Yes, Elites Have the Power…

The power of academic and media elites to shape public perceptions is insufficiently understood.  That power can convince the public to accept a fantasy narrative of historic events.  One such example is the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and the now commonly-held view that President John Kennedy exhibited steely nerves under pressure and won a high-stakes contest of Cold War nuclear brinksmanship by extricating the U.S. from the threat of Russian nuclear-armed missiles stationed illegally in Cuba, placed there -- without cause or provocation, unilaterally -- by the overly-aggressive Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev.

That premise as to the cause of the Missile Crisis is inaccurate. The Cuban Missile Crisis was a direct result of the failed U.S./CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, intended to overthrow the new Cuban communist dictator Fidel Castro, before he could establish strong, hemispheric-disrupting ties with the Soviet Union.

A brief background: In 1959, the communist Cuban Revolution forced out Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista -- a U.S. ally -- bringing Fidel Castro to power. The U.S. recognized the potential military, political and economic turmoil a communist country with close ties to the USSR could bring, especially sitting a mere 90 miles off the coast of Florida. With that as impetus, the CIA planned and organized an operation to invade Cuba and overthrow the Castro government. 1400 anti-Castro Cuban troops, backed by U.S.-supplied A-26 attack aircraft (flown by Cubans and painted in Cuban colors), attacked Cuba in April 1961. However, the defensive force of communist militia -- well-prepared and well-armed, led by Castro himself -- overwhelmed the attacking force and stopped them on the beach.

As it became apparent that the invasion was going to fail, President Kennedy rejected pleas to authorize further A-26 airstrikes, even though they may have turned the tide back in the invaders’ favor. With the United States’ illicit involvement exposed and Kennedy humiliated on the world stage, the invasion effort quickly collapsed and the majority of the invading anti-Castro forces were either killed or captured. The Bay of Pigs incident remains, to this day, one of the all-time great failures of American foreign policy.

Soviet leader Khrushchev keenly noted the hesitation and equivocation Kennedy showed as the operation fell apart, while Castro’s mistrust of America was cemented by the tangible proof of the U.S-backed invasion. Castro felt the U.S. might very well try to undermine his leadership again, perhaps with another invasion.

This led to the joint Castro-Khrushchev plan to install offensive nuclear weapons in Cuba in October 1962, in the form of short- and medium-range missiles and Illyushin IL-28 medium bombers, with the intention of deterring any future American interference in Cuban affairs.

The revisionist, popularly-held notion that Soviet nuclear weapons were placed in Cuba by Khrushchev for no reason other than some sense of misplaced Soviet foreign adventurism is wrong. Quite the opposite: Soviet perception of American weakness and Cuban mistrust of American motives were directly responsible.  President Kennedy’s behavior was the central motivation in both communist leaders’ decision.

Now an interesting off-topic tidbit, which will make its relevance known as we reach a conclusion later on. In baseball, there is a statistic known as the Save. A Save is credited when a relief pitcher comes into the game with his team leading, and that pitcher finishes the game, preserving the lead. He Saved the game.

But there are stringent rules governing the awarding of a Save: The game must be within three runs or less at the time the reliever comes in and finishes the game. If the game is 10-3 and the reliever finishes the game, he doesn’t get credit for a Save. Nor can a reliever pitch himself into a Save situation. Let’s say the game was 10-3 when the reliever entered. The reliever is ineffective and promptly gives up six runs to the opposing team, making the score 10-9.

However, the reliever bears down and reaches back for that something extra on the fastball, striking out the last batter in a very tense situation with the go-ahead runners on base, preserving a shaky 10-9 win.

He does not get credit for a Save. The closeness of the game was due to his own ineffectiveness. The relief pitcher gets no credit or recognition for having given up six runs to make the game so close, even though he managed to wriggle out of his own self-made boondoggle.

The same holds true for President Kennedy in 1961-1962. The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 resulted from his having given up six runs at the Bay of Pigs in 1961. Presidential weakness and indecision often leads to unintended consequences later on, with potentially dire results. Blowing a 10-3 lead and struggling to hang on to win 10-9 does not confer credit onto the relief pitcher. It only serves to expose his ineffectiveness. No Save for President Kennedy for the Cuban Missile Crisis. Games on a bigger stage are that much more dangerous and Presidential vacillation can easily result in the go-ahead runs crossing the red line.

