The other day I was telling my daughter what it was like to be alive in New York during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. I was twenty-seven at the time, living in a bachelor apartment near the United Nations, and dating a woman I had met in graduate school at the Russian Institute at Columbia.We had arranged to go to a movie on Friday night, and we talked on the phone on Wednesday.
“See you Friday,” I said as we were about to hang up.
“If there is a Friday,” she said.
My friend had a better sense of the situation than I did. When danger becomes too large and too overwhelming I tend not to focus on it but bury myself in the details of my everyday life. In that respect I think I am like a lot of people, for whom burying our heads in the sand is a survival instinct. But my friend could see the danger clearly—she knew if the worst happened we would not get to see that movie. Nuclear war could have broken out between the U.S. and Russia. Elements in our military were urging President Kennedy to attack, claiming that the U.S. had a nuclear superiority over the Soviet Union and should take advantage of it. The fact that 75% of Americans could be killed in a nuclear exchange did not deter these military advisers. President Kennedy did not take their advice, and that fact may be reason I was around to tell the story to my daughter, or that my daughter was even born at all. All I was aware of was a vague restlessness and unease. I couldn’t concentrate on my work, or on anything else. I had the feeling of something terrible lurking in the atmosphere, like the charge that builds up before a thunderstorm before the crack of lightening releases it.
I have a similar feeling now. A struggle has been going on beneath the surface, out of our sight and beyond our control, like a battle between the whale and the giant squid that takes place in the deep. Former Congressman Dennis Kucinich, twice a contender for the Democratic nomination for president, recently had this to say about the conflict over General Flynn, Trump’s former Director of National Security, who resigned because he withheld information from the Vice-President. “It’s not about Trump,” Kocinich said, “It’s about Russia.” “A phone call from the incoming director of national security was intercepted and the contents given to the media obviously by intelligence officials. ….What’s at the core of this an effort by someone in the intelligence community to upend any positive relationship between the U.S. and Russia….there is a game going on …and there are those that seek to separate the U.S. from Russia…Wake up, America.”
As the following article from Consortiumnews.com makes clear, once again there are people in the U.S. military who think the U.S. has a nuclear edge on Russia and should press our advantage and push any conflict to a confrontation. Like my friend in 1962, the author he sees the danger clearly and calls it as he sees it.
Will we bury our heads in the sand?
For an eyewitness account of the Cuban Missile Crisis, see Robert F. Kennedy, Thirteen Days.