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International policy: the Cuban missile crisis

Stephen J. Cimbala (Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania, USA)

Journal of Management History (Archive)

ISSN: 1355-252X

Article publication date: 1 June 1999


In this study I revisit the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, in order to gain additional perspective on the relationship between organizational decision making and crisis outcomes. This exercise is an historical “counterfactual” or “what if” excursion, using recently declassified documents and simulated exchange calculations, from which I hope to draw three principal benefits. First, the study may shed some additional light on why Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev was willing to take such a dangerous gamble. Second, our counterfactual crisis suggests that the risk of inadvertent war, so much written about in connection with Cuba, 1962, was less important than the risk of a deliberate, but miscalculated, escalation. Third, the balance of command and control vulnerability might have mattered more to crisis‐ridden US leaders than the balance of strategic nuclear forces. If so, it helps to explain the apparent reluctance of US leaders to employ highly coercive forms of nuclear brinkmanship.



Cimbala, S.J. (1999), "International policy: the Cuban missile crisis", Journal of Management History (Archive), Vol. 5 No. 4, pp. 199-222.




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