You are herecontent / History of the War Machine: From NSC68 to 2005
History of the War Machine: From NSC68 to 2005
(Transcribed from the audio presentation)
This presentation comes from a wealth of sources, but I want to acknowledge the outstanding contribution by David Callahan, author of Dangerous Capabilities. For the sake of audio recordings, some of what I say will undoubtedly paraphrase his work, and—lest there be any misunderstanding—whatever overlap occurs between his work and my notes is to his credit and not mine.
Today’s presentation provides information surrounding the co-opting of Cold War policies by post-Cold War neoconservatives to plan and carry out the war on terror. You’re about to experience what I call HyperEducation, which my independent Peace Studies program drives me to do at home for some twelve hours a day—and something that I hope you find motivating and useful in your peace work.
Our main topic is the document—and the man who wrote the document—that launched the Cold War. Called United States Objectives and Programs for National Security, it is better known as NSC68. After NSC68 was signed, it needed the approval of Congress. Post-Cold War documents show that the Korean War was used by Americans for this purpose.
Section 3 of Article 3 of the Constitution states that initiating war against the US is an act of treason when there is evidence that a US citizen took part. Thus, using the Korean civil war and/or using 9-11 to initiate international conflict with any foreknowledge could be considered acts of treason.
Let’s go back now to the birth of our crisis.
On July 14, 1949, the Soviet Union conducted its first test of an atomic bomb. At this time, the United States possessed some 250 atomic bombs, each with a yield far greater than the bombs used on Japan in August 1945. Rather than at any time sit down with Soviet diplomats and actually discuss the matter, a paranoia quickly took root in Washington under President Harry Truman. And when Secretary of State Dean Acheson assigned three advisors to a committee to study the notion of building the hydrogen bomb, he made two errors that set the world on a deadly course: He told the committee to focus not on the moral questions of being the first to build such a weapon, but on the technological and budgetary challenges it would pose—and he appointed three hard-line, anti-Soviet men to that committee. One of these men was Paul Henry Nitze.
Paul Nitze was raised in moderately wealthy surroundings, in a family that embraced its German heritage. In his frequent trips to Germany, as a youth and later as a Wall Street investment banker before, during, and after the Depression, Nitze had seen the transformation from a country in ruins to one with a strong economy and a meticulous populace. He took pride in that transformation, and, up until Pearl Harbor, is said to have to defended Hitler in conversations at upper-class social functions. He admired the way facts and figures and harsh discipline had remade Germany, and thought little of the moral issues surrounding its reemergence. Nitze’s view until Pearl Harbor was that the US should not enter into the war in Europe.
In 1929, Nitze began working in a high position on Wall Street, high enough to insulate him from the effects of the growing Depression. In his first year, he had little contact with people downstairs who did the so-called dirty work. Then, in 1930, Nitze made a business deal that he thought would make him famous. Instead, it cost the firm over a million dollars, and Nitze was banished from his boss’s presence. Downstairs among the people doing the dirty work, Nitze met many who would later be influential in his career. Among them was James Forrestal.
Ten years later—on the day that France surrendered to Germany—James Forrestal was appointed as an assistant to President Roosevelt in the White House. Forrestal in turn needed help managing his new position, and hired Paul Nitze as his aide. By September 1944, Nitze had become a prominent member of the US Strategic Bombing Survey, assigned to study damage to the German war machine.
A key moment in this part of Nitze’s career came just after the German surrender, when he interviewed Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect and mobilization planner. Nitze was fascinated by Speer’s account of how and why Nazi Germany failed. “Unlike Britain and the United States,