Last week the president called his "wise men to the White House to discuss the Cuban situation.
"Wise men," he said, "we are faced with a very serious problem. There are between 2,500 and 3,000 Russian troops in Cuba, and I must do something about it."
"Why?" one of the wise men asked.
"Because I said I would so something about them, and when I took this office I promised never to lie to the American people."
"But," said another wise man who had worked for President Kennedy, "there have been Russian troops in Cuba since J.F.K. was in office. What is the big deal now?"
"We don't know what they're doing there," the president said. "They could be a cambat brigade or they could be Soviet advisers."
"What difference does it make?" another wise man asked. "Surely we can handle a Soviet brigade in Cuba."
"The difference," the president said, "is that having revealed that there is a brigade in Cuba, I, as president of the United States, must act on this information or lose my high rating in the polls."
"How long have you known about these troops, Mr. President?"
"Not very long. I just found out about it the other day."
"How could you find out about it the other day if they've been there for 17 years?"
"It beats me," the president said. "That's why I asked you wise men to come to the White House."
"I think," said one wise man, "your problem is not with the Soviets but with the CIA. If they don't know what is going on in Cuba how can you decide what to do about it? Don't we have any intelligence coming out of Havana?"
"That's a wise question," the president said. "The troops have been there for a long time, but the CIA has never been able to figure out what their mission was."
"Don't we keep tabs on Soviet military activity in Cuba?"
"We take photos of them from the air," the president replied, "but we don't know what to make of the pictures. Perhaps you wise men could study them and tell me what they mean."
The wise men looked at the pictures.
"How do we know they are Russians?" a wise man asked.
"The last soldier in line is doing a pirouette. We know Cuban troops can't do ballet dancing."
A second wise man said, "They could be lined up for chow."
"On the other hand," another wise man said, "they could be lined up to get fresh ammunition from the armory."
"Or for a Soviet USO show."
The president said, "I know the pictures aren't conclusive, but they're all I've got. What do I do now?"
"You really got yourself into a mess," a wise man said.
"If I wasn't," said the president, "I wouldn't have called you all here today."
"I have an idea," the wisest of the wise men said. "Why don't we invite the Soviet brigade to visit the United States as our guests?"
"Are you crazy?" someone said.
"No. The Soviets will refuse to do it, and then we can say they blinked."
Why will they refuse?"
"Every time a Soviet company visits the United States they defect. If the Russians are too frightened to send a hundred members of the Moscow symphony orchestra to play at Lincoln Center, they sure as hell aren't going to allow 3,000 soldiers to visit Disney World."