I lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, but as a sophomore in high school I didn’t know much about it beyond the lurid newspaper headlines and heavy mouth breathing of U.S. government officials. We “won,” of course, but unfortunately the lesson drawn by successive generations of American officials — especially those infesting the U.S. government today — consists of a single quotation from JFK’s Secretary of State Dean Rusk: “We’re eyeball to eyeball and I think the other fellow just blinked.”
In the years following this near disaster, I came to understand the details of the trade-off made between Kennedy and Khrushchev: the Soviets would withdraw their nuclear missiles from Cuba and the United States would withdraw its nuclear missiles from Turkey. (The U.S. missiles in Turkey have long since returned). The American concessions, however, had to remain secret from the American public lest it come to light that we had “blinked,” too. Yes, we had the military advantage near our own — and Cuba’s — shores, but the Soviets had the military advantage in Berlin and other places closer to their borders. It made sense to do a deal and so a deal got done.
Regrettably, though, the United States government could not publicly admit that it had made any concessions because that would have implied “weakness” which would have undermined America’s self-image as omnipotent and destined to prevail in any contest, any place, any time, and for any reason. This deliberately inculcated delusion has now reached almost suicidal dimensions. The United States simply assumes that those nations with their own vital interests to defend will automatically “blink” if only the hyper-militarized American government stares hard and long enough into their eyeballs.
To refresh my memory, I did an Internet search on Secretary Rusk’s iconic phrase and came across an essay on the subject at the Council on Foreign Relations blog, The Water’s Edge, written by James M. Lindsay, entitled TWE Remembers: Eyeball to Eyeball and the Other Fellow Just Blinked (Cuban Missile Crisis, Day Nine). Short and to-the-point, I think it says a great deal that Americans would do well to keep in mind today.
As I have watched my country become vastly over-extended militarily — and nearly bankrupt from the gargantuan costs of maintaining an imaginary “full spectrum dominance” everywhere on Planet Earth — I have often wondered why America’s rivals and competitors — I won’t call them “enemies” — don’t simply liquidate in short order some of America’s more obviously provocative yet utterly defenseless outposts as an object lesson to America’s deluded policy makers. Then I remember that scene from The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), a film by Kevin Reynolds, wherein the dissolute aristocrat Fernand de Mondego sits at a casino roulette wheel gambling away his family inheritance. Through an open door nearby, Edmond Dantes and his sidekick Yacopo look on. Observes the laconic Yacopo: “He’s losing at the other casinos, and they’re not even cheating him.”
Therein, I think, lies the truth of today’s situation for America in the world. Our self-styled “leaders” believe that they need only toot their own horns, pat themselves on the back, squander taxpayer dollars like a drunken Reagan, and stare into other people’s eyeballs until they “blink,” Too bad for our country, the rest of the world has learned to bide its time, patiently, until the United States cheats its own self into well-deserved insolvency and obsolescence. Why even bother doing to the United States what it will do to itself in any event?
Given Murphy’s Law, the nuclear thing will go wrong in any way that it can, most likely with an electrical short-circuit or computer glitch causing one (or several) of America’s own bombs to detonate in either a missile silo in Nebraska, a B-52 flying over New Jersey, or a submarine moored at Ballast Point near San Diego. Whether anyone else “blinks” or not, it would seem inevitable that the United States will cheat itself to death, one way or another. In Shakespeare’s melodrama, Hamlet could not decide whether to live or die. (Messing around with metaphysical Aristotlean “being” certainly didn’t help clarify things). In the end, he did the latter, as much at his own hands as any other’s. That happens when people believe in ghosts (or, “higher fathers”) and what they say the ghosts urge them to do, whether in Elizabethan England or the United States.
Finally, whatever President Obama says or does not say matters not at all. Who even listens to him any longer? Certainly not his Pentagon, CIA, or deep-state neocon apparatchiks busy sabotaging his policy at every turn. And since his own government won’t listen to him or take him seriously, why should anyone else? What an obscene joke the U.S. presidency has become. It pretty much sums up the incoherent and incompetent, if not dishonorable, U.S. Government that President Obama hasn’t fired Aston Carter and John Brennan for insubordination or that John Kerry hasn’t resigned because his own president won’t back him up when he makes deals with foreign countries. T.S. Elliot once wrote that the world will end “not with a bang, but a whimper.” Certainly the Obama administration will end with its tail tucked proudly between its legs, but nothing guarantees that the world and the Obama administration won’t end simultaneously, with both a whimper and a bang.
“How to blink without appearing to do so?” Therein lies the real question for America’s self-infatuated “leaders.”
Michael Murry is a Vietnam Veteran, gargoyle sculptor, and poet. He occupies the Asian Desk for The Contrary Perspective.
4 thoughts on “Eyeball to Eyeball with the End of Empire”
Michael. said: “I have watched MY country……”
Michael is an ex pat and lives in a foreign country. He has sacrificed and suffered for his country in Vietnam but he still refers to it as “MY COUNTRY”. Michael and I both do not like the greed, indifference, and the abandonment of a caring, DEMOCRATIC society that we seeitoday n our country. But it is still OUR COUNTRY.. We reject the failed policies that lead to the making of perpetual war and the handing over of our republic to wealthy oligarchs under the guise of “free trade treaties”.
