335. Memorandum by McCone, October 181

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USIB should address itself to the following problems at once and be prepared to report at a meeting Friday morning.

The question is to analyze the effects of probable courses of action which might be taken by the United States. The courses are three:

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1. To accept MRBM and other offensive capabilities in Cuba as a fact of life and do nothing about it.

2. To initiate a total or limited blockade under a declaration of war against Cuba.

3. To take military action ranging from:

(a) Take out of the identified MRBMs.

(b) (a) plus concurrent take out of Cuban air capabilities—MIGs, IL 28s, etc.

(c) (a) plus (b) plus take out of SAM sites and cruise missile sites.

(d) Invasion/destruction of Castro Regime.

There are two alternative approaches to 2 and 3 above. They are:

(a) Confrontation of Khrushchev with our knowledge of what is going on and determine his willingness to cease and desist and unravel the situation prior to action by us and then taking actions under 2 and 3 if, and only if, Khrushchev’s responses are unsatisfactory. Similarly, some approach might be made in the form of a warning to Castro.

(b) To act under 2 and/or 3 without warning to Castro or Khrushchev on the theory that Presidential statement and Congressional Resolution, etc., constitute a warning.

USIB’s opinion and appraisal of all aspects of the above contemplated actions are requested.

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In making these studies, careful attention should be given to the question of the military significance of MRBMs in Cuba. There is a body of thought that since a nuclear stalemate exists, the installation of MRBMs in Cuba does not alter the equation. It is thought that the Soviets do not now or at any time in the future, have the capability to strike us with such complete devastation that we cannot strike back at them with unacceptable damage to them. On the other hand, it is likewise felt that we cannot strike the Soviet Union in a surprise attack with assurance of so destroying their restrike capability that they cannot strike back at us inflicting unacceptable damage to us. Therefore, it is thought that the nuclear offensive power is “in balance” and will remain so until some defensive mechanisms come into being. In view of this, the question is raised as to whether MRBMs in Cuba alter this particular equation.

This question should be analyzed as part of USIB’s study without reference to the political implications. As a collateral part of the study USIB should address itself to the following:

(a) The political implications which involve enhancement of USSR prestige throughout the world and particularly on Latin America and Africa by “getting away with the installations”

(b) The probability that this will turn out to be a rallying point for the Communist minorities throughout Latin America and conversely [Typeset Page 1074] result in a loss of prestige to the United States, because the Soviets got away with this;

(c) The effect on our position throughout the world and our friends’ appraisal of our courage and determination in such troubled areas as Berlin, Nationalist China, Korea, etc, if we “buckle under” to an established offensive capability in Cuba, which is a situation we have repeatedly said we would not tolerate.

John A. McCone
  1. Problems the USIB should address at next meeting on possible courses of action in Cuba. Top Secret. 2 pp. CIA, Job 84–00499R, Box 1, HS/HC 850B, Vol. II.