Zero: The Surprising and Unambiguous Policy Relevance of the Cuban Missile Crisis

CIGI Papers No. 8

October 24, 2012

It has been 50 years since the world teetered on the edge of irreparable destruction, when the Cuban missile crisis nearly culminated in Armageddon on the last weekend of October 1962. A quarter century of research on the crisis has given this paper’s authors, James G. Blight and janet M. Lang, a clear understanding of how close the world came to nuclear war. Arguing that zero is the right number of nuclear weapons in the world, Blight, CIGI chair in foreign policy development and Lang, research professor at the BSIA, explore the policy relevance of the crisis in a novel way, explaining that while Armageddon is possible and virtually inevitable, it can be prevented, if a healthy quotient of fear will motivate people to move decisively to zero nuclear weapons. They argue that using an “Armageddon time machine” to reconstruct the horror of the leaders’ endgame mindsets during the crisis world encourage the world to abolish nuclear weapons.

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CIGI Papers Series

CIGI Papers present in-depth analysis and discussion on governance-related subjects. They include policy papers that present CIGI experts' positions or contributions to policy debates, and background papers that contain research findings, insights and data that contribute to the development of policy positions.

About the Authors

janet M. Lang is research professor at the BSIA and the Department of History at the University of Waterloo.