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JFK took right lessons from World War I book

RE “WHAT JFK didn’t know” (Ideas, Oct. 21): I beg to differ with Jordan Michael Smith, who, in his article on President Kennedy and the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, contends that JFK’s wise restraint was based on Barbara Tuchman’s subsequently discounted thesis on World War I’s “accidental” beginning, as laid out in her book “The Guns of August.” In fact, the disclosure that the German military high command wanted war in order to control Europe buttresses Tuchman’s major contribution to JFK’s thinking: namely, the proof that no nation’s civilian leader should dare entrust to her or his military leadership the decision about whether to go to war.

As “The Guns of August” clearly points out, not only were the military of Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Russia ready to go to war, but both the French and German high commands had plans for a quick military victory over the other. Both were tragically and totally wrong; their blindered optimism resulted in the destruction of the German and Austro-Hungarian empires, the rise of Communism in Russia, and four years of devastating trench warfare in northern France, killing millions of young men, and ending only because of US military intervention.

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