NSC-68 (1950):  Making the World Safe For American Democracy

  • Drafted in secret by committee led by Paul Nitze
  • Emphasizes perimeter defense and military build up
  • Essentially defines global threats as national interests
  • Written in “Hemingway sentences” (Robert Lovett)

Key excerpts:

The integrity of our system will not be jeopardized by any measures, covert or overt, violent or non-violent, which serve the purpose of frustrating the Kremlin design, nor does the necessity for conducting ourselves so as to affirm our values in actions as well as words forbid such measures, provided only they are appropriately calculated to that end and are not so excessive or misdirected as to make us enemies of the people instead of the evil men who have enslaved them.

…it is clear that our military strength is becoming dangerously inadequate.

Without superior aggregate military strength, in being and readily mobilizable, a policy of ‘containment’ … is no more than a policy of bluff.

Without such a cooperative effort, led by the United States, we will have to make gradual withdrawals under pressure until we discover that one day we have sacrificed positions of vital interest.

The Hawk and the Dove (?)



Kennan Nitze

Further Reading

Critics of NSC-68

  • From within Truman Administration
  • Outsiders (Republicans):
    • John Foster Dulles
    • Herbert Hoover
    • Gen. Douglas MacArthur
    • Sen. Robert Taft
  • Realists (balance of power):
    • George Kennan
    • Walter Lippmann

Korean War

“Manchurian Candidate” (1962)