Tag Archives: cuban missile crisis

Avoiding Needless Wars, Part 6: North Korea

Over the last few months, North Korea has severely tested the world’s patience. It conducted its third nuclear test, canceled the armistice ending the Korean War, threatened the US with nuclear ruin, warned foreigners to leave the country because war was imminent, cut its hotline with South Korea, and readied a missile for firing. This shrill, irrational behavior seems to confirm the conventional wisdom that North Korea is a rogue nation, run by a nut job – end of story. In that perspective, there is little we can do other than hope that our military power deters them from following through on their hair-brained threats. While there is truth in that perspective, it pays to examine some other hypotheses which, if true, would give us more effective options for reducing the risk of a needless war. Continue reading

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Avoiding Needless Wars, Part 5: Operation Northwoods

Operation Northwoods is a prime example of why we need to raise critical questions before going to war. Written seven months before the Cuban Missile Crisis, this formerly top secret proposal by the Joint Chiefs of Staff suggested ways to build public support for an American invasion of Cuba, including: “A ‘Remember the Maine’ incident could be arranged … We could blow up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba. … [Or] we could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington. … [fostering] attempts on lives of Cuban refugees in the United States even to the extent of wounding.” Continue reading

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Who Done It?

Who wrote JFK’s “airstrike speech?” Kennedy’s usual speechwriter, Ted Sorensen, emphatically denied writing it: Continue reading

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JFK’s Airstrike Speech

How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have played out if President Kennedy, instead of a naval blockade, had ordered air strikes to destroy the missiles, followed by an invasion of Cuba? Would I be here to write this post, or you to read it? Continue reading

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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 … Continue reading

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Poking the Russian Bear and Baiting the Chinese Dragon

In my seminar on “Nuclear Weapons, Risk, and Hope,” I emphasize the need for paying attention to early warning signs before a disaster involving nuclear weapons occurs. For example, in one of my course handouts, I identify six key steps that led to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, and demonstrate how, by July 2008, we had repeated five and a half of those mistakes. Continue reading

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Former General and Ambassador Asks Insightful Questions

Last week, I was privileged to hear my friend and colleague, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, speak on the future of the American military at Stanford University’s annual Payne Lecture. Given that he is a retired three-star general and former ambassador to Kabul, what he said will probably surprise you. Stanford’s news service has a more complete write-up of his talk, but here are the key excerpts: Continue reading

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Let’s Not Repeat the Mistakes of October 1962

The Cuban Missile Crisis surprised both Kennedy and Khrushchev because neither had adequately thought through how the other would respond to his actions. Each side saw its own moves as purely defensive, while the other side’s were perceived as offensive. The world cannot survive many crises of that magnitude, so it behooves us to better understand Russia’s current perspective. Yesterday, the Russian news service Interfax carried the following article with the headline, “USA, NATO Not Planning Attack But Still Pose Risk To Russia:” Continue reading

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Heading for Another Cuban Missile Crisis?

My last post warned that our current approach to missile defense has the potential to ignite a new Cuban crisis, comparable to that of 1962, something I also had warned of in a post back in 2008. So imagine my surprise and concern when, soon after completing that post, I came acros an article in RT (formerly Russia Today) entitled US and Russia: heading for another ‘Cuban missile crisis?’ Continue reading

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Russian-American Relations: Reset or Reload?

Yesterday’s issue of the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that our Ambassador-designate to Russia, Michael McFaul, was “one of the authors of the American-Russian reload.” I was familiar with President Obama’s efforts to reset Russian-American relations, so this seemed like an ominous new direction, especially for our ambassador to Russia. Fortunately, web searching showed that reload was used in some Russian accounts to mean reset, and was corrected in the version of the Kommersant article linked to above. But, for reasons given below, an important question still remains: “Are we resetting or reloading our relationship with Russia?” Continue reading

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