March 14, 2009

"The Missiles of October" Redux? It seems to me we've been here before...

Testing... testing... this is only a test.

... but, having been present during the "before" I have no desire to see just how "Kennedyesque" the current President can be. Nor should you. The last time this sort of fooling around by Russia led from hints to actions, the policy of the United States was:

Third: It shall be the policy of this Nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union. -- President Kennedy's Address to the Nation on the Soviet Arms Buildup in Cuba

Things are not nearly at that level, just yet, but "mighty oaks from little acorns grow...."

Cuba, Venezuela could host Russian bombers

MOSCOW – A Russian air force chief said Saturday that the country could base some strategic bombers in Cuba or on an island offered by Venezuela, the Interfax news agency reported, but a Kremlin official quickly said the military had been speaking only hypothetically....
The chief of staff of Russia's long range aviation, Maj. Gen. Anatoly Zhikharev, was quoted by Interfax as saying Saturday that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had offered "a whole island with an airdrome, which we can use as a temporary base for strategic bombers."
"If there is a corresponding political decision, then the use of the island ... by the Russian Air Force is possible," Zhikharev was quoted as saying.

Interfax reported he said earlier that Cuba has air bases with four or five runways long enough for the huge bombers and could be used to host the long-range planes.

But Alexei Pavlov, a Kremlin official, told The Associated Press that "the military is speaking about technical possibilities, that's all. If there will be a development of the situation, then we can comment," he said.

The last time we saw Russian weapons mounted in the western hemisphere was during the Cuban Missile Crisis. For those who were not alive or aware at that time, I do not exaggerate when I say that there were a number of very long days in which the entire population of the United States was convinced that thermonuclear war was just a shot away. It was not a pleasant feeling, but that was the way it was when:
Kennedy saw the photographs on October 16 he assembled the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (ExComm), fourteen key officials and his brother Robert, at 9.00 a.m. The U.S. had no plan for dealing with such a threat, because U.S. intelligence was convinced that the Soviets would not install nuclear missiles in Cuba.
What followed was a hodgepodge of responses that outlined the meaning of the word "brinksmanship" in flames.

During those days I can remember my mother joining hosts of other housewives in Sacramento in buying out the supermarkets. I can remember my father stocking the car with supplies and extra gas cans and then alerting my grandparents deep in the Sierra Nevada that we might have to pay them an emergency visit. Since Sacramento at the time was in the center of several SAC bases supporting units such as the 4134th Strategic Wing, I doubt we would have gotten very far. It would have been better just to walk out into the street, hold each other, and wait for the fireball.

The crisis went through a number of stages culminating on October 24, 1962 when a group of Soviet ships approached a quarantine/blockade line manned by US warships... and then turned away. This prompted the famous line by then Secretary of State Dean Rusk: "We're eyeball to eyeball,and I think the other fellow just blinked."

That "blink" won the nation a reprieve from Armageddon, and don't think that the mood of the country didn't reflect that. It did.

Decades later I can still remember the dread, the "preparations," and the fear. Hence, when I read about the Russians, the Cubans, and the Venezuelans starting to play these little "testing" games, you'll forgive me if it seems like "deja vu all over again."

These things and the recent Russian bombers probing Canadian airspace don't make me feel calm.

Four Canadian and U.S. fighter jets were scrambled to meet two Russian bomber planes found flying on the edge of Canada's Arctic airspace hours before President Barack Obama arrived in Ottawa for his first foreign visit
It's no secret that there are many forces in the world inimicable to America's interests seeking to test the new President. And it is no secret that the current befuddled administration are sending signals that amount to placing a large "Kick Me" sign on its backside.

The worrisome thing is what might happen should a kick actually land. President Kennedy, for all his flaws, was a man who had seen war and whose courage was not open to question. No so the "courage" of President Obama. We've had no demonstrations that Obama actually possesses this quality. We'll just have to hope that this kind of change doesn't happen. We'll just have to hope he won't be tested because if he is, that test will be "Pass-Fail."

Posted by Vanderleun at March 14, 2009 1:10 PM
Bookmark and Share



"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Yes, I'll never forget where I was the day Kennedy almost killed me...

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at March 14, 2009 2:19 PM

Here's another difference I think between Kennedy and Obama which puts us in greater danger this time. If Kennedy was surrounded by suck-ups and worshipers, I think he had enough cynicism to know they were social/political aspirants. Whereas Obama actually believes he is The One. As VDH says, the Ancients were wise enough to know where Hubris leads, Nemesis follows.

