Dangerous Liaisons

Friday’s New York Times had an OpEd which highlights how superpower allies can threaten the national security, and even the existence, of their patrons. The article explains how, in 1962, Fidel Castro’s conviction that the US was dedicated to regime change in Cuba brought the world even closer to the brink of the nuclear abyss than any Americans realized. The article then argues that Iran’s similar fears carry that same risk today. While I highly recommend reading the entire, short OpEd, here are some key excerpts:

By ignoring Mr. Castro’s messianic martyrdom, both Kennedy and Khrushchev inadvertently pushed the world close to Armageddon. … The parallels between the Cuban missile crisis and today’s nuclear standoff with Iran are inexact, but eerie. Cuba then and Iran now share a revolutionary mind-set, a belief that Washington’s goal is regime change, and a conviction that nuclear weapons might guarantee their survival in the face of unrelenting American hostility. The third player in today’s crisis is not a superpower but Israel, which views a nuclear Iran as an unacceptable threat to its existence. Israel shares with Iran (and 1960s Cuba) a national narrative that is steeped in the glorification of military heroism in the face of potential defeat. …

Ignoring Cuba’s insecurities 50 years ago pushed the world to the brink of catastrophe. Today we must be wary of backing the Iranians into a corner so that they feel they must choose between capitulation and martyrdom. In 1962, the Soviets just barely stopped the Cubans; this time, there is no Khrushchev.

Martin Hellman

For further reading, see my paper, “Fifty Years After the Cuban Missile Crisis: Time to Stop Bluffing at Nuclear Poker,” and my web site, Defusing the Nuclear Threat.

About Martin Hellman

I am a professor at Stanford University, best known for my invention of public key cryptography -- the technology that protects the secure part of the Internet, such as electronic banking. But, for almost 30 years, my primary interest has been how fallible human beings can survive possessing nuclear weapons, where even one mistake could be catastrophic. My latest project is a book with the audacious subtitle "Creating True Love at Home & Peace on the Planet." Its soon to open website explains: https://anewmap.com.
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One Response to Dangerous Liaisons

  1. I’ve discovered in my writings and researches on the Iranian crisis that one of the three Israeli options is regime change (“de-capitation”), but there is some feeling–even in the U.S. intelligence community — that the Iranian crisis has been “cooked up” to hide the Settlement question, & ultimately, avoidance of a fair & just political settlement of the Palestinian imboglio. It is another example how a political question — sometimes not related to a security question at all — becomes a nuclear crisis!

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