History Repeats

Winston Churchill wrote, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Santayana said much the same.

For one who lived through it and personally experienced it, there is a pattern of events from some 60 years ago that is disturbingly similar to events unfolding in Afghanistan.

In the late months of his presidential term, a President determined that events in a foreign country required action and a solution. The solution would necessarily involve the military and lives would be at stake. So, he gathered together the expected group of civilian and military advisers and they drew up a plan. The plan contained specifics as to resources, personnel and specific conditions upon which the plan depended. When he left office, he passed the plan on to his successor.

His successor took the plan and decided to make a series of modifications to it, eliminating some resources and most importantly, eliminating some of the conditions upon which the plan depended. He made additional changes very late in the schedule as to the available resources and eliminated all of the conditions upon which the plan had depended. When he decided to put the plan into actual effect, it turned into a total failure and a source of a national embarrassment. Hundreds died as a consequence.

The principal enemy of the US took a long look at the events and drew the conclusion that the new President was weak and indecisive. That he would not respond forcibly to a confrontation and could be threatened and bullied. They proceeded to act upon that judgement and in the course of events brought the world to the brink of nuclear war, the only time we have been so close to Armageddon.

The year was 1960 and the plans to invade Cuba to eliminate the Communist government under Fidel Castro were assembled by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The man who planned and executed the D-Day invasion. The successor was John Kennedy. The target for the invasion is known as “The Bay of Pigs” on the coast of Cuba. It was a total disaster.

The Russian leader, Nikita Khrushchev, drew the above conclusions about the character of John Kennedy. He confirms that in his personal memoirs. Acting on that judgement, he proceeded to secretly ship missiles and nuclear weapons to Cuba. Once installed, they would be capable of reaching just about anywhere in the eastern US. When the US government became aware of the situation, Kennedy was forced by a combination of political and military pressure to generate a full-on confrontation with the Russians. He implemented a blockade of Cuba forbidding the Russians to ship anything else to Cuba and demanded the removal of the missiles installed. A naval blockade is a recognized “Act of War”.

I personally watched tanks rolling down the Tamiami Trail from Tampa to Miami. My mother who was well versed in such matters counted 110 Airborne Troop planes flying into Miami International Airport. The world held its breath.

Khrushchev blinked. He had miscalculated. The ships headed to Cuba turned around at the last minute and the missiles and nukes were eventually removed.

As of today, the Russians have already made statements threatening the Ukraine. The Chinese have increased their threatening claims to Taiwan as well as claims to the South China Sea. They have threatened Japan.

So, we again hold our breaths and pray.

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