Sunday, October 14, 2012

Thirteen Days In October: The Cuban Missile Crisis

Miami, Florida, 22 October 1962:  A Cuban refugee listens to President Kennedy's television address in which the president explained the United States' position on the Cuban situation to the American people and the world.  Photo courtesy:  Bettmann/CORBIS
On October 14, 1962, a United States Air Force U-2 plane on a photo-reconnaissance mission captured photographic proof of Soviet missile bases under construction in Cuba.

President Kennedy did not want the Soviet Union and Cuba to know that he had discovered the missiles. He met in secret with his advisors for several days to discuss the problem.

After many long and difficult meetings, Kennedy decided to place a naval blockade, or a ring of ships, around Cuba. The aim of this "quarantine," as he called it, was to prevent the Soviets from bringing in more military supplies. He demanded the removal of the missiles already there and the destruction of the sites. On October 22, President Kennedy spoke to the nation about the crisis in a televised address.

No one was sure how Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev would respond to the naval blockade and U.S. demands. But the leaders of both superpowers recognized the devastating possibility of a nuclear war and publicly agreed to a deal in which the Soviets would dismantle the weapon sites in exchange for a pledge from the United States not to invade Cuba. In a separate deal, which remained secret for more than twenty-five years, the United States also agreed to remove its nuclear missiles from Turkey. Although the Soviets removed their missiles from Cuba, they escalated the building of their military arsenal; the missile crisis was over, the arms race was not.

Another modern standoff is over Iran, which the West accuses of pursuing a nuclear weapons program. In a recent U.N. speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew a red line on a cartoon bomb to illustrate that a nuclear Tehran would not be tolerated.

"Take Iran, which I have called a Cuban Missile Crisis in slow motion," said Graham Allison, author of the groundbreaking study of governmental decision-making "Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis."

"This same process is looming on the current trajectory, inexorably, toward a confrontation at which an American president is going to have to choose between attacking Iran to prevent it becoming a nuclear weapons state or acquiescing and then confronting a nuclear weapons state," Allison said.

"Kennedy's idea would be, 'Don't let this reach the point of confrontation,'" he added. "The risks of catastrophe are too great."

2 comments:

  1. I was a senior in high school when this happened. I was thrilled that finally someone was going to stand up to the Russians! It was the high point of JFK's career.

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Stogie,

    I was in the fifth grade during the Cuban missile crisis. I remember all the school kids were taught to go under our desks in case of a missile strike.

    In retrospect, that wouldn't have saved a single soul. It was silly.

    ReplyDelete

Please scribble on my walls otherwise how will I know what you think, but please don’t try spamming me or you’ll earn a quick trip to the spam filter where you will remain—cold, frightened and all alone.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...