Cuba – A failure of Intelligence or Operations?
Dissuss thre CIA’s role in US policy towards Cuba between 1959 and 1963: The CIA was created at the very begining to (recolt) information for fighting the Communism and to coordinate intelligence(s) but soon it
took more and more importance especially during the Dulles era, when the CIA was directed by a man with a big personality. Indeed, in the 50s, the CIA became central and was involved in almost every international problem/ actions. Furthermore, as the CIA enjoyed a series of success ( even called operation PBSUCCESS) with the so called covert action for instance in Guatemala or Iran, they gain more credibility and power towards the president. So a kind of confidence was instaured between the president and the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI). When the president wanted to act in a particular place (moe or less linked with Communism), the CIA had to find a « plan » to reach his demand. De meme the CIA thought that if covert action, whose success was greatly due by chance, worked once and even more, why not for other operations ? So covert action became quite commun in the task of the CIA. (In 1954, the Doolittle report even said that covert action was necessary as lond as Communism problem remains national policy).
Unfortunately for the CIA, the US did not only enjoyed success : Cuba was even known as ojne of the greatest failure of the US policy during the Cold War.
If we discuss whether Cuba was a failure of intelligence or operation ; the CIA was involved in both of them in having organized as a whole the operation . Indeed, the CIA was in charge of the intervention with carte blanche to put Castro out of power.
But did the CIA fail more because of intelligence or more because of operation ? What exactly its role in this operation between 1959 and 1963?
Kind of plan 1. more operation bcse of us agressor covert action… + intelligence failure to tell the truth to the president kind of failure of intelligence in the sens of not lack of information but misusing of it
2. intelligence … us as defensor but misusing of intelligence again…
1. at the beg the failure was more a question of operation as the Cia was in position of agressor…
At the beginning of the Cuban matter, the US were more in a position of agressor as the new regime of Castro was communist and the national American policy was fighting Communism.(Indeed, deja when Kennedy was senator, he promised to « stenghten the non-Bastita democratic anti-Castro forces in exile and in Cuba itself who offer eventual hope of overthrowing Castro »(1), Furthermore, Castro represented a threat for US as far as the South American countries were concerned. Indeed, the US had a lot of economic relation, and as the other southern countries were quite unstable, Cuba could be an example of rebellion for other countries. So the US needed to act in this area and the president entrust this mission to the CIA, strong of its previous success. So, the CIA had to find a plan to overthrow Castro.
In this episod, the failure of the plan was more an operational matter especially at the organization level than an intelligence matter as the CIA did possess quite the right information for the operation but as a contrary, the plan was quite badly organized and even impossible to realize in such conditions.
Indeed, at the very beginning of the project, the plan consisted of instauring a guerillas climat in increasing propaganda, political actions and sabotages but no immediate paramilitary action against Castro was considered(2). But soon , the implementation of the plan evolved as the CIA : they realized than they needed a paramilitary force as Castro was a different adversary and there was less support of anti-government than in precious overthrown countries. From now on, the plan was based on three components :
a landing of exiled Cubans trained who constituted the Brigade 2506 and who would declenched a general uprising in Cuba against Castro
a tactical air strike supposed to destroy Castro’s air force
a naval element capable of bringing the brigade to the beach of landing(3).
(It was called the Trinidad plan.)
Actually this plan changed again as Kennedy thought that the site of the landing was too « spectacular » and asked the CIA to change it for a « quieter » site(4), which became the Bay of pigs. Actually this change was more important than it could appear as it was one of the reasons of the failure of the operation. Indeed, the place was across a swamp and the nearest mountains were eighty miles away(5), so not the best place for landing.
Furthermore, the number of the invasion force seemed insufficient compared to the Castro one and certainly badly trained. Indeed, only sixty of the more than hundred recruits were trained for guerilla and even the better-trained Cubans were hardly an elite(6).