Posted by: Western Chauvinist at March 14, 2009 2:36 PM

Hmmm, I can just picture the war room (ala Dr. Strangelove).

The POTUS is on the phone with Soros...

"Yes Mistsa Soros, I know you have everything under control, but everyone here is telling me that this Russian situation is serious. OK, you'll talk to Vladimir then? ...Oh, wonderful sir! ... No, I know you won't let me down... No sir, you haven't let me down yet.

Posted by: JD at March 14, 2009 4:31 PM

A little while later...

The phone rings.

POTUS: " Hello Mr. Soros, how did it go?...Ohhhh, they might change their minds if we send them a trillion dollars. Geez sir, that's alot of doe. Ohhh, you think it's a good idea? You realize we're having a hard time getting folks to buy these treasury notes... No sir, I'm definitely not questioning you. Umhummm, yes sir.... Yes sir. I know the idiots here will be ok... Yes sir, I'll tell them it's another stimulus package. Tell Vlad not to worry, the check is in the mail...

Posted by: JD at March 14, 2009 5:12 PM

A moment of silence for James Monroe, the 5th President of the United States.

Posted by: Fat Man at March 14, 2009 5:38 PM

Ummmm....what are the Russians going to do?

I mean, really? They're bankrupt, their airforce is rotting on the ground for the most part, you can't tell their army from rag-tag Georgians.

What, they're just going to drop bombs or something out of the blue?

Posted by: Eric Blair at March 14, 2009 6:10 PM

The Russians can cause endless amounts of trouble (with a little "t") by playing that diversion they love so much, the proxy ploy. They are limited in what they can do directly, but through a vassal such as Venezuela they can keep the game alive. It may also be a good way for them to keep the home team distracted. Of course, all these points can be applied to various countries, including the U.S.

They blinked because, as my father said, they realized we really were (and are) crazy enough to go for broke.

Posted by: Hannon at March 14, 2009 6:22 PM

and here I was thinking that we had gotten past the threat of global thermonuclear annihiliation and that little pansy of a turd in the whitehouse is going to bring it back through his own ineptitude.


how's that for change!

Posted by: pdwalker at March 14, 2009 6:40 PM

Krushchev only hatched the missle stategy after he actually first met Kennedy in Moscow, when Nik sized him up for a punk. No one knew how stoned Kennedy was.

Only after the wall came down and American and Soviet specialist got together to compare notes from 1962 were the Americans to learn that Fidel had been given the launch codes. You never know.
If we had known, we would have blinked first.

The cost of misjudgement fortunately was only Krushchev's job. But he was a man with far greater experience and judgement than Hugo, or Mad Moud, or a large cast of characters that would not be wrong to figure Obama for a man insincere even in his own bedazzelement.

Posted by: james wilson at March 14, 2009 7:37 PM

I thought that Krushchev backed down after Kennedy agreed to remove the U.S.'s Jupiter IRBMs from Europe. Anyway, in those days ICBM technology wasn't perfected so strategic bombers were the only real threat. Nowadays, what do we care about bombers when a few minutes could bring a wave of ICBMs down on us. Hannon is right, this is being done by Putin just to keep the home team distracted. Rahm Emannuel should contract the Daily Show to do segments mocking the Russian bombers.

Posted by: Comment Poster at March 14, 2009 9:01 PM

Hello Everyone,
Yes we have a weak president, yes our elected-officials lack the personal fortitude for proper representation & Honesty of we as a nation.
But, please remember that the strenght of America lys not with Washington D.C. in any form, it's with her people!
Stay Strong & Stand Tall!

Posted by: AmericanEagle50 at March 14, 2009 9:58 PM

Who was the one around here, so said he was amused at the oncoming disaster, well my
schaden is out of freude right about now.

Posted by: narciso at March 14, 2009 10:19 PM

A theme here is "Why should we care if there are some Russian bombers in Venezuela and/or Cuba. The real danger comes from missiles."

There are a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the boost in power and prestige that such an arrangement would give to the dictators of those two countries. Besides, what tin-pot dictator wouldn't like a few Bear Bombers as part of his Air Force. Not to spread destruction on the US, but to keep their neighbors and others in the hemisphere quiet.

Introducing strategic weapons of any sort into this hemisphere threatens the US directly and indirectly.

