Mind-Sets and Missiles: A First Hand Account of the Cuban Missile Crisis
ARMY WAR COLL STRATEGIC STUDIES INST CARLISLE BARRACKS PA
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This Letort Paper provides a detailed chronology and analysis of the intelligence failures and successes of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and suggests the applicability of lessons learned to the collection, analysis, and use of intelligence in strategic decisionmaking. The author was assigned to Sherman Kents Office of National Estimates ONE after completing his Central Intelligence Agency CIA Junior Officer Training Program in June 1962. He was one of two analysts for Latin America in Kents ONE. He was a participant in the drafting of every National Intelligence Estimate NIE and Special National Intelligence Estimate SNIE on Cuba and the Soviet military build-up from June 1962 to February 1963. This paper describes how the crisis unfolded using the authors personal recollection, declassified documents, and many memoirs written by senior CIA officers and others who were participants. Lessons learned include the need to avoid having our political, analytical and intelligence collection mind-sets prevent us from acquiring and accurately analyzing intelligence about our adversaries true plans and intentions. When our national security is at stake, we should not hesitate to undertake risky intelligence collection operations including espionage, to penetrate our adversarys deceptions. We must also understand that our adversaries may not believe the gravity of our policy warnings or allow their own agendas to be influenced by diplomatic pressure. When Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev decided secretly to place offensive missiles in Cuba, he clearly did not believe President John Kennedy would use military action to enforce U.S. policy warnings against such a deployment.
- Administration and Management
- Military Intelligence