In the fall of 1956, Nikita Khrushchev threatened to rain rockets down on London for the British invasion of Suez and sent his tanks into Budapest to drown the Hungarian Revolution in blood.
He blew up the Paris summit in 1960, banged his shoe at the U.N., and warned Americans, "We will bury you!"
He insulted John F. Kennedy in Vienna, built the Berlin Wall, and began secretly to place missiles in Cuba capable of annihilating every city in the Southeast, including Washington.
Those were sobering times and serious enemies.
Yet in the Eisenhower-Kennedy years, living under a nuclear Sword of Damocles unlike any the world had ever known, we Americans were on balance a cool, calm and collected crowd.
How then explain the semi-hysteria and near panic in circles of this city over the possibility President Obama might meet with President Hassan Rouhani and hold negotiations over Iran's nuclear program?
We hear talk of Hitler in the Rhineland, of a new Munich, of America failing to act as Britain failed to act, until, back to the wall, it had no choice but to fight. The old Churchill quotes are heard once again.
But is the Ayatollah Hitler? Is Rouhani von Ribbentrop? Is Iran the Fourth Reich? Should we be very very afraid?
Iran, we are told, is the most dangerous enemy America faces.
But is this true?
Depending on one's source, Iran's economy is 2 to 4 percent of ours. After oil and gas, its big exports appear to be caviar, carpets and pistachio nuts. Inflation is unbridled and Iran's currency is plummeting.
Here is the New York Times last month:
"Rouhani's aides describe Iran's economic situation as the worst in decades. ... The signs of woe abound.
"Lacking money, Iran's national soccer team scrapped a training trip to Portugal. Teachers in Tehran nervously awaited their wages, which were inexplicably delayed by more than a week. Officials warned recently that food and medicine imports have stalled for three weeks because of a lack of foreign currency."
Should Iran start a war, the sinking of its coastal navy would be a few days' work for the Fifth Fleet. Its air force of U.S. Phantoms dating to the Shah and few dozen MiGs dating to the early 1990s would provide a turkey shoot for Top Gun applicants.
In 30 days, the United States could destroy its airfields, missile sites and nuclear facilities, and impose an air and naval blockade that would reduce Iran to destitution.
And Iran is not only isolated economically.