Posted by: vanderleun at March 14, 2009 10:30 PM

Monroe has just been retired with the rest of the Founders. President Obama's hemispheric doctrine: Speak weakly and carry a bit soft.

Memo to Hugo--If Venezuela invades Massachussetts, who's to stop them?

Posted by: james wilson at March 15, 2009 8:06 AM

The mere presence of Soviet I mean Russian combat aircraft on the ground in the continental Americas will have an effective PR impact literally orders of magnitude greater than any capability or threat they represent militarily.

Ten bucks says Chinese surface combatants will be stationed somewhere in or near the Canal Zone within the next calendar year. Possibly even in Africa, as well. The presence might only be a reflagging of the their current corporate port security vessels. (what? You didn't know that China manages the ports at both ends of the Panama Canal?). Don't look for the news to pass on that tidbit when it happens. Also, China's involvement in Africa already makes the Belgian experience of the last century, in the Congo, look like a family recreation destination.

China and Russia looking for territory and power, India simply looking for markets and just possibly a bit of well earned respect for their accomplishments.

Obama and the contemporary Congress: Proof positive that the American electorate appreciates a good joke as much as anyone.

Posted by: TmjUtah at March 15, 2009 8:44 AM

Er, that picture of the Bear is missing two engines.....

Posted by: Gary at March 15, 2009 9:50 AM

Nah, that's a good pic. Here are some more. You may be thinking of the Badger. That's a twin jet, no props. Strike bomber vice primarily recon.

Four turbo prop fans running contra-rotating propellers. I have seen the Bear. Looked down on one from Vulture's Row on board the U.S.S. Tarawa in the Gulf of Alaska, 1986.

Ivan had scrambled four Badgers out of Vladivostock, so our 'phib launched the ready five Harriers. Yah, a gesture... so the Harriers tool off to the north at best speed while all of us line the rails hoping to get a pic of the action.

Then a rush and a roar and the Bear pops up off the waves, from the south, and lofts just over the flight deck forward of the island. I could see the mook in the starboard observation blister cranking away from behind his camera.

He circled our little phibron twice, then a CH-46 chased him off.

We saw a LOT of F14's later that afternoon. Much later.

Posted by: TmjUtah at March 15, 2009 10:04 AM

I was in high school on the east coast of Florida during this period and remember it vividly. We had Hawk missile batteries on our beaches and a squadron of Canadian jets at our local airport. There was also a lot of troop movement on the highways, usually during late night/early morning hours. I don't know if this was just due to less traffic or if it was a morale issue, not upsetting people more by seeing all the military activity.

I believe the concession to remove the Jupiter missiles from Turkey was just sort of a save face gesture to the Soviets. They were already obsolete and slated to be removed anyway.

Posted by: Tom at March 15, 2009 10:16 AM

TmjUtah-- That's news to me about the Canal Zone. Any references? Here is a very good, somewhat long article about what the Chinese are doing in Africa. They have the sense to get what they need (resources) and not get involved or "committed", unlike the Belgians et al.

Posted by: Hannon at March 15, 2009 10:24 AM

I guess Gerard's set up to reject links; the pic is indeed the Bear. There is another Russian naval bomber called Badger that has only two straight up jet engines.

I've seen both.

Posted by: TmjUtah at March 15, 2009 10:27 AM

Hannon -

Search "Hutchison Whampoa" and be prepared to wade through a lot of kludge from both ends of the rainbow.

Snapshot synopsis: HW is a wholly-owned organ of the PRC. In keeping with PRC operating practices, the company serves as a money generator first and an intelligence gathering entity second.

Imagine if you will the CIA overtly owning and operating an airline or trucking company, then leasing or buying critical facilities in nations across the planet and then operating daily operations moving literally thousands of tons of material and vehicles across continents at will.

Oh, and HW spends a lot of money in the places it works. It's the nature of the business. Jobs for the laborers, squeeze for the local politicians.

HW manages Cristobal and ... shucks, the port at other end of the canal, and has for decades now.

The Chinese are all business in Africa, I agree. Their interest is in commodities. They've written off the future of Africans to an extent they make me look positively pollyanna.

I'm the one who calls Africa "the place where anvils go to die".

Posted by: TmjUtah at March 15, 2009 10:44 AM

It looks like Hillary's "reset button" reset us all the way back to the Cold War.

