Chapter 4 – U.S. “Containment” Strategy from Truman to Johnson - 1950 to 1968

c. Building up as rapidly as possible the war potential of the Soviet orbit in anticipation of war, which in communist thinking is inevitable. . . .

[The Soviet Imperial Apparatus and “Pseudo-Scientific Ideology] [This includes]the complete and effective centralization of power throughout the USSR and the international communist movement . . . [and] the persuasive appeal of a pseudo-scientific ideology promising panaceas and brought to other peoples by the intensive efforts of a modern totalitarian propaganda machine . . . [and] the highly effective techniques of subversion, infiltration and capture of political power, worked out through a half a century of study and experiment. . . .

[Military Issues] The capabilities of the USSR to threaten U.S. security by the use of armed forces are dangerous and immediate . . . [including the] capability of over-running in about six months all of Continental Europe and the Near East as far as Cairo. . . . By no later than 1955 the USSR will probably be capable of serious air attacks against the United States with atomic, biological and chemical weapons, of more extensive submarine operations (including the launching of short-range guided missiles), and of airborne operations to seize advance bases. . . . [The U.S. should] develop a level of military readiness which can be maintained as long as necessary as a deterrent to Soviet aggression . . . and as an adequate basis for immediate military commitments and for rapid mobilization should war prove unavoidable. [The U.S. should also] encourage and promote the gradual retraction of undue Russian power and influence, . . . help to modify current Soviet behavior . . . in accordance with precepts of international conduct, as set forth in the . . . UN Charter, . . . [and] place the maximum strain on the Soviet structure of power. (headings added)1

2. Truman’s NSC–68: The New U.S. Grand Strategy—April 1950

On January 31, 1950, President Truman directed his Secretaries of State (Dean Acheson) and Defense (Louis Johnson) to “undertake a reexamination of our objectives in peace and war and of the effect of these objectives on our strategic plans in the light of the probable fission bomb capability and possible thermonuclear bomb capability of the Soviet Union.” Accordingly, a special State-Defense Policy Review Group was established whose most prominent members were George Kennan and Paul Nitze, who on January 1, 1950 had replaced Kennan as Director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff. In the review of the group’s drafts by the Secretaries of State and Defense and the Chairman of the JCS (General Omar Bradley), Secretary of Defense Johnson did not agree with the notion of raising U.S. defense expenditures that he had been proposing to reduce. The Top Secret fifty-page document titled NSC–68—Objectives and Programs for National Security was forwarded on April 7, 1950 to Truman, who forwarded it on April 12 to the National Security Council for further consideration asking them to provide “clearer indication of the programs envisaged in the report” and on “estimates of their probable costs.”

NSC–68—Key Themes—April 1950. NSC 68 sets forth a new U.S. grand strategy for the Cold War generally known as the strategy of “containment.” The document defines the Soviet-Communist challenge as no less than a severe ideological and military existential threat to the survival of the United States, its democratic allies, and the future of peace, freedom and democracy across the globe. Although NSC–68 does not detail the specific historic Soviet betrayals and subversion reviewed in Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 of this book, it reflects deep understanding of this history and of earlier Truman’s morally- and ideologically-grounded statements including the Truman Doctrine of March 1947 and his Inaugural Address of January 1949. NSC–68 points throughout to the ideals and institutions of free societies and the irreconcilability of the Cold War superpowers’ founding faiths and ways of life as the Soviet Union built up its power for aggressive international subversion and pressure for global hegemony. NSC–68 invokes the ideals and responsibilities of American global leadership in containing the realities of the mounting Soviet threat in a nuclear world. And in a crusading spirit that evokes Truman’s own words and Ronald Reagan’s freedom speeches thirty years later, it outlines the key elements of a U.S. national security strategy that is both idealistic and realistic in its objective to “frustrate” and, in the longer run to change and roll-back, the Soviet Union.

NSC–68 Scope. NSC–68’s nine major parts reflect its scope and systematic approach to the development of an effective U.S. Cold War strategy. The outline of the document consists of the following: I - Background of the Present Crisis; II - Fundamental Purpose of the United States; III - Fundamental Design of the Kremlin; IV - The Underlying Conflict in the Realm of Ideas and Values between the U.S. Purpose and the Kremlin Design (A. Nature of the Conflict, B. Objectives, C. Means); V - Soviet Intentions and Capabilities (A. Political and Psychological, B. Economic, C. Military); VI - U.S. Intentions and Capabilities—Actual and Potential (A. Political and Psychological, B. Economic, C. Military); VII - Present Risks (A. General, B. Specific); VIII

[Book pg. 72]