Last Updated 12 Jan 2023

A Debate on the Cuban Missile Crisis

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The Cuban Missile Crisis can be described as the time in history when the Soviets installed nuclear missiles in Cuba and the United States had to scurry to decide a response. The question up for debate is whether or not Tit for Tat could have prevented the Cuban Missile Crisis. This requires examining at what point Tit for Tat would have started, because Tit for Tat starts with both parties making the cooperative action, which in these circumstances would have meant not threatening the other party. The Soviet installation of missiles on Cuba was clearly a defective action, The United States‘ next action would echo the Soviet action, thus matching with a defection. The US created a naval blockade surrounding Cuba, and publicly called for the removal of the missiles. This move was aggressive, but did not fully match the threat the Soviet Union had shown the US If the US had been enacting Tit for Tat, its response could have been much more aggressive, as Axelrod states in The Evolution ofCooperation: ”When a defection actually occurred, the retaliation was often more than would be called for by Tit for Tati Two-for- one or three-for—one was a common response” (5).

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The theory of Tit for Tat may have held ground as the means to an end but, in practice, both parties are more likely to return aggressive behaviors with further escalated actions. And if one party defects, then the other party will detect. If the first defects again, they enter into “an unending echo of alternating defections” (Axelrod 176) This approach, once defections grow in prevalence, becomes much less useful as a way to prevent a war, or a crisis like the Cuban Missile Crisis. If the United States had responded in a Tit for Tat manner, it would not have prevented the Cuban Missile Crisis, due to the human flaws that will necessarily arise when one party wants to dole out larger and larger punishments to the opposite party, instead of having the characteristics of a “nice” party, cooperating with the other to create a better outcome on both sides This idea of attaining a better outcome together would not have been possible during the tensions of the Cold War, especially not after one country installed missiles in range of the other country.

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