Subsequent efforts to cut arsenals or keep weapons from ‘bad guys’ have inured the public from the real danger: the nukes themselves.

by Jim Walsh, Responsible Statecraft

Perhaps the fates (or the laws of probability) are having a bit of fun at our expense, or maybe this is their way of providing yet another warning, but the possibility of nuclear war is once again in the air, as it was 60 years ago this month during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Trying to understand today’s problems through the lens of history and historical example is always fraught. Circumstances change with the times; today is not yesterday. Still, human beings are more or less the same. The biases, impulses, and hubris that influenced decision-making in 1962 are alive and well despite the species’ best efforts.

Rusty Soviet missile from 1962 Carribean crisis standing in la Cabana fortress, Havana, Cuba

So what can the Cuban Missile Crisis tell us about today’s nuclear dangers? First, it reveals lessons that were obvious then and that have stood the passage of time. But it can also tell us something today that could not have been understood in the moment or even years later.

When the Soviet Union decided to place nuclear weapons in Cuba, it did not anticipate that the United States would react so strongly (what specialists refer to as “freaking out”) or that the national security team would actually recommend a military strike and invasion of the country.

Read More