PPS Files, Lot 64 D 563

Draft Paper Prepared by Messrs. John Paton Davies, Jr., and Robert Tufts of the Policy Planning Staff1

top secret

NSC 792

The aims of national action in war and peace are to further what is described in NSC 68 as the fundamental purpose of the United States:

“The fundamental purpose of the United States is laid down in the Preamble to the Constitution: ‘. . . to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.’ In essence, the fundamental purpose is to assure the integrity and vitality of our free society, which is founded upon the dignity and worth of the individual.

“Three realities emerge as a consequence of this purpose: Our determination to maintain the essential elements of individual freedom, as set forth in the Constitution and Bill of Rights; our determination to create conditions under which our free and democratic system can survive and prosper; and our determination to fight if necessary to defend our way of life, for which as in the Declaration of Independence, ‘with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.’”

These are the enduring objectives which this nation pursues through peace and war. Taken together, they are mutually supporting; pursued separately, it is evident that they are in some measure inherently in conflict with one another.

Our national objectives, therefore, cannot be pursued in absolute terms, separately, without relation to one another. The strength and health of our Society demands a nice balance of emphases in our national actions. The measures necessary to provide for the common defense can lead in the direction of the garrison state unless we remain alert and devoted to the values we seek to defend. Measures to promote [Page 95] the general welfare can lead to a decadent preoccupation with material well-being unless we make use of our abundance and leisure to deepen and enrich the cultural and spiritual life of the community. Overemphasis on any one objective would jeopardize our fundamental purpose and would therefore be self-defeating.

While there is a balance among our national objectives, the balance of emphases in our national actions cannot be static; it must be adjusted to the needs and circumstances of the times. It is necessary to the successful practice of democracy—indeed it has been the genius of the democratic system—that the emphasis we give to the pursuit of each of our national objectives should vary in response to the world environment. A rigid national program would fly in the face of reality; it would defy the organic nature of international relationships and the constantly changing ratios of power and pressure in the world.

The fundamental purpose of the Republic can therefore be fulfilled only when our objectives are pursued with varying emphasis and judiciously adjusted to a world environment constantly in flux.

War aims are the goals we set out to achieve when we find ourselves in an environment of war. They are what we try to accomplish in a specific situation—one in which the use of military means, in addition to other means, has been forced upon us in the course of our pursuit of our national objectives. They do not determine our national objectives. Rather they must be determined in light of the changes in the world environment which are necessary if our free and democratic system is to survive and prosper.

Thus in a situation of war the preservation of the Republic—which is the precondition to the pursuit of all other national objectives—requires us to defeat the enemy’s effort to impose his will upon us by military means. Traditionally, we define this minimum condition of success as victory over the enemy.

Victory, however, is a band concept. At one end of the band is the survival of the Republic by the frustration of the enemy’s effort to extinguish our independence. At the other end of the band is the establishment of conditions in the world in which our way of life will not only survive but can also prosper.

Military victory is therefore an essential but not the all-encompassing objective of this nation in a situation of war. To assume that it were would be to misunderstand the nature of war. If war comes, it will come as an unavoidable necessity, forced upon us as a result of failure to modify the world environment by other means so that peace can be preserved and the Republic survive and prosper. The goal of policy is to establish conditions in which the nation can live in peaceful relationships with other societies. If war comes, we shall have failed to achieve these conditions by peaceful means and the second war aim—second only to the defeat of the enemy’s military effort—will [Page 96] be to achieve, if possible, such conditions by using military as well as other means. However, we should realize that in the age of total war, waged with weapons of mass destruction, the postwar environment, no matter how the war is fought, may be unfavorable to the attainment of our fundamental purpose and that our second war aim may be, in effect, to minimize, so far as possible, this danger.

We can be sure that the postwar environment will again be characterized by perpetual competition among peoples, a competition characterized by constant changes in power relationships. The concept of a definitive military victory which would leave us for all time in a position of predominant power is a static concept—appropriate to a football game in which, when the whistle blows, the score is posted, the victor is acknowledged, and the struggle ceases, but not appropriate to a world in which change is the only constant history reveals.

War aims, therefore, should be devised to contribute to the attainment of our aims in the period following war. Only thus will our national policy flow consistently and constructively from peace through war and into peace again.

For this reason, we cannot consider wisely the problem of what our war aims should be until we have formulated in our mind’s eye a picture of the world environment which we would like to see after a war—an environment which would enable the American system to flourish.

In seeking to do this we must proceed here on the basis of several assumptions or else we shall become lost in a tangle of varying suppositions. The assumptions are that the war in case is between the Soviet Empire and most of the Free World; that the alignments within the Free World and the Soviet Empire are pretty much what they now are; and that the military effort of the Soviet Empire to expand can and will be defeated.