Posted by: Jimmy J. at March 15, 2009 12:09 PM

See this re. China and Panama. From 2005:

Posted by: Skookumchuk at March 15, 2009 12:25 PM

A note on links:

The filters are set up to catch links and hold them for manual approval. It's a spam=catcher related issue. I review and approve all none spam links as soon as possible, but even I have to sleep sometime.

Posted by: vanderleun at March 15, 2009 12:44 PM

The prediction about the Chinese and the canal zone is garbage and you know it. The Chinese already have surface combatants off of Africa because we fucking asked them to so as to fight the pirates.

Again, who the hell is Chavez going to impress? Nobody but the peon in Bolivia thinks anything of him, and the Cubans are go all East Germany when Obama drops the trade restrictions.

Posted by: Eric Blair at March 15, 2009 1:49 PM

I had one of those little Civil Defense bracelets when I was in what- first or second grade?

You know, so my irradiated corpse could be sent to my family after all was said and done.

Kept it but lost it in a move years later.

Anybody else remember those?

Posted by: Yanni.Znaio at March 15, 2009 2:28 PM

For an excellent post detailing China's growing influence in Africa, Latin America, and the Canal Zone, please read Bryan Preston's 2005 post "China's String of Pearls and the Long-Term Threat from Beijing" at:

He paints an alarming picture, concluding that "the string of pearls stretches from one side of the world to the other and indicates that China plans to use a multi-dimensional strategy in any conflict with Taiwan." My only quibble is that the massive scope of China's international alliances is too big to be aimed solely at a runty little squirt of a place like Taiwan (no offense to T; I'm on their side). I think America is being surrounded (scratch that: has been surrounded) and that we are the target -- and the countdown to conflict is getting closer and closer to zero every week. I fear that Obama is just the final piece that will set everything in place for the battle to come. And he will not lead us well in either literal or figurative battle. AmericanEagle50 says, in a comment above, "But, please remember that the strenght of America lys not with Washington D.C. in any form, it's with her people!" Yes, that's true. But we don't command the military and can't get planes and missiles into the air on our own. We must have a strong president who really knows how to deal with adversaries.

Please do read Bryan's entire post, including Jimbo's comment. I first read it in 2005 and am still amazed that I have not found many, if any, blogs discussing China's massive, global mission (other than a shocking first-person report about their aggressive conduct in Africa). If anyone here has read anything that shows our government is at least aware of, if not on top of and prepared to counter this situation, then I would appreciate some links.

Posted by: pa at March 15, 2009 2:45 PM

Howdy, Eric.

How's that Hope and Change working out for you?

Got Job?


Read Mahan. Read Gibbon. Have you looked at China's defense expenditures for the last five or six years?

Then go watch the One try to put a sentence together without Axelrod or Emmanuel hammering away on the teleprompter in the next room.

Nature abhors a vacuum. And what we've got here is a nation retracting not only from the world, but also its own core values and history, while other nations are stepping up to and across the old lines.

I'm not saying there are plots or conspiracies. I am saying that history waits for no man (and certainly for no nations)that somehow thinks that they are immune from consequences of their own actions.

Hope! Change! Ponies! Rocket Cars!

Posted by: TmjUtah at March 15, 2009 3:05 PM

On 22 Oct 1962 The Russians commenced a series of high altitude nuclear emp tests.

One ICBM was launched from Tyria Tam, 2 ABM's from Lake Balkash, and 2 IRBM's from Kapustin Yar one of which carried the device. This was during the crisis.

WE blinked.

The story was that the Thor missiles in Turkey were obsolete and slated to be removed anyway. BIG FUCKING LIE. Those missiles were 10 minutes away from the Russian strategic bomber fleet. We had them pinned. Destroyed before they got off the ground. Kennedy stripped us of our main deterrent.

WE blinked.

Posted by: Roy Lofquist at March 15, 2009 3:45 PM

Hope and change? President, please

Utah, I've been seeing your comments around the blogs for years now, and you're getting increasingly cranky and wierd. Quit reading all the end-times porn.

I have read Mahan, and Gibbon, and even Hughes if it comes to that, and if you really, really want, I'll bore you silly with why they don't apply here.

As for Chinese defense expeditures, can you tell me how many transport aircraft they're buying? How many transport ships? How many carriers have they got? What are they spending the money on? From what I see right now, its probably going to be riot batons, since if the world economy gets any worse, the Chinese are looking at 100's of millions of unemployed. I'll be worried about Chinese military power projection when they actually do something with it. What happened when they tried to beat up on the Vietnamese in 1979? Do you think they're any better now?

