G/PM files, lot 68 D 358, “NSC 135”
Memorandum by the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Nitze) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State (Matthews) 1
Reappraisal of United States Objectives and Strategy for National Security
The reappraisal of the NSC 68–114 Series is in draft form and is before the Senior Staff for revision.2 However, the draft papers raise issues on which I believe discussion at your level at this stage would be helpful. In fact, unless there is clarity on the basic issues, detailed suggestions for drafting changes may result in a waste of time.
The basic points on which I take issue with the draft papers are the following:
- I believe the papers tend to underestimate the risks which this country faces.
- I believe they tend to underestimate U.S. capabilities.
- I believe they hold forth inadequate goals for U.S. policy.
- I believe they outline an inadequate strategy.
- I believe they give inadequate, unclear, or mistaken guidance to those who must prepare specific national security programs.
The gist of the conclusions which flow from the positions taken in the draft papers on these points might be summarized as follows:
- The risks are much less than we have previously assumed.
- Our actual and potential capabilities are much less than we have previously assumed and we are going to be at a disadvantage vis-à-vis the Soviet system for a long time.
- There is nothing much we can do about this or should do about it.
Specifically, we should abandon:
- Any hope of effective air and civil defenses;
- any attempts at serious negotiation;
- any attempt now or later to roll back the Iron Curtain;
- any attempt to get preponderant power.
- The conclusion is that we should accept a long period of relative disadvantage during which we unhopefully wait for the U.S.S.R. to change.
This is, I think, about what the papers add up to, though one of the difficulties is that they are internally inconsistent and that it is not entirely clear what they are trying to say. They do not indicate in what specific respects they are intended to revise NSC 68/2 or Part I of NSC 114/2. It is difficult to determine in what respects they provide guidance for budget decisions (the purpose for which the President desires the reappraisal to be made). It is unclear whether and in what respects the conclusions rest on an analysis of new factual information and of the experience with current programs or rest on a different interpretation of the Soviet system than that contained in the NSC 68–114 Series.
These are the points which I hope we can discuss. In the attached memorandum, each point is taken up separately and at some length with the object of providing background material for the discussion.
By way of contrast to the draft papers, the NSC 68–114 Series leads, I think, to the following conclusions in light of our experience. I have seen no evidence of a theoretical or factual character which would invalidate them.
- The risk that the confrontation will lead to war remains great. The risk that we will suffer piecemeal defeat in the cold war also remains great.
- The actual and potential capabilities of the U.S. and of allied and friendly states are very large. The problem appears to be more the effective organization, direction and leadership of these capabilities and the distribution of emphasis in developing new capabilities than it is one of an overall insufficiency of actual and potential capabilities. We can within the next several years gain preponderant power.
- As our total power—political, economic, and military—increases we can reasonably hope that opportunities will arise for making progress by peaceful means toward our objectives. It will require clearly preponderant power to make satisfactory progress by these means—probably more power than to win military victory in the event of war.
- Drafted by Robert Tufts. A covering memorandum from Nitze to Matthews; Bohlen; John D. Hickerson, Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs; Gordon Arneson, Special Assistant to the Secretary of State for Atomic Energy Affairs; James C. H. Bonbright, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs; and Walworth Barbour, Director of the Office of Eastern European Affairs, noted that this memorandum “is for the 4:00 o’clock meeting scheduled this afternoon in Mr. Matthew’s office.” No record of this meeting has been found in Department of State files.↩
- See the editorial note, supra.↩
- The source text does not indicate the identity of the drafting officer.↩
- The paper under reference cannot be further identified. “Morgan” is presumably Marthlyn Morgan of the Policy Reports Staff.↩