Real Lessons from the Cuban Missile Crisis
- The deal was done. Washington hailed it as a huge victory for President Kennedy who became a national hero and icon. This mythology persists in the US today. The American public is still largely unaware of the secret deal.
In the end, the Soviet Union came out ahead in the crisis. Cuba was saved from a US invasion, which was Moscow’s principal strategic goal, along with preserving the Castro regime, which remains to this day.
US missiles in Turkey and Italy (and likely Britain) threatening the USSR were removed but the story remained secret for decades.
Unaware of it, the Soviet politburo ousted Khruschev a year later for "reckless, hare-brained schemes" and made the plodding Leonid Brezhnev chairman. He lead the USSR directly into economic collapse by wildly over-spending on arms to keep up with the Americans and their wealthy allies, and by failing to renew the USSR’s industrial and agricultural base.
Fortunately, the US military was not allowed to invade Cuba: Unknown at the time, Soviet troops there were authorized to use 100 tactical nuclear weapons against any invading force and their bases in South Florida. As Wellington said after Waterloo, "it was a damned near-run thing."
But this "victory" misled America into hubris and over-relying on military action to resolve its future political problems.