am 21. Dezember 2012
The Cuban missile crisis began and ended 50 years ago. Although it covered just a brief span of time - 13 days in October 1962 - its impact is still influential to U.S. policy toward proliferation in general and todays nuclear ambitions in Iran or North Korea in particular.
During these thirteen days, the future seemed to hang on a thread, U.S. military forces around the world were placed on high alert, and the huge fleet of B-52 Stratofortress nuclear bombers as well as land-based missiles under General Curtis LeMay of the SAC (Strategic Air Command) were moved to DEFCON-2 (Defense Condition Two), the highest state of readiness short of war.
This was the first and only time during the Cold War that the SAC reached such a level and that the U.S. and the Soviet Union came close to using nuclear weapons against each other. Shortly after the launch of Sputnik I in 1957, Nikita Khrushchev made the famous statement that he had a factory producing ballistic missiles “like sausages.” While this was patently untrue, the rest of the world had no way to see through this bluff; Khrushchev had his timing right because everybody was awed by the successful Sputnik mission. Only a handful of intelligence, military and political leaders knew that Soviet strategic forces were actually inferior to those of the United States. Troubled by this strategic imbalance, Khrushchev was convinced that there was enormous waste in the Soviet missile program. When he learned, in mid 1962, that the U.S. continued its deployment of intermediate-range Jupiter missiles pointed at Moscow (30 in Italy and 15 in Turkey), he was feeling encircled. “What about throwing one of our hedgehogs down the pants of Uncle Sam?” Khrushchev asked his defense minister Malinovsky (according to historian Colonel General Dmitri Volkogonov). The hedgehog was a Soviet nuclear missile, and by “down the pants of Uncle Sam,” he meant in the Caribbean.
A few months later, the ever-crafty Khrushchev connected the two ideas of Soviet military assistance for Cuban defense (in April 1961 John F. Kennedy had given the go ahead for the famously disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion and a new operation, code-named “Mongoose” was already on the planning board) and the strategic advantages for the Soviet Union – Cuba would become Moscow’s Italy or Turkey.
Michael Dobbs has studied American, Soviet, and Cuban sources to write a well informed book about the crisis that followed Khrushchev’s grand strategic design – and perhaps his greatest bluff. The author describes in great detail, day-by-day and in parts even hour-by-hour what Arthur Schlesinger jr. called “the most dangerous moment in human history.” Of course, when we look back on those thirteen tumultuous days in October 1962, we do so with the knowledge we have today. We know for example that Khrushchev would never have started a nuclear war; in the middle of the crisis he even ordered his commanders in Cuba to disobey any order to fire a single missile. One is forced to reconsider if President Kennedy really was the clear winner of this “Hell of a Gamble”. After all he had to make important concessions, like removing the Jupiter missiles from Turkey and Khrushchev had convinced the Americans to take Soviet strategic needs seriously.
Beschloss, Michael R.: The Crisis Years
Brugioni, Dino: Eyeball to Eyeball
Fursenko, Aleksander and Timothy Naftali: One Hell of a Gamble
Gibson, David R.: Talk at the Brink
Khrushchev, Sergei: Nikita Khrushchev
am 10. Oktober 2010
Das Buch besticht durch seine außergewöhnliche Aufmerksamkeit gegenüber den vielfältigen Details der Kuba-Krise, was durch die Schilderung in chronologischer Abfolge der Ereignisse sehr gut unterstützt wird. Dennoch gerät das Werk dadurch nicht zu einer dumpfen Aufzählung historischer Fakten, vielmehr versteht es der Autor ein lebendiges Bild der Geschehnisse entstehen zu lassen, geprägt durch das Spannungsfeld zwischen kurzfristigen Entscheidungen auf der einen Seite und andererseits den Erwägungen, die - ohne Übertreibung - die Zukunft der gesamten Menschheit betreffen. Faszinierend und ebenso erschreckend ist dabei, wie häufig die obersten Entscheidungsträger die äußerst angespannte Lage nicht unter vollständiger Kontrolle hatten, wo der Fehler eines einzelnen Soldaten der Auslöser für einen nuklearen Schlagabtausch hätte sein können.
Obwohl es sich trotz guter Ausgewogenheit dennoch um eine historische Aufarbeitung handelt, die den Fokus auf das Agieren der USA legt, womit manche Aspekte der historischen Einbettung in den Hintergrund treten (stellvertretend sei die Stationierung der Jupiter-Raketen in der Türkei genannt), gebührt dem Autor Anerkennung für die Leistung, die er mit diesem Buch vorgelegt hat.
am 4. Oktober 2013
The book covers the events of the Cuba missile crisis, the options political leaders had and their decisions - everything on a high level of detail. The really scary thing about this crisis - and what the public is probably not aware or - is that it might easily have run out of control of Kennedy and Krushchev. For instance: Tactical nuclear missiles (to repel a US invasion) to were under control of hot-blooded Cuban (not Russian) front-line commanders. A Soviet sub that was forced to surface by US naval forces had nuclear torpedoes on bord that could have been fired by its commander even without re-confirmation from Soviet high command. So functioning command and control was not established at both conflicting parties.