October 22, 1962
On this day, 50 years ago, President Kennedy, went on the air to inform the American people and the World that there was a crisis brewing in Cuban. The Americans had learned that the Russians were installing missiles in Cuban with nuclear warheads. This was unacceptable to the United States. The country was on the highest alert ever in peacetime.. The Russians must remove the missiles or the United States would respond militarily. The Doomsday Clock had just moved forward to one minute to Midnight. This was to be to closest the World has ever come to WWIII and a nuclear holocaust of unthinkable proportion. The World held it breath as the three men that held the future of humanity in their hands struggled as leaders of their countries and as intelligent human beings who had to bring their personal and political judgement to bear to resolve the conflict.
President John F. Kennedy as we remember that day.
The American people knew what the stakes were and protested and prayed for peace.
With Fidel Castro as a loose cannon willing to see his country and people destroyed if necessary to launch a nuclear attack on the United States, the two men, Khrushchev and Kennedy, with cooler heads and the responsibility to resolve the crisis, exchanged correspondences setting forth their demands. As it turned out they were rational men whose life experiences let them know what the real stakes were. The quickly came to recognize the humanity in each other and their shared fear. Kennedy has served in WWII and saw that overwhelming military force did not cause the Japanese to give up and Khrushchev has fought in the Eastern Front in the Soviet Union and saw the human cost of war up close. His country had lost 20 million citizens in WWII. A nuclear war with the US would cost so many more, perhaps, 100 million on each side. They found a solution.. In the mean time so many uncontrolled incidents could have started the war: the US military was pushing for a military solution, the shooting down of a U2 Spy plane and the lose of its pilot, the defiance of the Russian ship, Bucharest, crossing the blockade line, a Russian submarine commander not firing a nuclear tipped torpedo. Anyone of these could have started the war. Cooler head prevailed. There was also the possibility that the exchanges of letters and threats and demands would be misunderstood and cause one side or the other to make a preemptive strike.
In the end, everyone got something:: the Americans got to see the Russians back down and withdraw their missiles. The Russians got a commitment from the United States that they would not attack Cuba, (every administration since has honoured this) and secretly the Americans agreed to remove missiles from Turkey (on Russia border). Cuba got to survive. Fidel Castro is still with us and has had a chance for redemption, understand his willingness to use the missiles was wrong.
For a very interesting presentation and understanding of the Crisis and the three men involved I highly suggest we all read The Armageddon Letters
imaginatively presented on this website. Watch each of the videos and see how an understanding of the minds of the men involved managed to deal with the crisis and resolve it.
We should have learned many things from this crisis. First, we must rid the World of Nuclear Weapons. They are not a choice. Also, Military superiority has limited utility in resolving conflicts that are political. Small wars and threats of wars can get out of control. Leaders of countries must come to know each other and understand the human as well as the political motivations.
Only now after many years have passed and the cold war has faded into history can we laugh at some black humour that makes us shutter when we fully reflect on how close we came to realizing our greatest fear.
Knowing what we know now, this would have been a good year to award posthumously the Nobel Peace Prize to John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev , after all their humanity saved Humanity.