How JFK Sacrificed Adlai Stevenson and the Lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis
In those interim years, the fictional story of how the missile crisis was resolved became foreign-policy folklore. None of the early memoirs by top Kennedy aides, such as Schlesinger and Sorensen, contained the real history. These incomplete accounts became the basis of the foreign-policy models and paradigms in political scientist Graham Allison’s highly influential book, Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis. A full generation of scholars, analysts, foreign-policy makers, and even presidents learned the wrong lessons from the most significant superpower conflict in modern history.
Sixty years later, however, the Biden administration at least has a more complete record of history to draw on as U.S. policymakers and the world confront another time of crisis in the nuclear age. How applicable the lessons of the missile crisis will prove to be in preventing an escalation of the Russia-Ukraine war remains unknown. But the mantra of reason that Stevenson shared with Kennedy in October 1962 seems more relevant than ever: “Blackmail and intimidation never, negotiation and sanity always.”
The Cuban Missile Crisis @ 60 How John F. Kennedy Sacrificed His Most Consequential Crisis Advisor