To the Brink of Armageddon
In October 1962, when U.S. reconnaissance overflights revealed that the Soviet Union was installing offensive, nuclear-capable missiles in Fidel Castro’s Communist Cuba, President John F. Kennedy and his advisors quickly concluded this was unacceptable and that some kind of action was required. But the problem facing the President was made complex by the realization that confrontation between these two superpowers ran the very real risk of escalating into a nuclear exchange—the dreaded “World War III.”
Seeking something less than overt combat actions—which were being pressed by many of his advisors—that nonetheless would send a strong message of resolve, Kennedy opted for a combination of limited power projection and deterrence. Foremost in this strategy was the implementation of a naval blockade (calling it a “quarantine” in a semantic maneuver to make it less an “act of war” in diplomatic parlance).