Elsewhere in the reading, Tim Weiner asserts that John F. Kennedy’s authority to take informed and independent decisions was undermined by the Chief of CIA John McCone. Weiner goes on to say that McCone was cognizant of important intelligence information on par with the President and was instrumental in imposing the quarantine for Soviet ships, suggesting to the reader that Kennedy’s role was subordinate to that of the CIA chief. Controversial as it might sound, this point of view put forward by Tim Weiner does appear credible on account of the fact that he bases his inferences on declassified information of the period that was not perused by Christopher Andrews at the time of researching for his work. To understand the true nature of Kennedy’s style of functioning and his authority as the Commander-in-Chief, the Journal article by Thorpe and Staerck in Modern History Review is very useful. From this article we learn that the approach of the Kennedy Administration in dealing with the crisis combined obstinacies with intimidation. It was a battle off the battle fields. In this climate both psychological and strategic advantages were sought. President Kennedy’s immediate response to the developments was to commission an advisory body, ExComm it was called. In it were members of the administration of the most import, including Robert McNamara, Dean Rusk, Robert Kennedy, etc. The discussions held within the confines of the White House between the committee members were very heated and passionate. However, Kennedy’s calm and collective disposition assured that order prevailed amid the chaos. Hence, we understand that Kennedy engaged his team members, support staff and other aides in a constructive dialogue and did not impose his authority as the Commander-in-Chief (Thorpe and Staerck, 2000). This delegated and deliberative leadership style of the President might have led Tim Weiner to interpret it as weak leadership, while as a matter of fact he was always in control of the situation.
The other area of contention between the two scholars is regarding the importance of Col. Penkovsky’s intelligence inputs to the CIA, especially his role in eliciting accurate information about the size, type and mode of transportation of the nuclear warheads stationed in Cuba. Penkovsky’s inputs are deemed crucial by Tim Weiner, whereas Christopher Andrew underplays his value for the Kennedy Administration to make informed decisions and in choosing the right approach to the crisis. There were also some factual disparities in the accounts of the two authors. While Andrew estimates the nuclear warheads to reach any place within a 1000 mile radius, Weiner reckons that the reach of the missiles is even further, leaving all major cities in the United States exposed to a potential attack except Seattle, Washington.
In the final analysis, one has to conclude that Weiner’s arguments are better informed and to that extent more accurate for the simple fact that the author had available to him a whole bundle of declassified information that was not available to Christopher Andrew. This also serves to question the traditional modes of information dispersal to the general public, namely the journalistic enterprise and its effectiveness in fulfilling its social purpose. But, there are other complexities induced by the revelations made by declassified documentation. For example, Tim Weiner, after expounding his arguments, seems to tie the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis to that of September 11, 2001. Such “coincidental correlations” might help persuade the reader but betrays the writer’s hidden agenda. While Weiner’s application of declassified information adds merit to his writing, it has to be evaluated in a fair and balanced way.
Christopher Andrew, For the President’s Eyes Only: Secret Intelligence and the American Presidency from Washington to Bush.
Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA.
Frankel, Max. “Learning from the missile crisis: what really happened on those thirteen fateful days in October.(Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962).” Smithsonian 33.7 (Oct 2002): 52.
Thorpe, Keir, and Gillian Staerck., “The Cuban Missile Crisis.” Modern History Review 12.2 (Nov 2000): 28(4).
GT Allison, P Zelikow, “Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis”, Published in 1999 by Longman
The Library of Congress Archives., “Cold War: Cuban Missile Crisis”, <www.loc.gov/exhibits/archives/colc.html>