Professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction, this study examines the lessons that can still be learned from the famous Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
In what was the most serious "clash" during the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union came dangerously close to thermonuclear war when their Superpower rivalry manifested itself with the placement of nuclear weapons on the Island of Cuba in October 1962. This potentially cataclysmic incident brought policy makers on both sides to seriously question their use of diplomacy, intelligence, nuclear weapons, military force, and to moderate their somewhat simplistic foreign policy rhetoric of national interests. Both sides had advanced to the edge of the precipice overlooking nuclear war, and had stepped back; staunchly determined to avoid any possibilities of a reoccurrence.
In an article written by Mr. Eliot A. Cohen, " Why We Should Stop Studying the Cuban Missile Crisis" Mr. Cohen argues that this incident should no longer be considered by political-military students of history as the classic case model for national security decision-making. Mr. Cohen argues that "the Cuban Missile Crisis is and will remain singularly un-representative of post-war crises, and it offers precious little historical guidance for American statesmen today." I disagree with Mr. Cohen.
I believe there are many lessons that can still be learned from the Cuban Missile Crisis. First, in the absence of another incident of this magnitude between the Superpowers, what other event can be considered representative of effective crisis management and national security decision making? Secondly, the strategic intelligence advantage that President John F. Kennedy held over his adversary, Nikita Khrushchev, proved to be a decisive difference. Kennedy knew when Khrushchev was lying, what his capabilities were, and just as important, what they were not.
Additionally, in this day and age of high-tech, "Third Wave" theories of our national ability to depend upon technical intelligence collection and information warfare, Colonel Oleg Penkovsky stands as a classic example of the value of human intelligence operations. Without the information on Soviet missiles, launchers, and associated equipment that Colonel Penkovsky provided to the Central Intelligence Agency, American intelligence analysts could not have assured President Kennedy that he had three days to think about the problem and his options. In those three days, Kennedy wisely chose to continue his dialogue with Khrushchev, a dialogue that ended in a Soviet agreement to remove the missiles from Cuba.