Added to that, the American aircraft was reduced and the second air strike canceled by the president. Therefore, here again the success of the operation was a bit compromized as the complete destruction of castro’s air force was crucial to military success.
All these changes diminished the chance of success and the initial Trinidad plan was allowed only 30 percent chance of success at the begining(7).
As a result, this operation failed greatly on the 16 April, as the air attack left most of Castro’s air force intact, the landing was catastrophic and brigade outnumbered 20,000 to 1,400, and there was no uprising inside Cuba because of the great popularity of Fidel Castro.(8)
So the Cuban plan was poorly planned and badly executed.
But how a such poorly plan could have been realized while it seemed so unfeasible ?
Here we need to question the role of the CIA as an intelligence because actually in a way they failed in this role as well. Indeed, they were aware of information and the unfeasibility of the plan they have created but the president who asked several times to change the plan was not. So in a way the misconception of the situation/ misuse of information toward the president is equivalent to a failure of the intelligence because the proper role of the intelligence is to give right information as far as a subject, in general an international policy matter is concerned. So, here, it was not the case as the presidents was misled by the main agents of the CIA especially Bissel and Dulles in who he had completely confidence.
Indeed, he was misinformed for several information : as he was opposed to an official involvement of the US in the Cuban matter and feared of the damage that the invasion would do to Amerca’s image abroad, Kennedy was reluctant to increase the paramilitary force but his intelligence advisor did not want to stop the Cuban project even though they knew that the plan with kennedy’s exigence was impossible. Dulles even admited that one of the main reasons for the operation’s failure was that Kennedy « had views of the plan that were not consistent with the realities of the situation »(9).
Bissell confessed also that the president misconceived several information : indeed, he believed that the covert character of the operation could be maintained, he did not understand the the absolute essentiality of air command and of effective air cover for the success of an amphibious operation, he expected as well that the guerilla option was available in case of defeat on the beachhead and at last that success landing would detonate internal revolts within Cuba.(10)
All these information were not contradicted by the CIA which did know that all these information were not right by fear that the project was canceled. Indeed, to carry out the operation, the intelligence advisors of the president suggested that for instance the air strike was important but not crucial which was a grave mistake or also that the guerilla oprtion was still possible… (11)
They deliberately misled the president and so failed in their role of intelligence.
Despite that a priori/ a premier lieu, the CIA had more a role of organizer than spy, with the covert action character, but we can see that intelligence role in the Cuban episod was not negligible and even contributed a lot to the failure of the operation. Actually the CIA was invovled in both operational and intelligence level and both of them led to the failure of the plan. (1400mots environ)
After the failure of the CIA plan, Kennedy reduced considerably the influence of the CIA and the era of covert action was over. Actually the president lost confidence in the CIA because of the misleading of the previous operation and gave more personal attention to the agency for instance in instauring a meeting each day about the Cuban problem(12). He was reluctant to give anymore an operational mission to the CIA after that and the CIA became again an intelligence agency more than an aoperational agency.
It’s right the case with the Cuban missile crisis where the US was not anymore the aggressor but the defendant and so the main role of the CIA was to give information concerning the instauriation of the missiles in Cuba. Here again, the CIA failed to its mission but not in the same way.
Indeed, they failed to predict on times that the Soviet Union would attempt to deploy strategic nuclear missiles in Cuba(13). Worse, they did not know that the USSR had not only sent « 60 nuclear warheads to Cuba( for the medium and intermediate-range missile force) but also about 100 tectcal cruise missile launchers and possibly four to six nuclear naval mines »(14). Yet, there was reports from agents on the island and especially from refugees of suspicious military activities in Cuba including missile but these reports were not taken in serious (15)
. Even aerial reconnaissance was not a sufficient proof for the CIA and so the responsable people did not warn the president of eventual missile attack against the US. Added to that, The CIA had delays for the reconnaissance mission by flying U-2. So thre CIA failed again to its mission to give right information on time. Here its role was clearly an intelligence one.