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1 - NSC 68 and the Problem of Origins

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 July 2011

Curt Cardwell
Drake University, Iowa
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If [in writing NSC 68] we made our points clearer than truth, we did not differ from most other educators and could hardly do otherwise.

Dean Acheson, 1969

In February 1975, roughly twenty-five years after being presented to President Harry S. Truman, National Security Council policy recommendation 68, or NSC 68 as it has come to be known, was declassified. Although the declassification was apparently an accident on the part of then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, NSC 68 in fact had been a part of public discourse for years. Secretary of State Dean Acheson, one of the principal authors of the paper, began discussing its contents publicly in early 1950, even prior to its adoption as national policy, as part of his “total diplomacy” campaign to convince the American people of the need for a stepped-up Cold War. In 1962, Paul Y. Hammond published a forty-thousand-word essay on NSC 68 based primarily on interviews with those who had seen it. Acheson discussed NSC 68 in some detail in Present at the Creation, his classic autobiography of his years in the State Department, published in 1969; although its then still top-secret status prevented him from quoting from it. Prior to its declassification, NSC 68 figured in the works of many historians and other scholars as well. Such widespread knowledge of NSC 68 before its declassification led Acheson biographer Gaddis Smith in 1972 to label it “the most famous unread paper of its era.”

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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