October 16, 2015

WORSE THAN YOU DREAMT:

The Real Cuban Missile Crisis : Everything you think you know about those 13 days is wrong : a review of The Cuban Missile Crisis in American Memory By Sheldon M. Stern  (BENJAMIN SCHWARZ  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2013, The Atlantic)

In the 1960 presidential election, Kennedy had cynically attacked Richard Nixon from the right, claiming that the Eisenhower-Nixon administration had allowed a dangerous "missile gap" to grow in the U.S.S.R.'s favor. But in fact, just as Eisenhower and Nixon had suggested--and just as the classified briefings that Kennedy received as a presidential candidate indicated--the missile gap, and the nuclear balance generally, was overwhelmingly to America's advantage. At the time of the missile crisis, the Soviets had 36 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), 138 long-range bombers with 392 nuclear warheads, and 72 submarine-launched ballistic-missile warheads (SLBMs). These forces were arrayed against a vastly more powerful U.S. nuclear arsenal of 203 ICBMs, 1,306 long-range bombers with 3,104 nuclear warheads, and 144 SLBMs--all told, about nine times as many nuclear weapons as the U.S.S.R. Nikita Khrushchev was acutely aware of America's huge advantage not just in the number of weapons but in their quality and deployment as well. [...]

Given America's powerful nuclear superiority, as well as the deployment of the Jupiter missiles, Moscow suspected that Washington viewed a nuclear first strike as an attractive option. They were right to be suspicious. The archives reveal that in fact the Kennedy administration had strongly considered this option during the Berlin crisis in 1961.

Indeed, after the USSR fell, officials there acknowledged that at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis they lacked the capacity to strike the US.  The failure to launch a first strike was a colossal failure on our part.

Posted by at October 16, 2015 3:21 PM
  

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