Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Missile Gap forums

Well, this was interesting.  The first panel in the early afternoon seemed sparsely attended to me.  There were maybe 200 people plus a dozen or more members of the AFOI or current intel officers in attendance and I know this because they were asked to stand.  This organization, the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, was created by, I believe, David Atlee Phillips.  So, it seemed a very odd love festival for AFOI members at the JFK Library rather than an academic forum on "The Missile Gap."

The AFOI web page referred to the forum as "a CIA conference." And if you scroll down there's this little gem, "NB: The information you supply on the JFK registration pages is not under control of AFIO or CIA but is property of JFK Library. Enter only the asterisked lines requested [first and last name, email address, number attending with you for that part of the event] - use your public contact data." 

I have not found much press coverage on the net about it, which is unfortunate.  There was an article in the Harvard Crimson.

There were two in the afternoon, and one later in the evening. There were introductory remarks by Tom Putnam, director of the JFK Library and then some remarks by Mr. Joe Lambert, described as the director of Information Management Services for the CIA.  Mr. Putnam played a secret recording that President Kennedy made of discussion with Robert McNamara about the origin of "The Missile Gap." And he had the words spoken by McNamara and JFK on a screen.  Putnam committed the unforgivable theatrical sin of stepping on the laugh line.  When you know the audience is going to laugh, you wait a beat, let them laugh, then come in with your line or the next thing to say.

(This tape is from Dec 1962.)

McNamara - There was created a myth in the country, that did great harm to the nation.  It was created by, I would say, emotionally guided but nevertheless patriotic individuals in the Pentagon.  There are still people of that kind in the Pentagon.  I wouldn't give them any foundation for creating another myth.

JFK - That missile one of those who put that myth around..a patriotic and misguided man, (laughter)

Now that's JFK in a self effacing way saying I was guilty of that.  But Putnam cut the sound off on the tape too soon.  We didn't get to hear the full amount of laughter, and thus the audience listening to it didn't get to laugh along with it.  He was too quick to point out that JFK suggested that it just wasn't generals at the Pentagon, and not just members of the Democratic party, but the Eisenhower administration itself that put forward the idea of the missile gap.  JFK wondered if we could get somebody over there, meaning the Pentagon, to analyze the missile gap because it would be of historic interest.  Putnam wanted to get to his joke that he hoped it wasn't a measure of governmental efficiency but here we are 50 years later following the president's orders.

The first panel was rather dull.  Two guys spoke.  The first was John Bird then Robert Jervis.  It had no moderator, just Bird and Jervis.  Bird spoke for an hour, all by himself, uninterrupted.  It was like watching paint dry.

Edward Proctor was unable to attend due to ill health.

The second panel with Fred Kaplan and Tim Naftali was much more interesting.

They gave out a booklet with a DVD containing declassified documents.

You can download the booklet here.  You can ask for the DVD and they'll send it to you.  
To request that a printed copy of a booklet—complete with an interactive DVD—be mailed to you free of charge, contact OPA.

I'll comment some more on this soon.  There was a lot of information to absorb.

No comments:

Post a Comment