A healthy democracy is built on its citizens skepticism of those in power and that is what we write about in the Contrary Perspective. We still believe it is OUR COUNTRY and we are not ready to let the oligarchs make it theirs. “Keep on truckin” folks. We’ll get our country back.
You live in your country…
That didn’t take long. Just the other day I wrote and posted the following:
“I have often wondered why America’s rivals and competitors — I won’t call them “enemies” — don’t simply liquidate in short order some of America’s more obviously provocative yet utterly defenseless outposts as an object lesson to America’s deluded policy makers.”
Now, today, I read this headline at Information Clearing House:
U.S. “Operations Room” In Syria Destroyed By Russian Missile Attack – Thirty Israeli, American, British, Turkish, Saudi, Qatari Intelligence Officials Killed, Report, by Prof Michel Chossudovsky.
Oops! There just went one of America’s more obviously provocative yet utterly defenseless outposts in Syria: a country where we have no business deploying our military and “intelligence” (how I hate to use that word in association with anything having to do with the U.S. government) forces. Just the other day, those same “US -led” outpost ground-spotters called in an air attack upon some Syrian Arab Army forces, killing over sixty of them and wounding another hundred. I have no doubt but that some Russian soldiers numbered among those casualties. The Russians, for their part, didn’t waste any time sending a return message.
The only question for America now concerns whether or not anyone at the Pentagram, CIA, State Department, or White House (none of whom probably know each others’ phone numbers) can actually read and understand loud incoming messages bearing clear and unmistakeable object lessons for overstretched imperialists meddling in affairs of state that do not concern them.
I’ve thought a lot recently about that Cuban missile crisis that I lived through back in my youth, mostly because today’s world situation provides such an instructive contrast. I remember when Adlai Stevenson, America’s UN Ambassador accused the Soviet Union of placing nuclear missiles 90 miles from American shores, and to substantiate his accusations he provided aerial photographs of the missile emplacements for all the world to see. Now, leaving aside the fact that the Cubans had every right to install missiles within their own territory, just as the United States and other countries did, and that the Soviet Union had every right to navigate in international waters without the threat of U.S. piracy, as every other country did, it still bears remembering that at least the United States used to back up its accusations with plausible evidence. Not so today.
Over the past several years — throughout most of the Obama administration, actually — the United States has accused many countries of unspeakable crimes (usually just prior to invading and/or bombing them) but has usually failed to supply any plausible evidence in support of its hysterical accusations. Just the other day, America’s UN Ambassador, Samantha Power made a complete jackass out of herself and my country by first blowing off the Pentagram’s dastardly attack on the Syrian Army in Deir Ezzor — in support of a ground operation by ISIS (ostensibly America’s “enemy”) — and then accusing the Syrian and Russian air forces of bombing a UN convoy of relief supplies for ISIS infested Eastern Aleppo. When asked for satellite or drone photographic or radar evidence of this attack, Ms Power simply launched a vicious and unprofessional diatribe against the Russian “barbarians.” Then she rudely stormed out of the UN while the Russian ambassador tried to offer his country’s point of view. As Charles Shoebridge, a former British military/intelligence commenter said the other day on the Russia Today Crosstalk program:
“… I would have to say that most objective, impartial observers would look at the performance of people such as [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov over the past few years and then comparing it with the performance in public of the likes of Samantha Power and John Kerry. … You can see that on one side you’ve got cool, calm reflection … Of course, both sides will be putting up propaganda points … but the subtlety with which one side does it and the kind of histrionics and theatrics with which the Western side portrays its case or presents its case – and the example you just gave is one of those – does their case no service at all, and in fact does it a disservice. …”
And as security analyst Mark Sleboda added:
“Part of the problem with people like Samantha Power and John Kerry is that they’re not professional diplomats like their colleagues in Russia. Lavrov, Churkin, these people are professional, career diplomats. Whereas U.S. figures like Kerry and Power, they’re either political or ideological appointees. Or in the case of others like them, they’re simply large campaign contributors. The western media has well commented that it’s just several million dollars to Obama’s campaign funds that get you an ambassadorship. In this case its more ideological and political. …”
Not just in the Obama administration do we see these pathetic personalities on parade, of course. The former Clinton and Deputy Dubya administrations had their share of diplomatic disasters, too. Nonetheless, whereas the United States used to have at least a few professional diplomats in service to our national interests, we now have only laughing stock amateurs: political greasy-pole climbers like You-Know-Her and John Kerry, well-heeled campaign contributors too numerous to list here, and ideological nitwit grand-standers like Madeleine Albright, John Bolton, Victoria Nuland, and Samantha Power. These pompous pretenders do not make us look good or sound the least bit credible. We used to do better.
At any rate, the world situation seems to have reversed itself from what it was back thirty or forty years ago, with China and the Russian Federation now seemingly run by intelligent, competent adults while the United States reverts to either senility or infantile narcissism, hard to tell which. The government of the United States had better learn to blink, soon, or it will go blind staring wide-eyed for hours into that big yellow eyeball in the noonday sky.