Presentation on theme: "Unanswered Questions from the Cuban Missile Crisis Harvard September 2012."— Presentation transcript:
Unanswered Questions from the Cuban Missile Crisis Harvard September 2012
1. Why were the circumstances of 1962 so dangerous? Why was the ‘balance of terror’ so unstable? (if it was) U.S. nuclear superiority, the “first strike” threat, and the Berlin crisis
2. Why did the Soviet government devise this extraordinary plan? --significant ballistic missile force --with Soviet ground combat units --deployed in secret --fast: to be ready by November 62
2. Why did the Soviet government devise this extraordinary plan? Just after ‘Escalante affair’(Mar 62); just after approving arms transfers, including SAMs (Apr 62) – Know of JFK ‘no invasion’ messages to Cardona/CRC in March & April 62? Cubans don’t want, don’t quite understand Role of Malinovsky … Turkey but not about Turkey Berlin – the last deadline (late Nov 62) “Cure-all” … panacea: What was worth the risk?
3. Why did the US government discover the Soviet plan? Inevitable to discover before ready? Why “blind over Cuba?” Then, why that U2 mission? Why didn’t Soviets shoot it down? --Or even know they’d been overflown? Why missiles not better camoflauged?
4. Why was the US government ready to risk war to stop the Soviet plan? --we drew a line … so? --it was done secretly … so? --fear of domestic political embarassment? --macho culture of American elite of ‘62 … “Mad Men” New Frontiersmen? --to prevent an even greater risk of war … the Berlin crisis of November 62?
5. Why no war? Why US choose ultimatum/quarantine versus alternatives? After ultimatum of Oct 22, would JFK have ordered attack if NSK stood fast? RFK warning of Oct 27. Bluff? If not bluff, trapped by own position? -- vs attack uncertainties, Berlin danger, readiness of MRBMs? How serious the risk of inadvertent war?
6. Why was the crisis settled successfully? Soviet decisions on the quarantine When did the Soviet govt decide to yield? Why the public message of Oct 27? – Why not take up Jupiter ‘invite’ on Oct 26? – Why switch to public channel? Why yield – fast and publicly – on Oct 28? After UN deal blew up, was the Nov deal inevitable? Why was Berlin crisis shelved – permanently?
7. Why JFK “winner” and NSK “loser”? Was Oct 28 an indelible surrender? Soviet salvage options? US post-crisis “narrative” control? “Pure, dumb luck”?