Dan's Reviews > The Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro, and America's Doomed Invasion of Cuba's Bay of Pigs

The Brilliant Disaster by Jim Rasenberger
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's review
Jan 24, 2012

really liked it
Read in January, 2012

Jim Rasenberger's The Brilliant Disaster was a well-written, thoroughly researched look at the Bay of Pigs fracas. I was impressed with the number of memos and communiques he presented from the CIA, various president's administrations and Cuba (the latter being the most surprising). Together they painted an excellent picture of how - but more importantly why - the events of April 17th, 1961 unfolded the way they did, and how they had a long-ranging impact on American foreign policy (the Cuban Missile Crisis, American military escalation in Vietnam, the space race, et cetera). I grew up hearing a lot of controversy about the Bay of Pigs and what Kennedy did or didn't promise, so it was nice to get an objective view. Rasenberger did an excellent job depicting the hopeless state of the invading brigade, and I found myself cheering their early successes (even though I knew they wouldn't succeed in the end). But, what was really pleasing was the way he put the whole situation in context. In may ways Kennedy found himself in an impossible situation. Success could very well have incurred the wrath of the Soviet Union and plummeted the world into a nuclear war; meanwhile, failure had a direct impact on US overseas aggression, particularly it's policy toward Vietnam. In the end, I think the take away was one of shared blame among all parties, but also the realization that, perhaps, things worked out for the best.

Book 2 of my 2012 Non-Fiction goal of 30. So far, I'm really enjoying the journey. Next up will either be Isherwood on Writing or Steve Jobs.

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