The Balsillie School of International Affairs is the global headquarters for the observance of the fiftieth anniversary of the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis. The initiative is led by BSIA faculty members, James Blight and janet Lang, and BSIA digital scholar in residence, Koji Masutani. The “command post” for this effort is their website, www.armageddonletters.com, as well as their facebook, YouTube pages, and Twitter feed, listed and the bottom of this announcement. On their website you will find information about Jim and janet’s new book, The Armageddon Letters, as well as blogs, podcasts, original short films (animated and live-action), and graphic narratives of the crisis.

Jim and janet will discuss their book, The Armageddon Letters, in a transmedia setting: using short films, graphic art and other platforms represented on their site. Their book has been described as a genre-busting work of history that takes readers behind the scenes during the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis. John Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro correspond with each other in the fog of the most dangerous crisis in recorded history. At the very brink of a world-destroying nuclear war, the three leaders make a last-ditch effort to avert the ultimate catastrophe. Kennedy writes to Khrushchev urgently as war seems about to break out. Khrushchev responds in kind. Castro writes to Khrushchev, urging Moscow to launch a nuclear war against the U.S. if it attacks and invades Cuba. Khrushchev, horrified by Castro’s situation and request, suggests a way out, and Kennedy agrees. The U.S. pledges not to invade Cuba; the Soviet Union pledges to remove the offensive nuclear weapons. Castro reluctantly complies, though he feels Moscow has caved in and exposed Cuba to an imminent attack. In The Armageddon Letters and in their presentation, Jim and janet invite readers and audience into a virtual time machine that will leave you breathless at the narrowness of humanity’s escape, and with a determination never to let anything so dangerous ever happen again.

 At the conclusion of their presentation, the speakers and audience will adjourn to the CIGI Campus lobby for the opening of an art exhibit, Canadian Artists Portray the Cuban Missile Crisis. There will be a tour of the drawings, sculpture and short films that make up the exhibit.

James G. Blight is the CIGI chair in foreign policy development at BSIA and the Department of History, University of Waterloo. With janet M. Lang, he is the co-creator of a research method called critical oral history, according to which three kinds of knowledge mix and merge simultaneously: (1) memories of former high-level decision-makers, (2) declassified documentation from the governments of all the involved countries, and (3) scholarly analysis. He is the author or co-author of more than a dozen books on the history of U.S. foreign policy including six books on the Cuban missile crisis. His most recent books are Becoming Enemies: U.S.-Iran Relations and the Iran-Iraq War, 1979-1988 (2012); and The Armageddon Letters: Kennedy/Khrushchev/Castro in the Cuban Missile Crisis (2012).

janet M. Lang is research professor at BSIA and the Department of History, University of Waterloo. She is, with James G. Blight, the co-creator of the research method of critical oral history. She has been the principal organizer of more than two dozen critical oral history conferences dealing with pivotal episodes in U.S. foreign policy and is co-author, in addition, of The Fog of War: Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2005), Becoming Enemies: U.S.-Iran Relations and the Iran-Iraq War, 1979-1988 (2012), and The Armageddon Letters: Kennedy/Khrushchev/Castro in the Cuban Missile Crisis (2012).

Introduction: Donald Morrison, President of the Morrison Family Foundation

Moderator: David A. Welch, the CIGI chair of global security, and director of the Balsilie School of International Affairs

Event Speakers