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Cuban Missile Crisis


Today is the 53d anniversary of the day that President John Kennedy's advisors first informed him of the photographic evidence of offensive missiles in Cuba.

Thus, Oct. 16th might be considered the date of the start of the crisis that was resolved 12 days later, when Nikita Khrushchev publicly agreed to the dismantling or withdrawal of those missiles.

The Cuban Missile Crisis is important not only as one intense incident within the long Cold War, a stand-off stretching from 1945 to 1987. It is important as an example of game theory playing itself out in great power politics. The key was that the President had solid domestic political reasons not to be seen making concessions to the Soviet in return for the withdrawal of these missiles. Nonetheless, he also understood that he had to make some sort of concessions to NK in return for the withdrawal of these missiles.

The key concession was successfully kept secret not only at that time, but for more than a decade thereafter: JFK agreed to the withdrawal of the Jupiter missiles (the sort diagrammed above) from southern Italy and Turkey, as a quo pro quo. But as a political matter, he had to pretend that he had made no such agreement. The quid pro quo would have seemed a matter of weakness.

[I'm not clear now on when and through what means the news of this agreement became declassified/public knowledge. I've done a bit of googling but no hard research on the question. A little steerage from a reader of this blog in the right direction would be appreciated.]

At any rate, it seems to me that this act of deception had lamentable consequences. For the remainder of the Cold War period, there was a war-whoop party int he US that believed that if the US only when to the brink repeatedly and made its willingness to incite Armageddon known, the other side would back down on issue after issue. The resolution of the Cuba crisis, as the public falsely understood it, was an exhibit used by the war-whoop party each time.

It is a lucky thing we all survived the combination of nuclear confrontation and such deception.


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