“EYEBALL TO EYEBALL”.

“EYEBALL TO EYEBALL”. Kids, Sandy Levinson’s phrase in his post that “it was ultimately Nikita Khrushchev… who ‘blinked’…” refers to a phrase that was characteristic of the reporting on the Crisis. This BBC article by Michael Dobbs in 2008 says: “The reported comment of Secretary of State Dean Rusk: ‘We were eyeball to eyeball, and the other fellow just blinked’ – has become part of missile crisis mythology.” I am not familiar with what historians have now learned, but I do remember that at the time the imagery of a staredown was a dominant theme in writing about the Crisis. Sandy refers to “defense intellectuals.” One of the giants in the field was Thomas Schelling, whose great book THE STRATEGY OF CONFLICT, which applied game theory to negotiations, had recently been published. In one chapter, Schelling discussed the game of “chicken”. The winner was the one who convinced the other that he was not going to retreat. His telling example was that a pedestrian crossing Harvard Square should appear completely oblivious to the cars so that drivers would assume the pedestrian would never step back. Discussions of nuclear confrontations at the time talked a lot about the credibility of threats.

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One Response to “EYEBALL TO EYEBALL”.

  1. Pingback: BRIGHT LINES IN NEGOTIATIONS. | Pater Familias

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