The Cold War

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What are the primary arguments in National Security Council 68 (1950), and how does it suggest the United States respond to the perceived threat of the Soviet Union and communism?

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The National Security Council of 1950 and its associated policy paper is considered one of the most important policy statements during the Cold War. The document was compiled relatively early in this non-fighting conflict, four years after US foreign policy began containment of Soviet expansionism and decades before the 1991 collapse of the USSR.

The end of the Second World War and the US defeat of Japan had left the US and the Soviet Union as the two dominant world powers. Authors of the paper argued that a significant threat to the US was the “hostile design” of communism in the Soviet Union; if communist influence spread, no coalition of nations would be able to defeat it. The policy statement essentially concluded that the Soviets would manufacture more weapons, including nuclear, and that the best course of action was to respond with a similar amassing of weaponry.

NSC-68 included multiple potential courses of action, the objectives of which were later considered to be poorly implemented. The paper outlined significant military spending in peacetime, increased defense of the Western Hemisphere and allied areas to develop war capacities, a return to isolation tactics, and increased diplomatic efforts with the Soviets. Although it outlined isolationism, the report rejected this tactic out of fear that the US would be cut off from its allies in Europe. Moreover, preventative strikes against the Soviet Union were also ruled out over concern that retaliation would leave Western Europe even more desolate, shortly after WWII.

The National Security Council ultimately concluded that the best course of action was to amass weaponry and utilize scientific advancements in technology that would maintain lines of communication and protect against Soviet land and air attacks. Shortly after NSC-68, the Soviet invasion of South Korea in 1950 resulted in the council’s recommendations becoming policy.

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