Assuming this, what is the range of possibilities with respect to a postwar world environment? Stated in general and over-simplified terms they are:

International disorder, with the United States either so damaged and exhausted by the war or, if not severely wounded, so absorbed in a “return to normalcy” at home and perhaps so disillusioned about the rest of the world that it is unable or unwilling to exert influence for the creation of world conditions in which our system can prosper. We should not shrug off this possibility, for it is probable that the destruction of life and property in a war with the Soviet Union would far exceed the experience in World War II and it is not clear that the last war did not approach the limit of tolerance for destructiveness beyond which order as we have known it would have long disappeared from the world.
Recreation of the balance of power in the world. This would be a return to a familiar concept. It would, if attainable, enable the United States to play a stabilizing role with economy of effort, reducing [Page 97] the demands on and responsibilities of this country for the state of affairs elsewhere. But the historical progression has been towards centralization of power, culminating at the end of the last war in polarization of power. It therefore seems unrealistic to assume that a multi-partite balancing of power could be recreated even if it were desirable. It is more likely that the military defeat of the Soviet Empire will produce a single great world power in the United States; it is also possible and perhaps probable that this country, together with its principal allies, could establish a power position such that they could be confident that that position would balance off any possible combination of other states and make them secure against any external threat for many years.
Unilateral American domination of the world. In one sense, this might be easily invoked—if we emerged relatively unscathed from the war while other states suffered severe damage and if we were united at home in our determination to impose order in the world. Whether it could be long maintained is questionable: it seems unlikely that 150 million people could long impose order in view of both the external resistance and the domestic strains which such an effort would generate.
A development of the present and projected system of alliances in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean areas, Latin America, and the Pacific—in which the United States would participate and through which it might be possible not only to maintain a balance of power against any possible hostile combinations (see para. b above) but also to impose order in the world. The development of these alliances might go as far as confederation or even federation of certain countries, as for example in Western Europe or in the North Atlantic area as a whole, within a looser overall alliance system.
[sic] World government, whether through a transformation of the United Nations or through the independent creation of such a global authority. This is probably a visionary concept impossible of attainment in our time. But it is not out of the realm of possibility, particularly for certain limited problems (such as the control of armaments), and must therefore be seriously considered.

Which or what combination of the foregoing should we establish as a postwar goal, a goal the achievement of which the war effort should contribute to, if possible, or should, at worst, impede as little as possible?

No categoric answer can or should be given. It is impossible and unrealistic to blueprint with precision the distant future of human affairs. However, we can and—if this study is to be a useful guide—must attempt to design in tentative and general terms a set of postwar goals.

We can begin by a process of elimination. We should seek to avoid international disorder, for this result would be the one least compatible with continued progress toward our national objectives. This means that we should not retreat from the responsibilities of power. It also means that we should seek to conduct the war itself in such a way that we will retain great power—that the destruction of [Page 98] American life and so far as possible of our productive plant will be minimized. This may mean—and the problem requires continuing study—that a quick military victory at great cost in American lives would be disadvantageous as compared to a longer war at less cost in American lives. At any rate we want to avoid the situation of France and the United Kingdom after the first World War—the decline of these states as world powers is probably closely related to their heavy losses of their best young men in that war.

Nor does it make sense, so far as we can now see, to establish a comprehensive and representative world government as a postwar goal. The diversity of political, economic, social, cultural, and moral conditions and values in the world will probably long make world government of any but an authoritarian character impossible. The door should not be closed, however, to developments leading gradually and naturally in that direction.

The three other possibilities listed above—balance of power, American domination, and regional arrangements—are each, with qualifications, more likely and more hopeful prospects. And they are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Certain elements of each can be combined to make a synthesis which will further the fundamental purpose of the United States.

Our war aims might, therefore, be tentatively defined as follows:

to defeat the military effort of the Soviet Empire to expand;
to use American power, so far as possible on a basis of shared responsibility, so that war may be abolished and international order promoted through a universal organization which will foster the peaceful and just accommodation of the conflicts of interest that are bound to arise in a dynamic world.

The first is clear. The second requires detailed consideration.

Since we do not believe that a representative world government with a monopoly of force can be established,* the abolition of war will require that the United States work for the establishment of an enforceable system for the control of armed forces and armaments. The enforcement of this system must rest in fact, whatever the forms may be, on the will and ability of the United States, alone or in dependable combinations with other states, to take enforcement action to suppress actual or threatened violations.