The power of academic and media elites to shape public perceptions is insufficiently understood.  That power can convince the public to accept a fantasy narrative of historic events.  One such example is the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and the now commonly-held view that President John Kennedy exhibited steely nerves under pressure and won a high-stakes contest of Cold War nuclear brinksmanship by extricating the U.S. from the threat of Russian nuclear-armed missiles stationed illegally in Cuba, placed there -- without cause or provocation, unilaterally -- by the overly-aggressive Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev.

That premise as to the cause of the Missile Crisis is inaccurate. The Cuban Missile Crisis was a direct result of the failed U.S./CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, intended to overthrow the new Cuban communist dictator Fidel Castro, before he could establish strong, hemispheric-disrupting ties with the Soviet Union.

A brief background: In 1959, the communist Cuban Revolution forced out Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista -- a U.S. ally -- bringing Fidel Castro to power. The U.S. recognized the potential military, political and economic turmoil a communist country with close ties to the USSR could bring, especially sitting a mere 90 miles off the coast of Florida. With that as impetus, the CIA planned and organized an operation to invade Cuba and overthrow the Castro government. 1400 anti-Castro Cuban troops, backed by U.S.-supplied A-26 attack aircraft (flown by Cubans and painted in Cuban colors), attacked Cuba in April 1961. However, the defensive force of communist militia -- well-prepared and well-armed, led by Castro himself -- overwhelmed the attacking force and stopped them on the beach.

As it became apparent that the invasion was going to fail, President Kennedy rejected pleas to authorize further A-26 airstrikes, even though they may have turned the tide back in the invaders’ favor. With the United States’ illicit involvement exposed and Kennedy humiliated on the world stage, the invasion effort quickly collapsed and the majority of the invading anti-Castro forces were either killed or captured. The Bay of Pigs incident remains, to this day, one of the all-time great failures of American foreign policy.

Soviet leader Khrushchev keenly noted the hesitation and equivocation Kennedy showed as the operation fell apart, while Castro’s mistrust of America was cemented by the tangible proof of the U.S-backed invasion. Castro felt the U.S. might very well try to undermine his leadership again, perhaps with another invasion.

This led to the joint Castro-Khrushchev plan to install offensive nuclear weapons in Cuba in October 1962, in the form of short- and medium-range missiles and Illyushin IL-28 medium bombers, with the intention of deterring any future American interference in Cuban affairs.

The revisionist, popularly-held notion that Soviet nuclear weapons were placed in Cuba by Khrushchev for no reason other than some sense of misplaced Soviet foreign adventurism is wrong. Quite the opposite: Soviet perception of American weakness and Cuban mistrust of American motives were directly responsible.  President Kennedy’s behavior was the central motivation in both communist leaders’ decision.

Now an interesting off-topic tidbit, which will make its relevance known as we reach a conclusion later on. In baseball, there is a statistic known as the Save. A Save is credited when a relief pitcher comes into the game with his team leading, and that pitcher finishes the game, preserving the lead. He Saved the game.

But there are stringent rules governing the awarding of a Save: The game must be within three runs or less at the time the reliever comes in and finishes the game. If the game is 10-3 and the reliever finishes the game, he doesn’t get credit for a Save. Nor can a reliever pitch himself into a Save situation. Let’s say the game was 10-3 when the reliever entered. The reliever is ineffective and promptly gives up six runs to the opposing team, making the score 10-9.

However, the reliever bears down and reaches back for that something extra on the fastball, striking out the last batter in a very tense situation with the go-ahead runners on base, preserving a shaky 10-9 win.

He does not get credit for a Save. The closeness of the game was due to his own ineffectiveness. The relief pitcher gets no credit or recognition for having given up six runs to make the game so close, even though he managed to wriggle out of his own self-made boondoggle.

The same holds true for President Kennedy in 1961-1962. The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 resulted from his having given up six runs at the Bay of Pigs in 1961. Presidential weakness and indecision often leads to unintended consequences later on, with potentially dire results. Blowing a 10-3 lead and struggling to hang on to win 10-9 does not confer credit onto the relief pitcher. It only serves to expose his ineffectiveness. No Save for President Kennedy for the Cuban Missile Crisis. Games on a bigger stage are that much more dangerous and Presidential vacillation can easily result in the go-ahead runs crossing the red line.