The Long Shadow of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Friday, October 19, 2012


We've inherited a myth from the Cuban Missile Crisis that compromise is for the weak, a myth that’s long been contradicted by the facts. And yet it still casts a long dark shadow over the policy-makers in Washington, according to recent issues of both Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy magazines. Brooke speaks with Leslie Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. He says he had first-hand experience with the cherished notion that America's strength lies in rigidity.

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Leslie H. Gelb

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Brooke Gladstone

Comments [1]


The "national myth" seems to continue with persistent omissions in the media narrative today.

A major concession missing entirely from the discussion is that the US agreed never to invade Cuba.
The missiles in Turkey are long forgotten but generations of Cubans were sentenced to stiflingly servitude which continues to this day because of that decision.

The role of Castro and Che's dealing with former Stalinist henchmen Khrushchev and Mikoyan is also omitted.
It seems Castro and Che were desperately trying to cause a confrontation with the US which included the shooting down of a U-2 spy plane at the loss of the heroic pilot who provided the photographic evidence that Adlai Stevenson would famously exhibit at the UN. Does this first casualty of the crisis highlight Castro and Che's eagerness to unleash a war? Did Khrushchev fear Castro would take over the nuclear bases which hastened the Soviets to quickly withdraw the weapons? If Cuban documents are publicly revealed someday perhaps the criminal recklessness of that leadership will be confirmed and the positive myths of Castro and Che will be discredited.
This crisis proves that fears of Castro were accurate and Kennedy was foolish to dismiss prescient warnings from Republican US Senator Kenneth Keating who months earlier expressed deep concern about the possibilities of Soviet nuclear weapons in Cuba.

As for "rigidity," one needed only look at a map of Germany, Eastern Europe or Korea in 1962 to know the US was regularly compromising with Communist forces and lack of rigidity was hardly a secret.

Wasn't Dean Rusk's famous "eye-ball to eye-ball" remark not about the crisis as a whole but of the US Navy's successful confrontation with Soviet ships and submarines that were turned back from Cuba?
Years later it was discovered that the Soviet subs were armed with nuclear tipped torpedoes that could obliterate an entire fleet. Those men on those ships were indeed in an existential stand-off with the Soviets ending with the US Navy forcing the Soviets to halt or turn back.
The famous quote from Rusk seems an apt description of that critical moment in world history.

Of course obligatory George W. Bush slights and fatuous comparions between atheistic Marxists and Islamic theocrats with nuclear weapons intended to comfort doves and deride hawks are inserted into the discussion.
If only progressives gave Republican political candidates as much benefit of the doubt as they do Communist and Islamic tyrants.

Oct. 21 2012 11:05 AM

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