Tuesday, October 16, 2012


A nuke is a very tense four letter word.

Fifty years ago today, President Kennedy was notified by his intelligence agencies that nuclear missiles were being installed less than a hundred miles from the United States, in Cuba. He convened his senior military and political advisors. The military advocated for and began to prepare for an attack against Cuba and, potentially, the Soviet Union who had installed the missiles.

A few days later, Kennedy went on national TV to alert the nation to what was transpiring and to announce a naval blockade of Cuba. The Navy quarantined the island against advancing Soviet supply ships. The Air Force increased its surveilance flights, as well as put its nuclear weapons on the highest state of readiness. Forces were placed on DEFCON 2, just one step short of war. The crisis continued to escalate for several days...

... until there are desperate, and sometimes unclear, communications from Soviet leaders trying to negotiate a reduction in the tension. Amidst personal suspicion, and warnings from his advisors, Kennedy listened. Just as quickly as things seemed to escalate to the point of being out of control... tensions reduce. Both sides agree to compromises. The troops stand down. The missiles are removed.

In the wake of the Crisis, both sides agreed that more communication was necessary. A "hotline" was instituted between the US and Soviet Union, and was used several times over the years to make sure actions and intentions were clear. The two sides, realizing how close they had come, began to talk about nuclear disarmament.

But people do not forget how close we had come in 1962 to a nuclear war. And how it was the simple act of communication that defused tensions.

Something to think about. And talk about.