Signature Lecture: “This Close to Nuclear War”: Robert McNamara’s Cuban Missile Crisis

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 - 7:00 PM
CIGI, 57 Erb Street West, Waterloo, Canada
Oct 13

Interested in CIGI’s LIVE WEBCAST of this event? RSVP here for a reminder notice and sign-on instructions. The Cuban missile crisis of October 1962 was the most dangerous crisis of the nuclear age. U.S., Russian and Cuban leaders at the time felt themselves close to the brink of catastrophic nuclear war. Research on the crisis over the past quarter century suggests that the risk of nuclear war in October 1962 was even greater than those leaders--John F. Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro--believed at the time. In the 2004 Academy Award-winning documentary film by Errol Morris, “The Fog of War,” former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara held up his thumb and forefinger in front of the camera until they almost touched. “We came this close to nuclear war,” he said, “this close to the total destruction” of the U.S., Soviet Union, Cuba and much of the rest of the world as well. The world as we know it could have been destroyed in October 1962 and a primary reason why this did not happen, according to McNamara was luck. “We lucked out,” as McNamara says in “The Fog of War.” On the 48th anniversary of the crisis, four distinguished scholars will take the stage at CIGI who have vast experience working with and on McNamara. They will address these questions: why did the crisis occur? What caused it to spin out of control? How close did the crisis come to nuclear war? What would likely have happened if nuclear weapons had been used by either side in or around Cuba? And what lessons do Robert McNamara’s experience of the crisis—both in October 1962 and in his subsequent historical research—offer to leaders and citizens alike who wish to reduce the risk of nuclear war in the 21st century so that nothing as dangerous as the missile crisis another never happens again? The panel’s presentation will begin with a brief dramatic excerpt of McNamara recalling the crisis from “The Fog of War.”

A Note Regarding Parking:
Please note that due to the construction at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, parking in CIGI's lot is limited. There is free parking across Caroline St. in the Uptown Waterloo lots. Thank you for your patience as we continue to grow.

Event Speakers