How Failure Prevented a Nuclear War

How JFK used the Bay of Pigs failure to succeed during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

For anyone who is not familiar with US History or may have possibly forgotten, the Bay of Pigs is a crucial part of US History. Back in 1959, Fidel Castro had seized power of Cuba through a revolution. He had always been a concern for the U.S. because of his extreme opposition to America and his close relationship with the Soviet Union. Through the CIA, President Dwight D. Eisenhower formed and trained a force of Cuban exiles for an armed attack on Cuba. When John F. Kennedy took hold of the Presidency in 1961, he inherited this program.

Fast forward to April 17, 1961, against the better judgment of his military advisors, JFK gave the go-ahead for the attack. With over 100 of the attackers being killed and more than 1,100 captured, the mission was a massive failure. Not only did Castro use this to solidify his power, but it also left Kennedy looking reckless, vulnerable, and weak.

Now let's skip ahead to how Kennedy used this failure at the Bay of Pigs to save America during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the lessons that we can apply to our own lives.

On October 16th, 1962 Kennedy woke up to his staff showing him pictures of the Soviets setting up nuclear missiles in Cuba. Immediately, he formed a large group of advisors whose wisdom he could lean into. During the next 13 days, he informed the US of the missiles in Cuba, listened to his advisors, took walks in his garden, swam in the White House pool and doodled in his notepad. At the end of it all, Kruschev withdrew his missiles from Cuba, the U.S. withdrew their missiles from Turkey, and Kennedy prevented a Nuclear War.

When it comes to JFK's lens on failure, there are three things that we can take away:

1. Broaden Your Advisory Board - The first action we see Kennedy take is to broaden his advisory board. During the Bay of Pigs, he only sought the counsel of a handful of people. This time around, he assembled a group with a much wider perspective. By doing this, he allowed more ideas, debates, and options.

2. Set Aside Your Ego - Kennedy removed his ego from the equation. He could have easily decided to invade Cuba, as many of his advisors directed him. One of his advisors said, 'It corresponds with "the punishment fits the crime" in political terms.' He very well could have wanted to earn people's respect after the fiasco of the Bay of the Pigs by showing that he is tough and doesn't back down from a fight. Instead, he set his ego and looked at the situation as a whole examining all outcomes.

3. Learn From Your Past - If Kennedy did not learn from his failure during the Bay of Pigs, the world have seen a nuclear war of epic proportions. Instead, Kennedy decided that there had to be another approach than invasion or else he could risk the same result as the Bay of Pigs. Only this time, if he failed, he would be faced with much bigger consequences. He decided to use that failure to his advantage causing him to look into more options than just attack and invade.