Thirteen Days


in Bombs and rockets, Films and movies

I watched Kai’s copy of Thirteen Days tonight. As a historical re-enactment of the Cuban Missile Crisis, it is apparently quite accurate. A lot of the dialogue was taken straight from tapes made of the meetings. Though, from what I have read, our historical understanding of the crisis keeps changing as new evidence becomes available. One can only speculate how much of what has happened in world politics more recently will be improperly understood, unless such archives are eventually opened.

The tension between the military and civilian portions of government is a particularly interesting aspect of the film. The kind of autonomy granted to military forces – as required for strategic reasons – is profoundly worrisome, in a world where ever more states have ever more nuclear weapons. That’s what makes the crisis such a chilling incident: the disjoint between intentions and certain action, the possibility of error and catastrophe.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan January 21, 2007 at 12:49 pm

The details of the U2 as an aircraft are really interesting. I had no idea how difficult they were to fly.

Scott January 21, 2007 at 6:48 pm

Ah the inspiration of at least two of my papers on ExComm.
I suspect you may have already read it but Allison’s The Essence of Decision is essential reading as is Bobby Kennedy’s Thirteen Days, on which the movie is based.
Though while Kenny O’Donnell was the closest thing that would resemble the White House Chief of Staff, one should keep in mind that his role was dramatically expanded for the sake of Kevin Costner.
But damn, the movie is worth watching for the impeccable Brooks Brothers’ suits and 60’s fashions alone.

Ahem, it is one of my favourite movies.

Milan January 21, 2007 at 7:53 pm


What were your ExComm papers about?

Scott Davy January 21, 2007 at 10:32 pm

The first, for HIST 403 (Public Opinion with Gossen) was on public reaction to the choice of quarentine and the second for 446 (Timofiiv) was on the Kennedy/Military dynamic in decisionmaking.
Those were the days…

Milan January 21, 2007 at 10:36 pm

My brother Mica has Timofiiv now for some kind of American history class. He was a really nice guy, though you had to pay attention in order to keep track of what he was saying.

I don’t think I ever had a class with more reading than Gossen’s HIST 432 class, though it was quite interesting. Only Brian Job’s security studies class even came close.

Scott Davy January 22, 2007 at 5:48 am

Its funny that you should mention Dr. Job’s class, I just brought my readings from that out of storage and had an interesting discussion about how it used to be strategic studies and was renamed.
I really did enjoy both Timo and Gossen, great instructors that for whatever reason were still sessionals.
Anyhow, currently reading Ian Clark’s Legitimacy in International Society and I think you would enjoy it… when you aren’t so inundated with work!

Milan February 11, 2007 at 1:58 am

This is really interesting:

Able Archer 83

“Able Archer 83 was a ten-day NATO exercise starting on November 2, 1983 that spanned the continent of Europe and simulated a coordinated nuclear release. It incorporated a new, unique format of coded communication, radio silences, participation by heads of state, and a simulated DEFCON 1 nuclear alert. The realistic nature of the exercise, coupled with deteriorating relations between the United States and the Soviet Union and the anticipated arrival of “super-stealth” Pershing II nuclear missiles in Europe, led some in the USSR to believe that Able Archer 83 was a genuine nuclear strike. In response, the Soviets readied their nuclear forces and placed air units in East Germany and Poland on alert. This relatively obscure incident is considered by many historians to be the closest the world has come to nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The immediate threat of nuclear war abruptly ended with the conclusion of the Able Archer 83 exercise on November 11.”

. July 21, 2016 at 2:23 pm

“While it is true, as Podvig writes, that “the U.S. superiority in capabilities and number of strategic nuclear weapons was one of the most decisive factors that shaped the evolution of the conflict [during the Cuban Missile Crisis] and the positions taken by both countries during the crisis,” it is also true that Kennedy and his advisors did everything possible to avoid provoking a Soviet attack – even if such an attack had culminated in no more than Bundy’s “one … bomb on one city of one’s own country.” One bomb was always enough.”

Rhodes, Richard. Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race. p. 94

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