Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker’s Poor Judgement Concerning The Cuban Missile Crisis

1313 words - 5 pages

In a democracy, government should be run based on the citizens, not of the leaders; personal opinions of members of the government should not change how a country is run. However, often times, the views of a government official get in the way of how they run their country. Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker, let his personal feelings hinder him from making good decisions for Canada, especially during the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962. Diefenbaker neglected to assist the U.S. during the Cuban Missile crisis because of his frustration with the lack of consultation from the U.S., his disdain for President Kennedy, and his strong sense of nationalism.

Prime Minister Diefenbaker was greatly distressed with the fact that the U.S. had chosen not to consult Canada about their plans for the Cuban Missile crisis. He was frustrated because it showed a lack of respect, it did not allow Canada sufficient time to prepare, and he was not sure if the U.S. was simply overreacting. This showed great disrespect to Canada, as Canada was the U.S.’s biggest ally. Through Canada’s commitment to NORAD and NATO, Canada was required to be consulted based on signed documents within the NORAD agreement. Consultation was necessary as Canada was the only country in the western hemisphere that shared a close military alliance with the Americans. While the situation was being monitored in Cuba, the President had time to consult Canada, but chose not to, as he saw Diefenbaker’s government as a ‘trivial slide show’. This crisis had serious implications for all of North America; Canadians found themselves at the brink of nuclear war without their consent and helpless to influence the course of events. Canada had no opportunity to offer its own view of what they thought to be the most reasonable response, or to be persuaded by the validity of the American one. Therefore, a cabinet could not sensibly agree on an adequate course of action. Furthermore, Diefenbaker, fearful that the U.S. was overreacting, suggested turning to the UN for assurance, as was a typical Canadian response. However, his suggestion was tossed aside by the Americans, as were all suggestions made by him in an effort to change the course of action. Ultimately, the fact that decisions were made without thought to Canada aggravated Diefenbaker, which led to him not helping the U.S. as he was greatly offended.

President Kennedy also greatly offended Diefenbaker. Diefenbaker had a very bad relationship with Kennedy because they were two vastly different people, Kennedy was greatly supportive of Diefenbaker’s opposition, and Kennedy’s popularity seemed to eclipse even his own. The two men were from drastically different backgrounds; they spanned a considerable generation gap and held divergent personal philosophies, making it very difficult for them to agree on anything. Diefenbaker was Protestant and a self-made man, while Kennedy was Catholic and had inherited wealth. Knowlton Nash could...

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