Lone Star College The Cold War Discussion Questions

Question Description

I’m stuck on a History question and need an explanation.

1.  What kept any one nation from becoming too powerful before World War 2?  Why did that balance of power change after the war?
2.  How does this document depict the Soviet Union?
3.  What does this document claim the goal of the Soviet Union was?  How were they going to achieve that goal?
4.  How does NCS-68 propose the U.S. can prevent the Soviet Union from achieving its goals?

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NSC-68 (1950) | The American Yawp Reader
The American Yawp Reader

NSC-68 (1950)
NSC-68 (1950)
In 1950, the National Security Council produced a 58-page, top-secret report proclaiming the threat
of Soviet communism. In the new postwar world, the report argued, the United States could no
longer retreat toward isolationism without encouraging the aggressive expansion of communism
across the globe. The United States, the report said, had to mobilize to ensure the survival of
“civilization itself.”
Within the past thirty- ve years the world has experienced two global wars of tremendous violence.
It has witnessed two revolutions–the Russian and the Chinese–of extreme scope and intensity. It has
also seen the collapse of ve empires–the Ottoman, the Austro-Hungarian, German, Italian, and
Japanese–and the drastic decline of two major imperial systems, the British and the French. During
the span of one generation, the international distribution of power has been fundamentally altered.
For several centuries it had proved impossible for any one nation to gain such preponderant strength
that a coalition of other nations could not in time face it with greater strength. The international
scene was marked by recurring periods of violence and war, but a system of sovereign and
independent states was maintained, over which no state was able to achieve hegemony.
Two complex sets of factors have now basically altered this historic distribution of power. First, the
defeat of Germany and Japan and the decline of the British and French Empires have interacted with
the development of the United States and the Soviet Union in such a way that power increasingly
gravitated to these two centers. Second, 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. Con ict has, therefore, become endemic and is waged, on the part of the
NSC-68 (1950) | The American Yawp Reader
Soviet Union, by violent or non-violent methods in accordance with the dictates of expediency.

With the development of increasingly terrifying weapons of mass destruction, every individual faces
the ever-present possibility of annihilation should the con ict enter the phase of total war.

The issues that face us are momentous, involving the ful llment or destruction not only of this
Republic but of civilization itself. They are issues which will not await our deliberations. With
conscience and resolution this Government and the people it represents must now take new and
fateful decisions.
… The idea of freedom … is peculiarly and intolerably subversive of the idea of slavery. But the
converse is not true. The implacable purpose of the slave state to eliminate the challenge of freedom
has placed the two great powers at opposite poles. It is this fact which gives the present polarization
of power the quality of crisis.
… Thus unwillingly our free society nds itself mortally challenged by the Soviet system. No other
value system is so wholly irreconcilable with ours, so implacable in its purpose to destroy ours, so
capable of turning to its own uses the most dangerous and divisive trends in our own society, no
other so skillfully and powerfully evokes the elements of irrationality in human nature everywhere,
and no other has the support of a great and growing center of military power.

In a shrinking world, which now faces the threat of atomic warfare, it is not an adequate objective
merely to seek to check the Kremlin design, for the absence of order among nations is becoming less
and less tolerable. This fact imposes on us, in our own interests, the responsibility of world
leadership. It demands that we make the attempt, and accept the risks inherent in it, to bring about
order and justice by means consistent with the principles of freedom and democracy. …

Compulsion is the negation of freedom, except when it is used to enforce the rights common to all.
The resort to force, internally or externally, is therefore a last resort for a free society. The act is
permissible only when one individual or groups of individuals within it threaten the basic rights of
NSC-68 (1950) | The American Yawp Reader
other individuals or when another society seeks to impose its will upon it. The free society cherishes 
and protects as fundamental the rights of the minority against the will of a majority, because these
rights are the inalienable rights of each and every individual.

… Practical and ideological considerations therefore both impel us to the conclusion that we have no
choice but to demonstrate the superiority of the idea of freedom by its constructive application, and
to attempt to change the world situation by means short of war in such a way as to frustrate the
Kremlin design and hasten the decay of the Soviet system.
For us the role of military power is to serve the national purpose by deterring an attack upon us
while we seek by other means to create an environment in which our free society can ourish, and by
ghting, if necessary, to defend the integrity and vitality of our free society and to defeat any
aggressor. The Kremlin uses Soviet military power to back up and serve the Kremlin design. It does
not hesitate to use military force aggressively if that course is expedient in the achievement of its
design. The di erences between our fundamental purpose and the Kremlin design, therefore, are
re ected in our respective attitudes toward and use of military force.
Our free society, confronted by a threat to its basic values, naturally will take such action, including
the use of military force, as may be required to protect those values. 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 a rm our
values in actions as well as words forbid such measures, provided only they are appropriately
calculated to that end and are not so excessive or misdirected as to make us enemies of the people
instead of the evil men who have enslaved them.
[Source: NSC 68: United States Objectives and Programs for National Security (April 14, 1950).
Available online via Truman Library,
← The Truman Doctrine (1947)
Joseph McCarthy on Communism (1950) →

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