National Security Council Report 68 (Excerpt)
This National Security Council Report from April 1950 outlines the U.S. Government's response to the challenges presented by the Cold War, including the policy of "containment" that sought to limit Soviet expansion "by all means short of war." The document, known as NSC 68, alludes to the growing military strength and atomic capability of the U.S.S.R. (the Soviets had already tested their first atomic bomb a year earlier) and prescribes an increase in atomtic weapons and conventional military defenses that would triple U.S. defense spending in the early 1950s. NSC 68 also warns that fighting the Cold War would likely involve a "large measure of sacrifice" on the part of the American people, including perhaps that of "some of the benefits which they have come to associate with their freedoms."
In a shrinking world, which now faces the threat of atomic warfare, it is not an adequate objective merely to seek to check the Kremlin design, for the absence of order among nations is becoming less and less tolerable. This fact imposes on us, in our own interests, the responsibility of world leadership. It demands that we make the attempt, and accept the risks inherent in it, to bring about order and justice by means consistent with the principles of freedom and democracy. . . .
. . . It is only be developing the moral and material strength of the free world that the Soviet regime will become convinced of the falsity of its assumptions and that the pre-conditions for workable agreements can be created. . . .
. . . [T]he policy of “containment” . . . seeks by all means short of war to (1) block further expansion of Soviet power, (2) expose the falsities of Soviet pretensions, (3) introduce a retraction of the Kremlin’s control and influence, and (4) in general, so foster the seeds of destruction within the Soviet system that the Kremlin is brought at least to the point of modifying its behavior to conform to generally accepted international standards. . . .
As we ourselves demonstrate power, confidence, and a sense of moral and political direction, so those same qualities will be evoked in Western Europe. In such a situation, we may also anticipate a general improvement in the political tone in Latin America, Asia, and Africa and the real beginnings of an awakening among the Soviet totalitariat.
In the absence of affirmative decision of our part, the rest of the free world is almost certain to become demoralized. Our friends will become more than a liability to us; they can eventually become a positive increment to Soviet power. . . .
. . . [T]here are risks in making ourselves strong. A large measure of sacrifice and discipline will be demanded of the American people. They will be asked to give up some of the benefits which they have come to associate with their freedoms. . . .
It is estimated that, within the next four years, the U.S.S.R. will attain the [atomic] capability of seriously damaging vital centers of the United States, provided that it strikes a surprise blow and provided also further that the blow is opposed by no more effective opposition than we now have programmed. Such a blow could so seriously damage the United States as to greatly reduce its superiority in economic potential. . . .
A further increase in the number and power of our atomic weapons is necessary in order to assure the effectiveness of any U.S. retaliatory blow . . . Greatly increased general air, land and sea strength, and increased air defense and civilian defense programs would also be necessary to provide reasonable assurance that the free world survive an initial surprise atomic attack of the weight which it is estimated the U.S.S.R. will be capable of delivering by 1954 and still permit the free world to go on to the eventual attainment of its objectives. Furthermore, such a build-up of strength could safeguard and increase our retaliatory power, and thus might put off for some time the date when the Soviet Union could calculate that a surprise blow would be advantageous. This would provide additional time for the effects of our policies to produce a modification of the Soviet system. . . .
A program for rapidly building up strength and improving political and economic conditions will place heavy demands on our courage and intelligence; it will be costly; it will be dangerous. But half-measures will be more costly and more dangerous, for they will be inadequate to prevent, and may actually invite war. Budgetary considerations will need to be subordinated to the stark fact that our very independence as a nation may be at stake.
Creator | U.S. Department of State
Item Type | Government Document
Cite This document | U.S. Department of State, “National Security Council Report 68 (Excerpt),” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed April 21, 2021, https://shec.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/812.