John F. Kennedy was a complicated dude, and in October of 1962, he was faced with a complicated decision that would undoubtedly affect the course of history as we know it…
The CIA had discovered short and long range ballistic nuclear missiles pointed directly at the United States that threatened the lives of 70 million Americans, maybe more.
Just about all of Kennedy’s top advisors recommended the same thing…
Destroy the missile site and then have a full send ground attack follow… The problem was that if just one of those nukes was armed and ready to go, we were all F*CKED.
In Stillness Is The Key, Ryan Holiday recreates this scene and does his best to bring us into JFK’s mind…
As Holiday points out, we don’t know exactly what prompted Kennedy to make the conscious decision to stand pat and go against his top aides, but pretty safe to say it was a brilliant combination of education and experience.
Kennedy diligently read up on the art of war and became obsessed with understanding an opponent’s mindset and position.
JFK had already experienced his own tragedy in WWII when his Patrol Boat was rammed and sliced in 2 by a Japanese destroyer… More recently, the debacle at the Bay of Pigs, an ill advised failed attempt to overthrow Cuban leader Fidel Castro, taught him not to rush into action before considering all alternatives.
Ironically, a few years earlier, Kennedy wrote a review of B.H Lidell Hart’s book on nuclear strategy in which both Kennedy and Holiday quoted:
“Keep strong, if possible. In any case, keep cool. Have unlimited patience. Never corner an opponent, and always assist him to save face. Put yourself in his shoes – so as to see things through his eyes. Avoid self righteousness like the devil – nothing is so self blinding.”
Basically, JFK’s ability to eliminate ego and see things through Russian and Cuban lenses enabled the United States to broker a deal that avoided a nuclear disaster and immediately had the missiles dismantled.
Simply put, one man’s ability to avoid self righteousness saved the world. 🌎