Posts Tagged ‘Cuban missile crisis’

The passing scene: Links & comments 1/7/2022

January 7, 2022

Here are links to some articles I found interesting.

The Cuban Missile War Timeline by “Amerigo Vespucci” for altnernatehistory.com.

I remember the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. I didn’t take the danger of nuclear war seriously at the time because I understood that neither President Kennedy nor Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev were crazy enough to start one. What I didn’t understand was how easily things could get out of control.

A contributor to the alternate history web log wrote an interesting speculation as to what might have happened if a few things had gone otherwise than as they did—a U-2 plane shot down over Cuba, a Soviet submarine commander who thought he was under attack firing his nuclear missile.

The writer is well-informed about U.S. and Soviet capabilities, positioning of armed forces and likely military strategies. He presents a convincing account of what a nuclear war would have been like and what the aftermath would have been.

Yes, the USA could have “won” a nuclear exchange. More of us Americans would have survived than those on the other side. I don’t think the Chinese would have escaped unscathed as the writer assumes. Daniel Ellsberg’s book tells us that the U.S. nuclear strategy, in the event of war, was to obliterate the USSR and China both.

All too many people make light of the risks of going to the brink of nuclear war.  They say it hasn’t happened yet.  Yes, but it only needs to happen once.

Frederick Douglass’s library by Julian Abagond.

When I visit someone for the first time, I always sneak a look at the person’s bookshelf.  It’s one way of getting to know them.

Frederick Douglass, the great African-American freedom fighter, had a library of thousands of books.  A blogger named Julian Abagond listed some of the highlights.  Particular favorites, according to Abagond, included The Colombia Orator, a textbook on public speaking with selections from great speeches, and the Bible, the works of Shakespeare, the poetry of Robert Burns and Charles Dickens’ Bleak House.

Douglass of course owned and read works by and about black people and their history, struggles and achievements, but his interests were wide-ranging and included history, politics, literature and science.  The National Park Service has the complete list.  

He had no formal schooling whatever.  As a slave, he was not supposed to learn to read.  He did it on the sly, by paying a white boy to teach him his ABCs.  He went on from there to educate himself.  He associated on equal terms with some of the leading intellectuals of his time.

Lucille of the Libs by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.

Rod Dreher, a leading conservative Christian writer, wrote a moving article on the sacrifices required to be a good husband or wife, and a good parent.  He drew on the Kenny Rogers country-and-western song, “Lucille”; the movie, “The Secret Life of Dentists”; and an article by Atlantic senior editor Honor Jones about why she divorced her loving husband and father of her children in order to live for herself.

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One Soviet sub officer averted World War Three

February 6, 2015

Hat tip to Washington’s Blog.

I probably owe my life, along with most Americans, Europeans and Russians who were alive on October 27, 1962, to Vasily Arkipov, a Soviet submarine officer whose name I’d never heard of until this morning.

During the Cuban missile crisis, the Soviet Union sent four submarines with nuclear torpedoes to Cuban waters.   One of those submarines, the B-59, came under attack from depth charges from an American destroyer.

These were dummy charges, intended to make the submarine surface, but Valantin Savitsky, the sub commander, did not know this.   He ordered a nuclear torpedo to be prepared for firing at the USS Randolf, a giant aircraft carrier leading the blockade of Cuba.

The submarine officers were allowed to launch nuclear weapons on their own initiative.  The only condition was that all three senior officers agree.  One officer, Vasily Arkipov, refused permission.  But for him, World War Three would have begun.

I remember the Cuban missile crisis vividly.   I was not afraid because it seemed to me that it was all bluff.  I did not think either John F. Kennedy nor Nikita Khrushchev would be so crazy as to begin a nuclear war.  Only later did I realize how great the danger really was.

There have been more close calls since then, when war was averted only by the good judgment of an American or Soviet officer on duty at the time.   As long as both countries have nuclear weapons, the danger exists.   We can’t count on being lucky every time.  We only have to be unlucky once.

The USA is now flirting with war with Russia over Ukraine.   I do not think either Barack Obama or Vladimir Putin would be so crazy as to begin a nuclear war—not intentionally.  But the risk of war is just as great now as it was then.

LINKS

Thank you, Vasily Arkipov, the man who stopped nuclear war by Edward Wilson for The Guardian.

A Man You’ve Never Heard of Saved Your Life by “George Washington” for Washington’s Blog.

What Stephen F. Cohen & Other Liberals Get Wrong About Obama & Ukraine’s War by Eric Zuesse for Washington’s Blog.