From 1962: American Editors on the Cuban Missile Crisis

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Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in America on November 16, 1962, titled “After the victory”.

During the late Masses of the feast of Christ the King, the prayers of Catholics for peace, “with freedom and justice”, which the American hierarchy had requested from Rome, bore accents of joyful thanksgiving. Because at that time, everyone knew that President Khrushchev had agreed to dismantle the Soviet bases in Cuba and send his missiles back to Russia. This gesture, subject to verification by the UN, apparently eliminated the cause of the crisis which, for almost a week, captured the attention of the world.

We say “apparently” eliminated the danger because the Kennedy administration, fresh from its latest experiment with Soviet duplicity, is taking no chances of another double cross. As of this writing, the Navy and Air Force remain on high alert in the Caribbean. There will and should be no relaxation of American vigilance until the elimination of the Soviet threat has been fully confirmed.

Although we are too close to the event for a full assessment of the American response to the Soviet challenge, it is clear that in at least one respect the Cold War took a hopeful turn.

Although we are too close to the event for a full assessment of the American response to the Soviet challenge, it is clear that in at least one respect the Cold War took a hopeful turn. If the men of the Kremlin, unlike the late Adolf Hitler, are coldly rational in their seizure of world power, they are now aware that the policy of atomic blackmail has its limits. Like everywhere in the world, Americans whiten at the idea of ​​a nuclear holocaust. Nevertheless, they are so firmly convinced that there are values ​​higher than mere survival that there is a point beyond which they cannot be pushed. They would like not Rather be red than dead, as Moscow suspected.

We cannot be sure, of course, what ultimately led Khrushchev, after several memorable days of blustering and life-saving indecision, to capitulate. But it could have been proof, which grew as the crisis deepened, that the American people as a whole stood together with their president, come what may. Except in the stock and commodity markets, which have their own special laws, there were remarkably few signs of panic. And while a tiny minority of Americans were demonstrating against Cuba’s quarantine, an even larger minority felt the president hadn’t gone far enough. The Kremlin had good reason to conclude that if it did not back down, it would have a real firefight on its hands.

In this sense, the Cuban crisis, which was perhaps provoked to test the courage of our people, can be considered a turning point in the Cold War. From now on, there will be less chance than before that the Soviet Union, by miscalculation, will precipitate a nuclear war.

The danger of the expansionist thrust of world communism remains, of course, as even the Indian government is now beginning to realize. (It is a good Leninist tactic to step back today and take two steps forward tomorrow.) The Kremlin has lost a bold gamble; it was not diverted from its objectives. The administration understands this, as shown by its measured reaction to its brilliant diplomatic victory. But having once used the power successfully, the government will not be inclined to underestimate its future uses. The objective remains peace, but not peace at all costs. The lesson, we are convinced, will not be lost on the so-called neutral nations of the UN.

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