–Kevin Martin, Executive Director
For me, the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis has a very personal angle. On this day fifty years ago, I was still in my mother’s womb, and she, like many people at the time, thought a nuclear war might well be imminent. She was afraid she’d never get to see her first child be born. Luckily, the crisis passed (and many government officials do in fact attribute luck, as much or more than any smart decisions by Kruschev or Kennedy, with averting catastrophe).
I was born several weeks later (a month premature, but stress about possible nuclear war didn’t cause that, according to my mom, Linn Martin), and, perhaps fittingly or ironically, I grew up to be a peace and disarmament activist. (Maybe my Mennonite and Quaker heritage, and outrage at Ronald Reagan’s sabre-rattling foreign policy, had as much to do with my career choice as did my being born after the missile crisis.)
While the Cold War never should have justified the insane nuclear weapons buildup between the U.S. and Soviet Union, people at the time (and now, looking back) would have said there was a substantive reason for it, namely the global competition of idealogies and geo-strategic interests between the two superpowers. Yet it was, in large measure, the mere existence of the weapons themselves (and their placement, by both the U.S. and Soviet Union, dangerously and provocatively close to the other’s territory) that caused the crisis.
Today, that fact is even worse. While we have far fewer nuclear weapons in the world, the U.S. and Russia still have thousands of warheads poised to be launched against the other, or some other country, on a moment’s notice. Why? There is no good reason to continue to hold humanity hostage with these grotesque weapons, other than the other side has them. So there is no “strategy” behind our nuclear arsenals, they have become, through inertia and apathy, self-justifying. Why do we have ’em? Because they do. Why do they have ’em? Because we do.
Peace Action, of course, does not accept this situation, and will initiate some exciting new campaigns early in the new year to press the case for the global abolition of nuclear weapons. For now, I’d love to hear your reflections on the Cuban Missile Crisis, both remembrances and lessons learned, or not, and their applicability for today. (So one need not to have been born at the time to share your comments.)