PBS has released a very well done documentary about the Cuban Missile crisis that focuses on the decision-making process of Kennedy and Krushchev. Like any good nuclear-themed documentary Three Men Go to War scares the pants off you even though you know how it all works out in the end. Being a child of the 80's, nuclear proliferation and the Cold-War quagmire are familiar themes that I have grown used to being afraid of but watching this film frightened me in a new way. What I was unable to get over was how very old and dangerously antique all of the weaponry and controls looked. More than that, the interviewees talked about using bicycle messengers to rush messages to the nearest telegraph office and waiting over twelve hours for a message to be sent from one embassy to the other. In fact, one of the most tense moments of the crisis was caused by a second letter from Krushchev arriving before the White House had responded to the first. To be honest, the weaponry and technology being depicted looked like something a TAG student might be able to assemble from a kit in their backyard for a school science project.
While the numbers of nuclear weapons held in stockpiles has decreased significantly since the Cuban Missile Crisis, more than 17,000 are still held today in 9 different countries. I think about that, and then I think about the Russian space program, still operational, and still using much of it's original technology and infrastructure from the 1950's and 60's. I wonder about the aging of the world's nuclear weapons and consider that the US will spend 372 billion dollars to maintain it's own arsenal each year. I wonder if Russia, Pakistan, France, India and North Korea have the kind of money it takes to have such dangerous toys. I wonder how long old dogs have.
To Watch the PBS Documentary on the Cuban Missile Crisis Three Men Go to War: