Elizabeth K.'s Reviews > One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War

One Minute to Midnight by Michael  Dobbs
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Jul 25, 09

bookshelves: 2009-new-reads
Read in July, 2009, read count: 1

I'm woefully ignorant of much of 20th century history, so occasionally I make tepid attempts to shore that up. This was a fairly comprehensive review of the Cuban Missile Crisis, following an hour by hour format that covered events in Washington DC, Moscow, and Cuba. As one would expect, there is a lot of very specific information about types of missiles and where they were moving to and from. I, um, skimmed over much of this. There was plenty of focus on Kennedy and his administration and how they were dealing with the situation as it unfolded. One key difference between this book and the way the Cuban Missile Crisis is often presented is that Dobbs gives a much more evolving, collaborative picture of how the President and his advisers developed their responses, and in particular, highlights RFK's changing views between the initial discovery of the missiles and the ultimate resolution. Overall, the author credits both JFK and Khrushchev with being thoughtful, responsible leaders who approached their duties to their nations and the international community with gravitas.

It also ends with an extremely chilling foreshadowing of the Kennedy assassination (there's no way that's a spoiler, right?) that was probably a little maudlin but really effective anyway. Here I am, reading this entire book and it's the last paragraph that grabs me.

There was also an afterword that compares the leadership during the crisis with the Bush administration's actions in the Middle East, and it is not favorable. I could have done without this. I agree, actually, with the assessment but the tone was too shrill and scolding and I felt it took away from the book overall.

Grade: B
Recommended: It's certainly comprehensive and successfully organizes a great deal of information into a reasonable narrative. People interested in military history will no doubt appreciate the level of detail more than I was able to. There were only a few, very scant, accounts of the response of the general public -- the focus was almost entirely on the military and the political players.
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