The decision whether to use nuclear weapons that faced political and military leaders forty-five years ago may be the choices facing leaders in crises situations today and in the future. In this spirit, Professor Scott has written a book of compelling interest.
The Cuban Missile Crisis is the term used in the west to describe the events of October 1962, described by Robert Kennedy as the world brought to the abyss of nuclear destruction and the end of mankind. On 27 October that year, Robert McNamara said `as I left the White House and walked through the garden to my car to return to the Pentagon on that beautiful fall evening, I feared I might never live to see another Saturday night`.
It was indeed probably the most dangerous moment in all human history. Yet debate remains about the risk of nuclear war and what lessons might be learned from the events of 1962 in understanding the role of nuclear weapons in international politics.
The purpose of this book is to examine the role of nuclear weapons in the light of a huge amount of recent research and to evaluate the risk of inadvertent nuclear war. Over the last decade, research on the crisis has revealed aspects at the operational level that suggest the risk of nuclear war was greater than assumed. Yet much greater insight can be gained into the attitudes and perceptions of the principal decision makers, Kennedy and Khrushchev. It is one of the arguments of this book that the leaders were in fact increasingly determined to avoid escalation. It is not so much what they could do to the enemy that is decisive when a political leader considers this risk. It is what such a war might do to his own country, his own power and his place in history. The main themes of this book are the role of nuclear weapons in the conduct of foreign policy, in deterring armed conflict and in risking nuclear war.