The Cuban Missile Crisis Revisited

Why It Matters Who Blinked

Deborah Leff, Director of the John F. Kennedy Library, points to a map of Cuba annotated by former U.S. president Kennedy at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts, July 13, 2005.  Brian Snyder / Reuters

Map showing the full range of the nuclear missiles under construction in Cuba, used during the secret meetings on the Cuban crisis. (The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum)

James A. Nathan

Graham Allison ("The Cuban Missile Crisis at 50," July/August 2012) seems to believe that U.S. President John F. Kennedy's handling of the Cuban missile crisis was an unalloyed success. He also contends that the Kennedy administration's response to the crisis forms a template for the kind of steadfast resolve that U.S. policymakers should adopt today, specifically with regard to Iran and North Korea. But the Cuban missile crisis was hardly a triumph of presidential fortitude. At the core of Kennedy's strategy was a deal: the United States pledged to remove its missiles from Turkey within six months in exchange for the Soviet Union's withdrawal of its nuclear forces from Cuba.

The Soviet side

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