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Talk at the BrinkDeliberation and Decision during the Cuban Missile Crisis$
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David R. Gibson

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691151311

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691151311.001.0001

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(p.159) Chapter 7 Conclusion
Talk at the Brink

David R. Gibson

Princeton University Press

Reflecting on the decision-making process after the Cuban missile crisis was over, President Kennedy famously observed that “the essence of ultimate decision remains impenetrable to the observer—often, indeed, to the decider himself ... There will always be the dark and tangled stretches in the decision-making process—mysterious even to those who may be most intimately involved.” This chapter summarizes theoretical and empirical arguments with an eye toward making sense of this striking claim, wherein Kennedy appears to admit that even he felt baffled by what happened in the White House during his presidency. It then discusses the peculiar fact that, at a conference of former ExComm members and academics held twenty-five years after the crisis, the former were forced to admit that their deliberative process was far from systematic. The academics were baffled, but the findings of this book provide an explanation, involving the strange twists and turns that the deliberative process undergoes when it is conducted aloud, subject to the whims of other people and the demands and sensitivities of the conversational machinery that makes the whole thing work.

Keywords:   Cuban missile crisis, John F. Kennedy, ExComm, Executive Committee of the National Security Council, decision-making process, deliberation

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