Confronting the "Essence of Decision" – Canada and the Cuban Missile Crisis


  1. Gladman, B.W.
  2. Archambault, P.M.
Corporate Authors
Defence R&D Canada - Centre for Operational Research and Analysis, Ottawa ON (CAN)
This Technical Memorandum, which is the first full case-study in a series of eight, examines how Canada dealt with the Cuban Missile Crisis. The case will focus on accounting for why the Diefenbaker government, in the context of a grave threat to North American security and defence, delayed increasing the readiness level for the CF as requested by Washington, and the role played by the mechanics of Canadian Government decision-making at the time. By reconstructing the events and decision-making processes that existed in the political, bureaucratic and military domains, the case begins to build the ‘story’ of the Canada-US strategic defence relationship. In doing so, it recounts a sad story of leaders, both political and military, too readily accepting reasons to justify inaction in the face of a clear and present danger. Thus, while having a more streamlined national security structure cannot always negate the effect of personality on decision-making, what this case-study demonstrates is that the national security structure in place during the crisis allowed military civilian leadership to get away far too easily with finding reasons for inaction. While it is accepted that personality always makes itself felt, the lack of rigour in the system did nothing to soften its sharp edges since it did not force realistic and timely assessments of the nation’s geostrategic imperatives, or of the developing threat from Soviet missiles in Cuba. Indeed, this case-study has shown tha

Il y a un résumé en français ici.

Cuban missile crisis;Cold war;John F. Kennedy;John George Diefenbaker;Fidel Castro;Government war book;DND war book;Monroe doctrine;National defence;National security architecture;United States Government;Continental defence
Report Number
DRDC-CORA-TM-2010-250 — Technical Memorandum
Date of publication
26 Nov 2010
Number of Pages
Electronic Document(PDF)

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