Dobb's effectively argues that once the Cuban missile crisis was set in motion, the difficulty for the two leaders was not deciding to prevent an esca...moreDobb's effectively argues that once the Cuban missile crisis was set in motion, the difficulty for the two leaders was not deciding to prevent an escalation (which would almost surely have lead to nuclear war), but rather preventing the situation from spiraling out of control despite their wishes. The terrible timing of many smaller events during the crisis could have easily turned any one of them into a match for nuclear war. Most disturbing were the many descriptions of single low ranked individuals, both American and Soviet, who were directly responsible, and capable of launching or detonating, nuclear weapons during the crisis. These individuals through misinformation, accident, insanity, lack of sleep or any other reason could have solely obliterated hundreds of thousands of people and sparked WWIII. Ultimately, Dobb's led me to the conclusion that a nuclear war was just as likely to be caused by accident as by any intentional action on the part of Kennedy or Kruschev.
Dobb's also persuasively argues that the peaceful outcome was due to the fact that both Kennedy and Krushchev were intelligent, reasonable and good human beings and he points out that not all leaders are. Despite this, Dobb's relegates the human aspect of the leaders to a roll of partial importance, highlighting the many powerful (but less critiqued) forces at work during the crisis. Among these are the political tug-o-war between the Pentagon and the White House, those within the cabinet itself, Krushchev's struggles with the Communist party, basic problems of military protocol and chain of command, communications (or lack thereof), bad military intelligience, and even small players trying to make a name for themselves.
"One Minute To Midnight" left me with a strong sense that even in the best of times, the strongest governments are held together by string. Nukes were always a bad idea, but in this context and in a world with an increasing number of nuclear armed countries, the future looks grim.(less)