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6 - The Origins and Development of NSC 68

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 July 2011

Curt Cardwell
Affiliation:
Drake University, Iowa
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Summary

What we work toward must be on a higher plane than a solution of the Russian problem. That happens to be a major irritation in the side of western civilization today but that may be a benefit, because it may make us think. It is an abnormal power relationship which we have to deal with today.

George Kennan, June 13, 1950

The purpose of NSC-68 was to so bludgeon the mass mind of “top government” that not only could the President make a decision but that the decision could be carried out.

Dean Acheson, 1969

NSC 68, and the rearmament program that it spawned, fundamentally altered the course of the Cold War. The Cold War certainly had begun as early as 1946–1947, but it did not become the rigid standoff that characterized it for the roughly forty years after 1950 until the advent of NSC 68. NSC 68 was a point of departure for the United States in its relations with the Soviet Union and virtually the entire world. It marked the point at which the country, under the guidance of the multilateralists in the Truman administration and their private colleagues, gave up any and all pretense of cooperating with the Soviet Union and took the position that only unbridled power in its own hands – hegemony – could secure the kind of world that would allow the United States itself to function along liberal capitalist democratic lines, a world defined in terms of multilateralism by those committed to multilateralism.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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References

Stueck, William, The Korean War: An International History (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1995), 43, passim
Gaddis, John Lewis, Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy (New York, 1982), 112–113

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