Next week marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis — arguably the most dangerous moment in modern history. During 13 harrowing days in October 1962, President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev squared off in a test of strategy and wills that nearly ended in a thermonuclear exchange. Hundreds of millions of people might have died in the United States and Soviet Union alone. At the height of the crisis, hardliners on both sides argued for war. Instead, Kennedy and Khrushchev, in a series of dramatic last-minute communications, opted for diplomacy and compromise to avoid the catastrophe of a nuclear conflagration. What can Barack Obama and Mitt Romney learn from this crisis 50 years later? My Harvard colleague Graham Allison, who wrote the revolutionary account of what happened in his landmark 1971 book “Essence of Decision,” hosted a conference recently at the Kennedy School to reflect on the meaning of the crisis for us today. I took away two big lessons that inform the war and peace challenges our next president could face in an increasingly dangerous international environment.


Burns, Nicholas. "Cuban Missile Crisis Holds Lessons for Presidential Race." The Boston Globe, October 10, 2012.