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North Korea: Another Cuban missile crisis?

You might ask, “Does history provide us with a lesson we can apply to the current problem America faces with North Korea?” The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 is the most significant event we can point to when the dire threat of nuclear war was at stake. To get the best counsel, President John F. Kennedy fielded a committee of experienced civilian and military advisers to help him decide what to do about the presence of nuclear missiles in Cuba. During those momentous 13 days, “when the world held its breath,” the hawks in the executive committee, including members of the Joint Chiefs and, perhaps most notably, former Secretary of State Dean Acheson, recommended a military strike against Cuba.

Again, you might ask, “What places in America would have been decimated by retaliatory nuclear bombs?” “Would your family have survived?” Eventually, calmer heads prevailed, and President Kennedy, instead, ordered a naval blockade around the island. Later, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. worked out a deal whereby the missiles were pulled out of Cuba in exchange for the U.S. promise to remove its Jupiter missiles aimed at the Soviet Union from Turkey.

In the run-up to our current nuclear controversy with North Korea, President Trump has engaged in some rather bellicose rhetoric. Now, with his selection of John Bolton to be National Security Adviser, according to columnist Jules Witcover, the president is joined by “the old fire-breathing warmonger who helped push President George W. Bush to invade Iraq 15 years ago on the false grounds that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction poised to attack America and her allies” (“Just when you thought Trump’s foreign policy could get any more chaotic, enter John Bolton,” March 26). With respect to Mr. Trump’s upcoming meeting with President Kim Jong-un, Mr. Bolton is already on the record as advising Mr. Trump to challenge Mr. Kim with, “Tell me you have begun total denuclearization, because we're not going to have protracted negotiations. You can tell me right now or we'll start thinking of something else."

Given Messrs. Trump’s and Bolton’s tendencies, who will be the cooler heads in this administration? If John Bolton becomes the National Security Advisor, as Mr. Witcover cautions, the president will be surrounded almost entirely by hawkish counselors. This is a recipe for potential disaster of enormous proportions. Mr. Trump’s impulsive tendencies and apparent underestimation of nuclear power, when combined with counsel weighted heavily in favor of the use of military force to resolve conflict, could easily bring us back to the moment in 1962 when the world hoped and prayed that cooler heads would prevail.

Joe Garonzik, Baltimore

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