Missile crisis? what missile crisis?

December 20, 2007 at 1:00 am 2 comments

Kim photo BowralAt first I felt sorry for White House press secretary, Dana Perino, a 35-year old who seems to have no idea that once the USA and the Soviet Union eyeballed each other across 90 miles or so during October 1962. And for 13 days, the world held its collective breath and hoped that the planet didn’t go up in nuclear smoke. Suppose if we had, we wouldn’t need to worry about heating up in a climate change fry up!

Apparently, a reporter referred to the Cuban Missile Crisis and Ms Perino:

“….panicked a bit because I really don’t know about . . . the Cuban Missile Crisis… It had to do with Cuba and missiles, I’m pretty sure.

Admittedly, she had the good humour to retell the story on US radio but I began to wonder. How did she miss out on learning about the Cuban Missile Crisis? According to my cunning maths ability, she was born around 1972 and went to primary school in the early 1980s and high school in the mid-1980s. That would make it about 20-25 years since the missile crisis took place – hardly ancient history. And surely a landmark crisis in US history – handsome JFK staring down a gnarly looking Khrushchev, with a bearded Castro in the middle of it all muttering away about challenging US hegemony in the Western hemisphere. Heck, even I learnt about the missile crisis in an Australian high school.

Obviously, Dana is no CJ Cregg. At a time when Cuba is gaining more relevance to US foreign policy, I would have thought a White House press secretary would need to know her US history and post WWII domestic foreign policy. Perhaps she skipped the US history classes in high school. So the Wall Street Journal suggests a last minute Christmas gift for Dana – a book voucher for the book I’m eagerly awaiting: the 2008 publication of Michael Dobbs’ One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev an Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War. Or she could watch the absolutely fab film Thirteen Days if a weighty tome is too much reading.

In the meantime, she could brush up on her history knowledge by using the handy American History curriculum resources here – note to Dana, see heading Post War Foreign Policy.

I was thinking: US Presidents during WWI and II were usually seasoned war veterans. Kennedy of course was a decorated WWII hero. So there’s an argument to say they approached crises with cautious assessment. Kennedy rejected the recommendation of his Joint Chiefs of Staff to launch a pre-emptive strike against Cuba. Can you imagine if the Cuban Missile crisis had happened during the current Bush administration? Cheney would have said: “Where’s the button? I’ll see if I can hit Cuba, but I’m not a great shot. Remember I recently shot a fellow hunter accidentally”. Bush would mutter something about weapons of mass destruction and terrorists – and the world would be kaput.

Arthur Schlesinger Jr, New Deal historian and intellectual-in-residence during the Camelot era (and who died in 2007) wrote a measured piece on Bush’s Thousand Days for The Washington Post in 2006 and said: “The Cuban missile crisis was not only the most dangerous moment of the Cold War. It was the most dangerous moment in all human history“. He further said:

“….(US) Cold War presidents kept to the Kennan formula of containment plus deterrence, and we won the Cold War without escalating it into a nuclear war. Enter George W. Bush as the great exponent of preventive war. In 2003, owing to the collapse of the Democratic opposition, Bush shifted the base of American foreign policy from containment-deterrence to presidential preventive war: Be silent; I see it, if you don’t. Observers describe Bush as “messianic” in his conviction that he is fulfilling the divine purpose”.

Think about it: Cuban Missile Crisis under Bush – too awful to imagine.

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Entry filed under: Politics, Reflections. Tags: .

Prove who you are! White House tweaks the truth?

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Hector Autry  |  December 20, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    You wrote, “How did she miss out on learning about the Cuban Missile Crisis?”

    That’s a good question, and here’s another. How did the American public miss the fact that people were killed by the enemy while on active duty during the Cold War? We have Cold War Heroes, but the public seems to have ‘missed’ that fact. Just to refresh the collective memory, here are a few examples:

    – Seaman Duane Hodges, USN, USS Pueblo, Killed by North Korean Shelling, January 23, 1968

    – PFC Walter Boyd, USMC, Killed in Action in Operation to rescue SS Mayaguez from Khmer Rouge May 15. 1975

    – MAJ Arthur D. Nicholson, Jr. Shot by Soviet Soldier in East Germany March 24, 1985. (Later died from the wound.)

    – SGT Gregory Fronius March 31, 1987 Killed in Action, El Salvador, US Army, 7th Special Forces Group

    …and the list goes on.
    (For a more complete list, and the names and faces, go to:
    http://www.americancoldwarvets.org/cold_war_heroes.html )

    We also have Cold War veterans. How in blazes can you have a war without having veterans? I’m amazed that for the 10th year in a row the Pentagon has snubbed the thousands upon thousands of Cold War veterans by denying them a Cold War Service Medal.

    Reply
  • 2. Frank Tims  |  December 20, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    The White House does not know that Major Rudolf Anderson, USAF, was shot down over Cuba in October 1962 by a Soviet Army missile crew, on orders from their commander? Cold war? What Cold War?

    Reply

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