Everything We Know About The Cuban Missile Crisis (Is Wrong)


A recent article by Benjamin Schwartz buried in the back of the Jan-Feb 2013 Atlantic Magazine provided an eye-opening look at what really happened during those tense October days in 1962, dates frozen in permanence in American culture as when the nation came closest to a nuclear apocalypse with the Soviet Union.  JFK is fairly well enshrined in American pantheon as a courageous president, and his handling of the Cuban Missile crisis has been, until now, widely praised as level-headed, strong leadership averting certain nuclear disaster. With the release of classified tapes 50 years after the event, we find that the American response to this crisis was muddled, provocative and that America may have indeed brought the crisis on itself.  I encourage you to read the article in full, but here are some striking quotes:

“A missile is a missile,” Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara asserted. “It makes no great difference whether you are killed by a missile from the Soviet Union or Cuba.”… “How gravely does this change the strategic balance? Not at all”…The following day, Special Counsel Theodore Sorensen summarized the views…to Kennedy. “It is generally agreed,” he noted, “that these missiles, …do not significantly alter the balance of power”

As the article goes on to show, despite the consensus that the Soviets were placing missiles on Cuba directly in response to American missiles being placed in Turkey,  Kennedy’s ultimatum to the Soviets was based solely on purely political concerns.  Having been spent his presidency dealing with Bay of Pigs fiasco, and married to bellicose anti-Cuban and anti-Soviet language during the presidential campaign where he was to the right of even Richard Nixon – Kennedy’s political team saw no other path than to ramp up aggressive brinkmanship with the Soviets, regardless of the real and imminent danger of all out nuclear war.


“You have to remember that, right from the beginning, it was President Kennedy who said that it was politically unacceptable for us to leave those missile sites alone. He didn’t say militarily, he said politically.” – Robert Macnamara

Despite the alarm of allies, military strategists, and even the Soviets, the Kennedy administration chose a deliberately aggressive and dangerous path in its approach to the crisis – knowing full well the consequences of its actions. This was a self-inflicted crisis, and exacerbated further because domestic politics inserted itself into the delicate matter of statecraft and geopolitics.

Again, go read the whole piece over at TheAtlantic.com: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/01/the-real-cuban-missile-crisis/309190/?single_page=true



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America vs Al Qaeda:The Times Square Bomb Scare

Reminds you of the Hurt Locker...

The news of the Times Square bomb scare came to me in the early hours of Sunday. Like most other New Yorkers, we were out on a Saturday night, blissfully unaware of the drama unfolding.  As I flipped through to CNN at 2am, the news was sobering and chilling at the same time – New York City is simultaneously the largest and most claustrophobic city in the world. One glance outside my Brooklyn window and I could make out the lights of crime scene, neons blazing away.

There has been a strange contradiction of reactions from the fallout. The overall reaction from the noisemakers is far less than of the Nigerian underwear bomber. New Yorkers, as always took it in stride, but lets look at the media

From the left, Jonathan Chait at TNR Blog claimed victory for the good guys: http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-chait/al-qaeda-loses-again

Over on the right, a typical reaction was this: http://www.balloon-juice.com/2010/05/02/lessons-from-a-misspent-youth/

The claims of the Pakistani Taliban were mostly dismissed as bluster, and judging from news reports that is probably the case. American news media seems relieved at a crisis averted, and the natural tendencies to scoff at our enemies incompetence serves well to bolster popular morale, although its pretty easy to detect a uneasy undercurrent humming along.

However, whether or not the Pakistani Taliban or Al Qaeda or Anti-South-Parkian nut was responsible, the effect of the incident was far different abroad than reflected here in the U.S.

In any country with either an outright hostility to the States, or with countries sympathetic to the same and resentful to the States, the message was far more ominous.

They, who-ever they may be, managed to get a car bomb into  the heart of Times Square, a visual image that has stunning resonance across the globe. In the terms of probability, no-one debates that the likelihood of another terrorist attack on American soil is near inevitable.

In geopolitical terms, this was the equivalent of Luke Skywalker hurling down to the Death Star and squeezing a photon torpedo through that tiny little gullet – except the torpedo didn’t go off this time.

Not exactly a Nissan Pathfinder, but you get the idea...

To terrorists across the spectrum it’s psychologically emboldening to have struck so close to the nerve center.  Failure has not exactly discouraged these people in the past.

It’s okay to pat oneself on the back and breathe a sigh of relief – but its more important to realize that terrorism operates psychologically, and a failed bombing doesn’t mean there are no casualties.


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Live From PodCast One

It’s the first PODCAST for BTDE!  Go ahead and click below for the intro and then watch the video!

The video:

The interview:


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Not Your Usual Book (Review)

AS Cover

As a young foreign born, U.S. naturalized Muslim citizen, the phrase ‘domestic terrorism’ has a particular resonance. In David Goodwillie’s first novel, American Subversive, however, adeptly and creatively avoids the common stereotype and brings to life a gripping thriller about terrorism without devolving into cliche and stereotype. A story about two vastly different but chillingly similar protagonists, Goodwillie crafts an action packed narrative following a cynical New York blogger and a young idealist gone rogue that has substance and powerful social commentary in format commonly dismissed as an airplane read.
While furious and fast paced, American Subversive does not hesitate to ask hard questions of its readers. At the heart of the book is the troubling dichotomy that is inherent in his generation and the next, those who care too much and those who don’t. “I wasn’t interested in liberal and conservative, rather apathy versus engagement, cynicism versus sincerity.” Goodwillie says of his book, which is a surprising and refreshing take on the cultural, political and economic issues looming ahead for the world’s remaining superpower. With particularly sharp attention to detail and facts, the author manages to craft a sharply local atmosphere, whether downtown New York haunts familiar to its denizens, or rambling through rural mining towns in the American Midwest. Goodwillie marries this in depth knowledge of the local with a strong sense of narrative of the global, attuned to the overarching themes of paranoia, social tension and disconnect prevalent in today’s American society.

