View Full Version : Why We Should Still Study the Cuban Missile Crisis

06-06-2008, 10:30 PM
USIP, 5 Jun 08: Why We Should Still Study the Cuban Missile Crisis (http://www.usip.org/pubs/specialreports/sr205.pdf)


- Some scholars have questioned the utility of studying the Cuban missile crisis as a model for executive decision making during times of crisis, arguing that it offers little guidance for policymakers today.

- Many accounts of the missile crisis are incomplete, inaccurate, and too narrowly focused on the “rational actors” at the center of the drama while overlooking the “irrational actors.”

- Nonetheless, the Cuban missile crisis remains the best-documented study of presidential decision making at a time of supreme national danger. It offers policymakers and students of history unique insights into the interplay between the debates in the Oval Office and fast-moving events in the rest of the world.

- For decades, the Cuban missile crisis has been studied and analyzed as a case study in presidential power and crisis management. It is better understood as an example of the limits of presidential power and the haphazard returns of crisis management.

- The missile crisis illustrates the sometimes pivotal role of personality in politics. Had someone else been president in October 1962, the outcome could have been very different.
Complete 12 page paper at the link.

Another source on the historical issue:

....Over the next five weeks, the National Security Archive (http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/) will publish some of the key primary sources behind One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War (http://www.amazon.com/One-Minute-Midnight-Kennedy-Khrushchev/dp/1400043581/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1212425406&sr=8-1). The new information includes such episodes as a startling Soviet plan to destroy the Guantanamo naval base (http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/cuba_mis_cri/dobbs/index.htm), the storage and handling of Soviet nuclear weapons on Cuba, and the “Eyeball to Eyeball” confrontation between U.S. and Soviet ships that never happened.

The revelations in One Minute to Midnight shed new light on presidential decision-making at moments of supreme tension.....

06-07-2008, 12:56 AM
This is an excellent book:

It's been years since I read it and didn't realize there was a second edition out until I found it on Amazon.

A great historical overview coupled with excellent analysis of the political actors and organizational processes involved. Some might see it as mainly a political science focused book; indeed I first read it in Public Policy 321. Still this book's framework forms the basis of how I think about governments to this day.

An interesting snippet that I remember:
U.S. spies in Havana noticed Soviet troops unloading from ships, forming up and marching off the docks like they were in red square. Some saw this as a provocation,

yet look at it through the eyes of a Soviet NCO; you are told to move your unit off the ship and to a designated barracks or bivouac area, how do you do it?

I'll have to check out the 2nd edition to see what new is added.