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America's History in the Making

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From NSC-68: U.S. Objectives and Programs for National Security (April 14, 1950)

FROM NSC-68: U.S. OBJECTIVES AND PROGRAMS FOR NATIONAL SECURITY (April 14, 1950)

The Soviet Union, unlike previous aspirants to hegemony, is animated by a new fanatic faith, antithetical to our own, and seeks to impose its absolute authority over the rest of the world …

The issues that face us are momentous, involving the fulfillment or destruction not only of this Republic but of civilization itself . . . The assault on free institutions is world-wide now, and in the context of the present polarization of power a defeat of free institutions anywhere is a defeat everywhere …

The integrity of our system will not be jeopardized by any measures, covert or overt, violent or non-violent, which serve the purposes of frustrating the Kremlin design, nor does the necessity for conducting ourselves so as to affirm our values in actions as well as words forbid such measures …

The total economic strength of the U.S.S.R. compares with that of the U.S. as roughly one to four … The military budget of the United States represents 6 to 7 percent of its gross national product (as against 13.8 percent for the Soviet Union) … This difference in emphasis between the two economies means that the readiness of the free world to support a war effort is tending to decline relative to that of the Soviet Union.

It is true that the United States armed forces are now stronger than ever before in other times of apparent peace; it is also true that there exists a sharp disparity between our actual military strength and our commitments … It is clear that our military strength is becoming dangerously inadequate …

In summary, we must [engage in] a rapid and sustained build-up of the political, economic, and military strength of the free world.

Wood, Peter, Jacqueline Jones, Thomas Borstelmann, Elaine Tyler May, and Vicki Ruiz. NSC-68 [excerpted] (2003) 825. Created Equal: A Social and Political History of the United States. New York: Pearson Education Inc., 2003. Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc.

Creator National Security Council
Context In reaction to the Soviet Union's detonation of a nuclear bomb, the president's National Security Council formulated a re-evaluation of American foreign policy through a top-secret document called the National Security Council document 68 (NSC-68).
Audience President Truman and his advisors
Purpose NSC-68 established the idea of a national security state in which U.S. government military expenditures would focus on military power, foreign relations, and greater defense spending.

Historical Significance

NSC-68 maintained that the United States had entered a time of crisis due to the spread of communism. This document set forth that the U.S. government must counter revolutions or radical change throughout the world in order to safeguard American interests. It furthered covert operations and centralized power under the federal government, and was the beginning of the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned about in his farewell address. American businesses and communities came to rely on these government expenditures as a military welfare state developed. When the Cold War ended in the 1990s, these communities suffered the effects of decreased military expenditures.

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