F. Kennedy — but he learned a lot from it, as subsequent events will show. It also helped Castro’s first deployment of Cuban forces abroad, in North Africa in 1963.

I had the good fortune to have as a college counselor at Brown University former CIA Inspector General Lyman Kirkpatrick, who wrote the agency’s death report on the Bay of Pigs failure. she was So devastating that all copies have been summoned. He showed that American planners of the April 1961 invasion by a few hundred anti-communist Cubans had just assumed that if the invaders had problems ashore fighting the much larger Cuban army, JFK would send the Marines and Navy to defeat. Castro turns a secret operation into a war. Kennedy had no intention of doing so, and in a moment of crisis ashore, he refused to send American troops.

The Bay of Pigs fiasco led directly to the Soviet decision to send nuclear-armed missiles to Cuba a year later, precipitating the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. This time, Kennedy was an accomplished crisis manager, preventing the Pentagon generals from going to war and finding A way for Moscow to retreat and withdraw the missiles. Castro was angry at the Soviets for their retreat, but Kennedy gave them a promise that the United States would not invade the island, a promise that has held ever since. This was despite a series of Cuban military interventions in support of pro-Soviet regimes in places such as Angola and Ethiopia later in the Cold War, which met with little direct resistance from American forces.

The first deployment of Cuban forces to Algeria was in October 1963. In the 1950s, Kennedy was the first US Senator Calling on the United States to stop supporting of the French colonial war in Algeria. He welcomed the decision of French President Charles de Gaulle to grant Algeria independence in 1961, and Algerian President Mohamed Ahmed Ben Bella hosted On a state visit on October 15, 1962, on the eve of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

A year later, Algeria was in an undeclared border war with its neighbor Morocco, an ally of the United States. Moroccan King Hassan II felt threatened by the Algerian revolutionary leadership and its attempt to exploit the poorly demarcated borders imposed by the French when they took control of the two countries.

With tensions rising in September 1963, Ben Bella asked Castro for help. Castro was eager to help another revolutionary government against the pro-Western monarchy. Cuba sent a contingent of special forces, along with tanks and heavy weapons, by sea in two ships to Oran. Cuban forces trained Algerian forces in the use of equipment and Egypt, led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, sent military advisers. The Soviet Union also supported Algeria.

King Hassan – who came to Washington for a State visit in March, which hosted First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy on A Private visit to Marrakech In mid-October – they went to the United States for additional military assistance. Kennedy did not want to escalate the conflict and refused to send more aid than was already in the works. The king asked Spain for help, but Madrid followed Washington’s lead. Kennedy did not want another East-West confrontation in the Maghreb with uncertain results. He pressured both Ben Bella and Hassan to stop the fighting. By the end of October, Ethiopian mediation secured a ceasefire agreed in Bamako, Mali. so called Sand war I finish. Cuban forces soon returned to Havana.

It was Kennedy’s last foreign crisis. He was assassinated a few weeks later in Dallas. In the span of two and a half years from the Bay of Pigs to the North African War, his leadership on the world stage has matured significantly. Unlike today, Cuba dominated the foreign policy agenda of the President of the United States at the time. For President Joe Biden, Cuba remains in limbo as an international concern, but it is a thorn in the side of his party’s domestic political agenda in Florida. With unrest mounting this month on the island, the Biden administration will need to absorb the clear lessons learned from JFK 60 years ago, and find new ways to support the Cuban people’s aspirations for nonviolent change.

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