It should be assumed that enforcement action will from time to time be necessary, for it would be folly to assume that all peoples will, after the next war, forego for all time aggressive ambitions. Enforcement means intervention. Intervention arouses resentment. It seems to follow that the United States should seek to preserve and develop its [Page 99] system of alliances and a universal organization, for the following reasons:

so that the simple fact of the power of the combination or combinations to which we belong will discourage aggression by other states;
so that enforcement action will be shared with others and the resentment resulting therefrom will not be focussed on the United States;
so that enforcement action can be taken on behalf of a universal organization, thus providing a legal and moral basis for the action, and minimizing popular resentment against and maximizing popular support for the action taken against the governments of these states;
so that the need for enforcement action can be held to a minimum by developing popular support for the adjustment of conflicts of interest by peaceful and just processes of universal applicability.

The level of armed forces and armaments in the world and the arrangements for enforcement action should be generally in accordance with the program now being designed by the Departments of State and Defense as an aim of national policy in time of peace. This program should be modified in particulars as a war aim in accordance with the conditions under which the war is brought to an end. In general, it seems that we should be prepared to bring the war to an end by a negotiated peace which, so far as this problem is concerned, would gain acceptance by the Russian authorities of the program now being designed. (We are confident that the program now being designed would, if accepted by the Soviet Union, produce a fundamental change in the Soviet system.) If a negotiated peace on this basis cannot be obtained, the limitations imposed in connection with surrender might be more severe.

The program now being designed will foster the development of a balance of power situation among the countries of the world. Whether obtained by peaceful means or as a result of war, it should therefore tend to minimize the strains and demands on us for the maintenance of world order, particularly if it is applied in conjunction with our system of alliances and a universal organization. It is not possible to foresee clearly how this balance of power should be arranged at the conclusion of a war. In the Far East it would probably be to our advantage to see Japan, China, and Russia in fairly equal balance, and perhaps also India. As for Western Europe, including Germany, it may best be stabilized if incorporated in a North Atlantic arrangement in which we would participate. But such an arrangement may not be possible of attainment. Continental Western Europe might emerge as a separate entity of great potential power not allied to us in a dependable fashion. In this case we may wish to work toward arrangements with Latin America and the English-speaking members of the British Commonwealth; we might even wish to develop Russia [Page 100] as a natural counter-poise to a German-dominated Western Europe so as to limit the burden of responsibility on us for keeping such a Western European power complex within safe bounds.

In summary, then, the general framework of our war aims could be defined as follows:

The bare essential of preventing the enemy from imposing his will on this country. Whatever sacrifice is required to insure this is justified and must be made.
As we progress toward this aim, attempting to conduct the war so as to contribute to the creation of conditions favorable to the attainment of our postwar goals. This means:
to preserve and develop the United Nations, or a successor, as a universal organization which will facilitate the peaceful adjustment of conflicts of interest;
to establish a universal system for the control and regulation of armaments and the enforcement thereof on behalf of the world organization by the United States and its dependable allies;
to preserve and develop our system of alliances, not excluding within this framework the federation or confederation of certain participants in these alliances—this system to include, if possible, the countries included in the present or projected North Atlantic, Mediterranean, Pacific and Latin American arrangements;
to work—by the armaments system and other means—for a balancing of other states not included in our alliance system;
to accomplish the foregoing with the greatest economy of effort and maximum conservation of our manpower and so far as possible of our material resources—if necessary, even at the cost of prolongation of the war and of the suffering of other peoples.

(Note: I suggest that we seek to reach agreement on the foregoing before we consider the problem of means—pp. 1014 of the preceding draft. I think that that section needs to be developed with more specific reference to the aims as finally defined. R T)

  1. This paper is labeled “Draft No. 3 (For S/P use only).” It was prepared by Davies and revised by Tufts on June 26. Philip H. Watts, Executive Secretary of the Policy Planning Staff, transmitted it to Lucius D. Battle, Special Assistant to the Secretary of State, on July 13, with a view toward arranging a meeting between Secretary Acheson, Ambassador Jessup, and Nitze. No evidence has been found that a meeting occurred or that a subsequent draft was prepared. A chit attached to the source text bears the notation by Acheson, “Where do we go on this?” Below, there appears a note from Ferguson to Nitze: “Battle gave me this a couple weeks ago with the Secretary’s question above. I am afraid we haven’t got far on 79.”
  2. For text of NSC 79, “United States and Allied War Objectives in the Event of Global War,” August 25, 1950, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. i, p. 390. A report to the National Security Council by the Secretary of Defense, enclosing the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, NSC 79 was circulated for the information of the Council and referred to the NSC Staff for preparation of a report for Council consideration.
  3. Even if a representative world government could be established, it would be necessary to consider the dangers of civil war. [Footnote in the source text.]