Cuban Missile Crisis

A - Bn

Abel, Elie. The Missile Crisis. Philadelphia, PA: Lippencott, 1966. New York: Bantam, 1966. [pb]

This was one of the earliest day-by-day accounts of the Cuban missile crisis. Its details have long been superseded by works with a stronger documentary base, but it enjoyed a few moments of relatively positive attention. Quigley, Washington Sunday Star, 20 Dec. 1966, called it a "taut, vivid" book, the "brevity and sustained interest" of which "almost demands that it be read in a single sitting." But, as the reviewer notes, Abel "has almost nothing to say about the Russian side, and has little about [the U.S.] side outside the small circle of the Executive Committee itself."

Absher, Kenneth Michael. Mind-Sets and Missiles: A First Hand Account of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Carlisle Barracks, PA: Army War College, 2009.

According to Peake, Studies 54.2 (Jun. 2010) and Intelligencer 18.1 (Fall-Winter 2010), the author worked at ONE and "participated in drafting all" the NIEs "concerning the Cuban missile crisis.... Absher summarizes the familiar events of the crisis, emphasizing the mind-sets of key players as they struggled to correlate unsubstantiated agent reports, incomplete U-2 coverage, and political variables as they prepared their estimates. He describes several in which intelligence reports were discounted because they conflicted with conventional wisdom."

Allison, Graham T. "Conceptual Models and the Cuban Missile Crisis." American Political Science Review 63, no. 3 (Sep. 1969): 689-718.

The author here establishes the analytic framework for his classic Essence of Decision (1971). Don't want to tackle the book? Then, read this article.

Allison, Graham T. "The Cuban Missile Crisis at 50: Lessons for U.S. Foreign Policy Today." Foreign Affairs 91, no. 4 (Jul.-Aug. 2012): 11-16.

"Five decades later, the Cuban missile crisis stands not just as a pivotal moment in the history of the Cold War but also as a guide for how to defuse conflicts, manage great power relationships, and make sound decisions about foreign policy in general."

James A. Nathan, "Diplomacy, Not Derring Do," Foreign Affairs 91, no. 6 (Nov.-Dec. 2012): 163-165, argues that "Allison's account of the crisis as a case study of presidential resolve emphasizes the calculated use of threats over the more fundamental task of structuring a bargain" or compromise, which id what President Kennedy did. Graham T. Allison, "Allison Replies," Foreign Affairs 91, no. 6 (Nov.-Dec. 2012): 165-166, notes that his article considered presidential resolve, threats, restraint, and compromise are all required for success.

Allison, Graham T. Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1971. Allison, Graham T., and Philip Zelikow. Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis. 2d ed. New York: Longman, 1999.

Clark comment on 1st edition: This scholarly work continues to offer a unique theoretical perspective on the crisis. I recommend it for people seriously interested in developing their analytical skills. However, many of the substantive details of the crisis have been substantially enhanced since Allison's work.

Clark comment on 2d edition: In a move carrying some risk, Allison's classic work has been substantially revised to take into account comments similar to those above about the availability of new substantive material on the Missile Crisis. Additionally, the authors seek to both extend and add depth to the theoretical framework that was the centerpiece of the original. However, as the authors note in the "Preface," the basic structure of the book remain the same: "Three conceptual chapters each state and develop a conceptual model or lens through which analysts can explain, predict, and assess situations.... Each of these chapters is followed by an account of the Cuban missile crisis that uses the conceptual lens from the prior chapter to analyze the crisis."

Ikenberry, FA 78.3 (May-Jun. 1998), calls the second edition a "superb update of a classic." Indeed, the new edition "actually improves on the original." For Rosati, International Studies Review 3.1, the second edition "is much stronger in several areas," but "the extensive revisions to the chapter on governmental politics unfortunately have made this revision inferior to the original.... [T]here is no doubt that the Cuban missile crisis receives an updated and fresher interpretation"; however, "the revised explanations ... are difficult to follow compared to those of the original."

See David A. Welch, "The Organizational Politics and Bureaucratic Politics Paradigms," International Security 17, no. 2 (Fall 1992): 112-146.

Allyn, Bruce J., James G. Blight, and David A. Welch.

1. "Essence of Revision: Moscow, Havana, and the Cuban Missile Crisis." International Security 14, no. 3 (Winter 1989-1990): 136-172.

2. eds. Back to the Brink: Proceedings of the Moscow Conference on the Cuban Missile Crisis, January 27-28, 1989. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1992.

Alvarez, David. "Research Note: American Signals Intelligence and the Cuban Missile Crisis." Intelligence and National Security 15, no. 1 (Spring 2000): 169-176.

Amuchastegui, Domingo. "Cuban Intelligence and the October Crisis." Intelligence and National Security 13, no. 3 (Autumn 1998): 88-119.

The author warns that this article is based on his own experiences, rather than on research in original source materials. Given the lack of the latter, this account will have to stand until the documentary record on the Cuban side is fleshed out. The main thrust of the arguments here is that "Cuban intelligence was for the most part able to collect the information necessary to help Cuban leaders make sound political decisions before, during, and immediately after the October crisis, and Cuban intelligence was able to interpret that information with reasonable -- though not perfect -- accuracy."

Anderson, Dwayne. "On the Trail of the Alexandrovsk." Studies in Intelligence 10, no. 1 (Winter 1966): 39-43.

The author relates the analytic effort to determine what the cargo of a Soviet merchant ship in October 1962 might have been. A presumptive answer of nuclear warheads was reached, although there is no assurance that such was the case.

Arnold, Joseph C. "Omens and Oracles (Past Intelligence Failures)." U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Aug. 1980, 47-53.

According to Sexton, the author covers the German Ardennes offensive of 1944, the Chinese intervention in Korea in 1950, and the Soviet deployment of missiles in Cuba in 1961.

Barrett, David M., and Max Holland. Blind over Cuba: The Photo Gap and the Missile Crisis. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2012.

Chapman, IJI&C 26.2 (Summer 2013), finds that this book about how the 45-day gap of air surveillance of western Cuba developed "is not a pretty story." The authors cover the aftermath of the missile crisis -- "[t]he hearings, the charges, and the administration's defenses" -- "in remarkable detail."

For Coffey, Studies 57.2 (Jun. 2013), it is unfortunate that the authors "treat the failure to discover the photo gap as something of a cold case. They focus on McCone's internal assessment of missile crisis coverage, a CIA Inspector General investigation, a review board report, and congressional hearings. This overreliance on reports and prepared testimony ... makes the narrative sound like such a report."

Jasper, Proceedings 140.3 (Mar. 2014), argues that "the book fails to weigh the most basic human psychological processes as they have been studied and applied to the intelligence communisty as explanations for perceived failures."

Bernstein, Barton J.

1. "Commentary: Reconsidering Khrushchev's Gambit -- Defending the Soviet Union and Cuba." Diplomatic History 14, no. 2 (1990): 231-239. [Petersen]

2. "The Week We Almost Went to War." Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 32 (Feb. 1976): 13-21. [Petersen]

Beschloss, Michael R. The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev, 1960-1963. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.

Surveillant 1.6 notes that Beschloss focuses primarily on "the 1961 summit conference on Berlin and the Cuban missile crisis in 1962." This work "provides a fine account of the behind-the-scenes maneuvers," contains "superb portraits of KGB agents and heads of state," and is "splendidly written. This is one not to miss."

Blight, James G.

Return to Missile Crisis Table of Contents