President Nixon Urges Americans To Take Shelter, 1962
Just a thought: If Richard M. Nixon had been President, rather than John F. Kennedy, on October 16, 1962, American response to a discovery of Russian IRBM's in Cuba would have been resolved in a very different way.
Nixon was an insecure human being, and a true-believing Cold Warrior. It would have been a near-certainty that the same response plan pushed on JFK by the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- an air attack on the missile sites, followed by an invasion of Cuba -- which Kennedy successfully resisted, would have been Nixon's decision.
It's now known that the Russians also had short-range, tactical nukes in Cuba (referred to as "Frogs"), and local control of those devices had been released to Russian commanders of Soviet troops handling them in the field. The hardline Soviet Politburo members had approved this and were
If the Russians had used their tactical nukes, escalation to a full thermonuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union would have followed in a matter of days, if not hours.
Several hundred million people would have died outright, and over the next few months as food supplies dwindled and Winter set in. If you're American, or European, you would probably be dead now, or never born -- or, born into a horribly broken, radioactive world.
It might be argued that, had Nixon been elected, the 1961 Bay Of Pigs invasion by CIA-trained and supported right-wing Cubans would have been provided U.S. air support and may have succeeded in forcing Castro from power. And, had Nixon been elected, that likely would have happened.
(Nixon lost the 1960 election by the thinnest of margins -- some conservatives believed the election had been stolen by the Kennedys in Texas and Illinois; they were more than pissed. When Kennedy -- who reluctantly went along with the plan -- later refused to commit U.S. warplanes to support the Cuban expatriate invaders, some in the military and the CIA began to hate him; JFK dismissed several critics who went public.)The Bay Of Pigs was planned by the CIA in 1959 and 60 to rid the hemisphere of a Communist threat: The "Big Red Dog", in our own backyard. But if Nixon had pushed it all the way, it also might have forced the Soviets (whose hardliners wouldn't have passively accepted an invasion) to react -- possibly seizing West Berlin, and creating another on-the-brink crisis.
(But the major result of the Bay of Pigs was the Russian suggestion to move their IRBM missiles into Cuba, arguing that it would be a strategic fait d'accompli -- by the time America knew what was happening, it would be too late, and they would never again attempt to invade the island. Castro thought this logical and agreed.)
The strategic nuclear forces of East and West were on a "Launch On Warning" status in the late 1950's and early 60's. One lesson of the Cuban Missile Crisis for both sides was that the unthinkable really was possible -- and fortunately for humanity, some on both sides refused to accept that annihilation was inevitable, and took steps to allow everyone to move back from the brink.
But in the alternate historical reality pushed by America's Right, JFK wasn't an American hero -- just some indecisive candyass liberal, an oversexed toad, an appeaser to global Communism, 'cause a real man woulda kicked their Red asses.
Oy. Some people never learn anything.