October 18, 1962

I’ve just finished a meeting with the military brass. Whenever I meet with them, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry or just scream in frustration. I say: so gentlemen, what should we do. They say: go to war, Mr. President. Right now. Go for it. Let’s go for the splendid first strike! What is so splendid? I say. What is so splendid about a nuclear war with the Soviet Union? They say: Mr. President, there won’t be any war with the Soviet Union, because they’ll be afraid to retaliate. They know that if they make one false move, we’ll let ‘em have it. Will they? I say. Oh yes, Mr. President, they say. We can attack Cuba, invade Cuba, take over Cuba, and Khrushchev won’t do a damn thing, other than fume and fuss. This is the script of every damn meeting with these guys with all that “lettuce” on the left front side of their uniforms.

Thank goodness I have McNamara over in the Pentagon. Bob puts the animals back in their cages over there, and locks the door until the next time they come over to the White House and try to convince me that an attack on The Cubans and Russians in Cuba will lead to a great big victory. Unfortunately, the Congress and the American people are susceptible to this bullshit. The whole bunch is still thinking as if this is the Second World War, and we are the only nuclear power.

I just hope to hell we can make through this crisis in one piece. If we do, then maybe I can find some military brass that understand the new facts of life. I heard one of McNamara’s aides say the other day: in the 1960s, nuclear powers need to relate to each other the way porcupines have sex: very carefully! He got it right.