Goodwillie’s talent in switching effortlessly between local and global, and innate knowledge of a diaspora of cultures and professions stem from his cosmopolitan upbringing in Paris, London, and D.C. Coupled with his eventful seven years in New York during which he was dabbled in everything from private investigation to auction house expert to a stint at the famous Chelsea Hotel, the author fully utilizes his varied experiences to bring to life a novel that is rich in emotional individual moments, dramatic, thrilling plot developments and powerful social commentary.

It’s hard to find good entertaining fiction about current affairs these days that doesn’t devolve into the usual clichéd messes repeated ad nauseum by shows like 24 and CSI. In American Subversive, a novel emerges that embraces the imperfect nature of most conflicts and situations

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Some guys in a helicopter shot someone.

We interrupt you from your regularly scheduled Immigrant’s Tale to bring you this:

Wikileaks.org released this disturbing video of what, in essence, is the casual murder of 12 innocent civilians by U.S. helicopter pilots.  It has exploded over certain parts of the blogosphere (we have to invent a better word for this), while at the same time, many mainstream news outlets, most notably the network and cable news channels, have ignored it.

Unsurprisingly, the talking ‘blogheads’ (now thats a better word) seem fairly safely divided into two camps. There are those expressing horror and calling for the heads of either the pilots or their superiors who instilled such a culture, and those who correctly point out that the very obviously armed men in the vicinity and highlight minutiae in the Rules of Engagement military  handbook.

This is a classic example of political whining over a socio-cultural issue. When you send men out to battle, bad things happen. When you send men out with insufferably powerful weapons and allow them to prosecute their violence via computer monitors on targets miles away, you will most certainly get the casual conversation in the video above.  The helicopter pilots are simply channeling years of training. There is no such thing is a humane military.

As shocked as people are, and as shocking as the video is, this is probably why the mainstream media is not reporting on the news.

Without going Rumsfeldian on you, s*** happens in a war.

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Immigrant’s Tale Part Deux

The advantages of an American citizenship were very tantalizing. How could I pass up the chance to be part of the country that produced Hot Shots? Twice?

Dunkin Donuts financed my trip back home. I told my school in my best Arnold impression that I’d be back. Maybe. After two to three months of waiting, filling out dozens of forms and complying with requests for photos showing 3 quarters of my face (seriously) I heard the sweet satisfying thud of a stamp:

All that meant though is you get a green card -which means you can get sent to Iraq or Afghanistan, but you can’t vote for the people who choose to send you there. Also, you’re signed up to stay in the States for a certain number of years  to prove your commitment to an American life  –  but can now safely work in a non-Dunkin environment and pay taxes like the rest of the population.

I flew back and found my school had dismissed me for failing to show, so I hopped on a Chinatown bus to New York and crash my brother’s pad and apply to some of the great local universities in the Big Apple. I got into school again but the long subway treks lead me to find far more about New York City than what I learned in stuffy class rooms. Soon I was making good money as an IT manager of an upscale gallery in SOHO, and living in the gentrifying edges of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I embraced new friends, hours exploring endless amounts of a never-ending city, secret boat parties & drugs & alcohol until winding down on a rooftop, drinking in a perfect sunrise framed by the iconic skyline.  From my little corner, this was as American as it could get.

Part Three: After hi-jinx and hilarity, the path to citizenship is clear…

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An Immigrants Tale

A couple of days ago, I bought my right to vote for 800 dollars. It was the penultimate step after 7 years of living in the United States, and this story could hardly be repeated anywhere else.
I arrived in the U.S. on a student visa. I was not allowed to work anywhere outside of the university, which posed a major problem for paying tuition.  So in the summer of my freshman year, I traveled down to a sleepy little tourist town on the tip of Long Island and got a job working for Dunkin Donuts. The shop was one of a few owned by a distant relative who migrated penniless from Bangladesh decades ago and now was the epitome of the American dream; a house, a pool, a Jaguar and two unbearably bratty children. I was paid cash and slept on a ratty couch with a few other ‘illegals’. To conserve money, I would eat local – 3 meals a day of as many variations of bagels and cream cheese I could invent, furtively devoured in the back room. Kindly old ladies would leave Christian pamphlets in the bathroom, suggesting we should let Jesus take the wheel (of our lives, I was guessing).
Through a bizarre coincidence (perhaps it was Jesus), at the end of my summer, I got a call from Bangladesh. My immigration application, filed 20 something years ago by my aunt, had been approved and I needed to go back home for an interview. I was faced with a rather stark choice – stay in school as a foreign exchange student, or drop out, go back home and gamble on the biggest prize of all – citizenship in the United States of America.
Next Week-  The thrilling anti-climax!

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