The real sad fact of it is, the US pretty much owns the Chinese now--you know the old joke? You owe the bank $10,000 the bank owns you, you owe the bank 100 billion, you own the bank?

If anybody has to worry about the Chinese, its the Russians. You think the US has a problem with Mexicans? Just google Chinese immigration Siberia. The Chinese are probably going to own Siberia in 50 years.

Posted by: Eric Blair at March 15, 2009 9:17 PM

"I'll bore you silly with why they don't apply here. "

The rules of power and strategy always apply.


"You owe the bank $10,000 the bank owns you, you owe the bank 100 billion, you own the bank?"

Walking away from U.S. debt is cheaper in the long run than a nuclear exchange. But it may be the price they are willing to pay to achieve their goals.

Nations aren't banks and clients. The interest of China in the short term was to industrialize. They've got that covered. Sad to say we sent our ability to produce to them, mostly. Nixon's intent on opening China was to see China liberalize. Problem is, they skipped the Rotarian, western liberality and moved right on to a flavor that Mr. Obama would be right at home with.

Open up markets enough to create a productive caste of slaves, but always be ready with the tanks...

China thinks long term. I'm not trumpeting "The Chinese are coming!", Eric. They are not going to do anything more than fill the void we leave. They'll own Taiwan before Obama's first term is up. But that will be the extent of the military action. About that naval expansion: they've built enough phib lift and theater rocketry to make Taiwan an afternoon's work. They'll do it, and make it stick, and they'll make damned sure that Obama has our armed forces out of the picture to avoid any "Remember the Maine" problems down the pike. But that's all they have to do with the green painted equipment. After that they'll just wait and watch us continue to fade like that uncle in the rest home that nobody talks about and rarely visits any more.

And yes, they are actually much better now, what with having penetrated or been given our satellite guidance, compact nuclear weapons, and super computer technologies. All that on top of having the ability to crush our markets at will... except that they needn't bother now.

We've seen great men in our time. Mr. Obama ... is not in that class. And our congress is actually worse, measured by ability or intent to perform its stated purpose.

We elected them. Now we pay for our mistakes.

Posted by: TmjUtah at March 15, 2009 10:00 PM

My most vivid recollection of the "Missiles of October" was a hormonally-driven pleasant one. I was in tenth grade home room, and our teacher, a truly fine man such as the teaching profession doesn't have enough of, gave a sobering rundown on the realities.

After that, our very subdued class made ready to go onto our first classes. Before setting out, the stupendously gorgeous girl sitting across from me decided she needed to adjust her stockings. Remember, pantyhose had not been invented yet, so girls had to adjust garters and stuff. She put her foot up on her chair, pulled back her skirt, and unselfconsciously fixed her garter. I was transfixed. It was one of those innocently erotic moments that testosterone plagued boys prayed for, and it was beautiful. Whatever anxieties the Soviets may have induced in me that day were set aside as I floated on to my first class of the day. I forgot her name, but hope she's having a wonderful life -- she certainly enriched mine.

Posted by: Roderick Reilly at March 16, 2009 12:16 PM

Utah, pray tell, what are China's "Goals"? World Domination? Worldwide Proletarian revolution? Just getting the US to remove any military forces from East Asia?

Your point about them skipping the rotarians is exactly their Achilles' heel, and why their system is ripe for unrest. You think the present Chinese leadership can think long term? You think Mao did? How did that Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution work out for them? What makes you think they're any more competent than any US administration? (Including the present one.)

Posted by: Eric Blaier at March 16, 2009 4:06 PM

One Aim 9 and no problem. I've got tone. Keith

Posted by: Keith at March 16, 2009 9:34 PM

One Aim 9 and no problem. I've got tone. Keith

Posted by: Keith at March 16, 2009 9:34 PM

One Aim 9 and no problem. I've got tone. Keith

Posted by: Keith at March 16, 2009 9:34 PM

One Aim 9 and no problem. I've got tone. Keith

Posted by: Keith at March 16, 2009 9:34 PM

One Aim 9 and no problem. I've got tone. Keith

Posted by: Keith at March 16, 2009 9:34 PM

Russian ‘50s era bombers in the neighborhood are not a big threat to the US, but zero’s range of possible responses could be.

Posted by: charleywhiskey at March 19, 2009 5:16 PM