Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2007

Published In

Journal Of Cold War Studies


During the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, the argument that U.S. air strikes against Soviet missile sites in Cuba would be morally analogous to the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 had a major impact on policymaking. The invocation of this analogy contributed to President John F. Kennedy's decision to forgo an immediate attack on the missiles and to start instead with a naval blockade of the island. The "Pearl Harbor in reverse" argument is an example of an important phenomenon that has received little attention in foreign policy analysis—the moral analogy. Fusing together elements of moral and analogical thinking, the moral analogy can be a powerful force in shaping policy preferences, as it was in October 1962.


This work is freely available courtesy of the Harvard Project on Cold War Studies and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.