Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Difference Between the Cuban Missile Crisis and our Current Crisis

Center for Citizen Initiatives

The Difference Between the Cuban Missile Crisis and our Current Crisis

My friend, John Pepper, remains a student/thinker/philosopher at heart, even though he was CEO of a major US corporation for years. Occasionally after reading a historic tome which has relevance for today, he sends his ponderings.
John’s latest note below speaks to the differences between the 1960s Cuban Missile Crisis and the threat of WWIII breaking out in the Middle East today. My 1962 memory is fleeing on a plane to get my children to Kentucky, hoping we might be out-of-range if our home in Dallas was hit. Also the overwhelming relief felt when it was announced on TV that the crisis was over. In today’s terms the Cuban crisis was the result of an early attempt at “regime change” complete with plans to assassinate another leader, Castro.
It’s instructive how the Cuban crisis was resolved in 1962––apparently it was most diplomatic with the two leaders coming out of it respectful of each other. Khrushchev and Kennedy’s agreements were worked out in private and not made public––both gave up something and both got something. It was totally different from behaviors of decision makers over the past few years in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Ukraine, Syria, and various other hot spots like Yemen. All the while, these heinous incursions across the Middle East create more refugees, deaths, hatred of the U.S., and more destruction of ancient civilizations and artifacts––and greater chances that WWIII will erupt.
Ponder John’s points and the compounded danger of today where strident and arrogant political decision-making is discussed on TV while the few attempts toward diplomacy are broken a week or two afterward.

September 30, 2016

The Cuban Missile Crisis–What It Has To Teach

John Pepper
In reading the recent biography of Robert Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon by Larry Tye, I have acquired a very different understanding of the Cuban Missile Crisis and its relevance to the challenging geo-political situation we face today.

I had always looked at this crisis rather simply. The Soviet Union had been continuing to extend its military reach, planting missiles in Cuba, threatening the United States. In terms of fact, that was a reality.

But the background to it needs to be understood. In the first days of John Kennedy’s presidency, we had launched an aborted attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro. A fiasco. But the effort to overthrow, and indeed assassinate, Castro didn’t stop there. Under the leadership of Bobby Kennedy, we pursued what was known as “Operation Mongoose.” It involved the CIA and other operatives, again with the intent of overthrowing the Castro government, including plans to assassinate him. Russia was well aware of this. To stave off this continued effort to overthrow the Castro government and put in place one of our own liking, 

Russia decided to put missiles in Cuba as an overhanging threat to dissuade us from regime change.

The resolution of this crisis also needs to be understood. As most famously told, we threatened to attack Cuba to wipe out the missile facilities unless Russia agreed to remove them. And, in a tension-filled encounter, their ships, carrying more missiles, turned back and they agreed to withdraw what they had placed there.

But this only happened because of a balanced, negotiated agreement. The United States agreed to never invade Cuba. And while this was not to be announced, we agreed that we would, within six months, remove missiles that we had in Turkey, which Russia looked at as a threat to their country. It was a “quid pro quo” agreement.
Flash forward to today. Russia is extremely concerned about missiles that we are stationing in Eastern Europe. They are concerned about what was a genuine effort at one point to have Ukraine become linked unilaterally with the West and very likely proceed toward participation in NATO. This was more than Russia could stomach, just as having missiles in Cuba was more than we could stomach.
The overhanging risk of nuclear war played a major role in bringing both sides to the table back then in 1962. It should be no less of an incentive to do so today.