The Missives of December


We are probably alive today because Jack Kennedy checked our military’s impulses.

We were three during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and as such have no memory of it. Our introduction came much later, during the Seventies, thanks to an ABC dramatization starring William Devane as Jack, and Future Fake President Martin Sheen as Bobby.

The Missiles of October holds up pretty well four decades on, both against our teen memory and what we later learned. But you’ll have to forgive Sheen’s terrible Boston accent to get through it.

It’s a few weeks before the 1962 midterms, and Jack is interrupted by a report that the Russkies are installing nukes in Cuba, ninety miles from Florida. He immediately assembles his military and civilian leadership, and the strong initial recommendation is to bomb and invade before the nukes are operational. But Bobby makes a stronger case for caution, and the next two weeks are spent desperately trying to avoid the seemingly inevitable.

Jack’s driving fear was uncontrollable escalation: One wrong move might provoke a response from the Russians, demanding a stronger response from us, and back and forth until the next thing you know, the world is toast.

His fear was far from unfounded: Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, chronicling how Europe had stumbled into the Great War, had been published that year, and JFK didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of history, especially with history-ending weapons.

Besides, the concept of “mutual assured destruction” — there’s no point nuking Russia if Russia can nuke you back — was already well-established. Dr. Strangelove was more than a year away, but Kubrick was already busy with the script.

And yet, the idea that bombing and invasion might lead to catastrophic unintended consequences was not in the minds of Kennedy’s generals. They wanted decisive immediate action, a show of strength, a demonstration that America would not be pushed around.

It took Bobby — who had made his reputation in the Fifties as a rabid McCarthyite anti-communist — to urge caution on brother Jack, to buy time, to calibrate the American response to allow the Russkies to retreat without looking like they were retreating.

The solution was to declare a naval blockade on incoming Russian vessels. And it worked, or else we’d be a half-century into Nuclear Winter, instead of delaying it until next year.

It took profoundly cool heads at the head of the American government to resist the demands of GENERALS and ADMIRALS that they invade Cuba with guns a-blazin’. And we thought it had long since been settled American policy that the best way to prevent nuclear war is to just get rid of the nukes, not build more.

But in less than a month, the greatest hothead in living memory will ascend to the presidency, accompanied by his very own Jack D. Ripper to stand aside him in the Situation Room as America’s enemies start poking sticks at the new leader the way they always do.

God help us all.


I’m realizing that my plan to flee Los Estados Unidos (mas o menos “unidos”) to New Zealand is fatally flawed because the Kiwis are *only* two-thirds of the way from US ‘Merikah mainland on the planet. Apparently another planet is the only way to go. Ground Control to Major Tom, such as.

@SanFranLefty: Yeah, the chilling problem at this point is that there is no escape: If Trump drives the bus off a cliff, he’s taking the world with him.

Shrub merely crashed the world economy, not the global ecosystem. And even if somehow Trump doesn’t drop The Bomb (the Cold War is back with a vengeance, baby), we’re losing at least four more years of wimpy resistance to global warming. (We’re well past the Tipping Point, and our only hope now is mitigation)

Oh, and Trump (and especially Ryan) also wants to kill all our old people, so rich folk can have even more money thst doesn’t trickle down.

I tried to explain to a Millennial friend on election night just how bad this was, but I was unable to plumb the depths of it. Trump is, to use diplomatic language, an existential threat to the world.

This is all the beginning of a fear based propaganda campaign. As we saw during the CaliguBush years, people who are constantly afraid are more gullible and easier to deceive and control. There’s been speculation that Twitter Troll owes billions to Russian banks and/or the Russian mafia. If anything, our ties to Russia are about to grow much stronger as we import their kleptocracy and dictatorial method of governance, and we’ll soon have Kremlin puppets at the top levels of the US gummit.

China is on the ascendency and will be the world’s preeminent power within the next twenty to thirty years, plus there are deep economic ties between our countries. All they have to do is bide their time while the US empire continues its tailspin into history. A direct confrontation is not in their interests at all, and they’re wise enough to know that they can outwit and outlast Trump.

The true danger is that we suffer an extreme terrorist attack–either real or staged, we’ll never know–and CONgress cravenly gives Trump the dictatorial powers that he’ll surely demand and abuse. The capricious, arbitrary, and threatening Twitter antics are all classic moves of a psychologically abusive bully towards his victims. Let’s hold onto hope, stand up against Cheeto Mussolini and refuse to give in.

Related: Rogue One Is the Most Politically Relevant Movie of the Year

Merry Christmas, Stinquers. Love to you all!

@¡Andrew!: Happy holidays to all. Maybe we need to start shopping for an ark again.

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