Who Cares About the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Who Cares About the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Kingston Reif |
Oct 09, 2012 |

Well, the big day is nearly here. I'm getting married this weekend, to be followed by a 10 day honeymoon in Italy. That obviously means there will be no blogging from me for the next 2.5 weeks or so, lest my soon-to-be wife never speak to me again. But the beat must go on. Usha, Laicie, Nick, Rachel, and Eve will be holding down the fort while I'm gone.

As a quick parting shot, I leave you with this short video starring my former professor James Blight on the topic of the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis and it's relevance today.

Jim and his wife janet's ingenious project, dubbed the "Armageddon Letters", literally brings the Cuban Missile Crisis to life. You can read all about it here. I'll be speaking at conference on the crisis organized by Jim and janet at the University of Waterloo's Balsille School of International Affairs in late October.


As regular readers of the blog already know, the Cuban Missile Crisis has had an enormous impact on how I think about the nuclear danger. For more of my thoughts on the matter, see here, here, andhere. The next few weeks will showcase numerous op-eds and articles on the 50th anniversary; indeed, some big heavyweights have already weighed in.

Supporters of maintaining the nuclear status quo argue that by making war unthinkable, nuclear weapons keep us safe. But the Cuban Missile Crisis provides clear evidence that deterrence is not sacrosanct. Neither Kennedy, Khrushchev, nor Castro wanted a nuclear war, but one almost happened anyway. The use of nuclear weapons is possible even if no one desires such an outcome, especially during a deep crisis in which empathy is in short supply, military forces are on high alert, accurate information is unavailable, and events on the ground cannot be controlled.

While the likelihood of a global nuclear war has greatly diminished since the end of the Cold War, the risk that a conflict or war could lead to the use of nuclear weapons has not disappeared (see India and Pakistan, to name one particularly worrisome potential flashpoint). And let's not forget the threat posed by nuclear terrorism. Nuclear abolition (for which I believe the Cuban Missile Crisis provides powerful supporting evidence) is daunting and not risk-free itself, but there are steps that can and must be taken now to reduce the chances of a nuclear nightmare.

I plan to expand on these themes in my talk at the Balsille School. Stay tuned.