The Cuban Missile Crisis, revisited
Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, September 7, 2016
“What should we do, Mr. President?”
Cigar smoke filled the room and maps of Cuba covered the wall. A distinct air of peril pervaded the trappings of the Cabinet Room, where the Executive Committee had gathered. It was a cold October day in 1962, and, whether the men knew it or not, the world was the closest it had ever been to Armageddon.
The Defense Secretary, Robert McNamara, realized the ultimatum before the President and his advisors. Now was the decisive moment when the President would have to choose — would he bomb the Russian-installed missile sites in Cuba? Would he consider a naval blockade? Was there some course of action they had not yet discussed?
General Curtis Lemay and the military hawks were eager to invade the communist stronghold, and the threat of a nuclear war loomed large. As the men in the room leaned in with anticipation, the President cleared his throat.
“ … So what do we do about this Castro loser?” President Trump asked quizzically.
His advisors paused, not sure if they had heard him correctly.
“Sir?” McNamara gasped.
Trump began again.
“Look, let me tell you something folks. This Khrushchev guy, he … y’know, he is a dumb leader. I hate to say it, but look, I have to say it. He’s really so dumb. And this guy, he says about me, ‘Oh, Trump’s weak … I can put nuclear missiles in Cuba and Trump won’t do anything,’ and he is so, so, so wrong. I’m like the toughest guy. I’m one of the smartest people. My IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.”
The men in the room pondered the situation. Two men, Premier Nikita Khrushchev and President Donald J. Trump, were in a position to dictate the survival of humanity. Khrushchev was acting tactically and the world stood still on the President’s move. Trump was, simply put, not making any sense. General Lemay seized the opportunity.
“Mr. President,” General Curtis Lemay began, “If you want to be tough, you should bomb Cuba and invade the mainland. At that point, we will have options to depose Castro, and we will be able to destroy the warheads.”
“I like this guy,” Trump jutted his hand toward the General. “He’s talking tough. He’s not like Lyin’ [Dean Rusk] over here.” He gestured at the Secretary of State. “The thing I like most about the General is I like people who weren’t captured. You weren’t captured, right, Curtis? Good.” McNamara couldn’t help but chime in: “Mr. President, what if we aren’t able to destroy all of the missile sites? What if Russia retaliates by launching a strike against West Berlin or even on our own soil?!” His voice trailed off in exasperation.
“They hit us and kill a couple million Americans? Bang. Boom. We hit them and kill a couple million Russians. We’re gonna bomb the s— out of them. It’s that simple, folks. It’s really that simple.”
The advisors’ mouths dropped in awe. Even the hawks were shocked by the blunt proposition the President had laid forth.
“Mr. President,” Secretary of State Dean Rusk implored, “If we attack the Russians unprovoked, the world will blame us. The media will destroy you. You won’t win reelection. You may have beaten the Democrats the first time around, but they’ll beat you in 1964.”
“We all know you love the dishonest media, Crooked [Dean]. Look, fellas, it really doesn’t matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of a–,” the President bragged with a trademark puff of the lips. “As for the Democrats, if they win, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”
Secretary McNamara had had enough.
“Mr. President, this is a real threat! I will resign if you continue with this nonsense. The fate of the world hangs in the balance. We need you to be poised. We need a measured response. We need moral judgment. We need you to consider facts, evidence, and reason. We need smart leadership.”
What did he expect? Didn’t McNamara watch Trump’s campaign?
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.