Nitze, Paul Henry

views updated May 18 2018

Nitze, Paul Henry

(b. Amherst, Massachusetts, 16 January 1907; d. Washington, D.C., 19 October 2004), investment banker, foreign policy official, arms control adviser, and a major architect of U.S. cold war strategy from the Truman to the Reagan administrations.

Nitze and his elder sister, Elizabeth, were the children of parents of German extraction. Nitze’s father, William A. Nitze, was a wealthy professor of literature at Amherst College. His mother, Anina (Hilken) Nitze, a homemaker, had strong artistic and musical interests and left-wing political opinions, which brought her a wide circle of like-minded friends. In 1908 Nitze’s father moved to the University of Chicago’s Department of Romance Languages and Literature. Nitze attended a private school in Hyde Park, a prosperous Chicago suburb, and the Hotchkiss School, an elite boarding school in Lakeville, Connecticut. From childhood he traveled extensively in Europe. He attended Harvard University, receiving a BA cum laude (with honors) in 1928.

Nitze entered the prominent Wall Street investment banking house of Dillon, Read and Co. in September 1929. In 1932 he married Phyllis Pratt, a wealthy heiress; the couple had four children. His astute investments and his wife’s fortune soon made Nitze independently wealthy. He rose to the position of vice president at Dillon, Read, but he nonetheless found his career unfulfilling. Greatly affected by reading Oswald Spengler’s book The Decline of the West (1926–1928), which argued that Western democracies could not compete with authoritarian regimes, and by a 1937 vacation in Adolf Hitler’s Germany, which impressed but alarmed him, Nitze took a leave of absence from Dillon, Read and returned to Harvard to study for a year. His studies, which permanently affected his worldview, concentrated on totalitarian political systems, especially Marxism-Leninism. Nitze discerned many parallels between the Soviet Union under Communism and Germany under National Socialism. Handsome, polished, lean, elegant, athletic, and vigorous, Nitze was recognized as intellectually brilliant—but his inability to suffer fools gladly, his caustic wit, and his raw ambition ultimately kept him out of the highest positions to which he aspired. From 1938 to 1939 Nitze briefly established his own firm, Paul H. Nitze & Co., but in late 1939 he returned to Dillon Read as a vice president.

Until the German blitzkrieg overran the Low Countries and France within a few weeks in the spring of 1940, Nitze opposed U.S. intervention on the side of the Allies in World War II, considering Britain and France too effete to oppose Hitler. In June 1940, however, he became an aide to James V. Forrestal, his former superior at Dillon, Read. Forrestal, a future secretary of defense, was then an administrative assistant to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, helping him prepare the United States for war. Later that year, Nitze became a consultant to the War Department on the military draft. In 1941 he became the financial director of the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, in 1942 he headed the Metals and Minerals Branch of the Board of Economic Warfare, and in 1943 he took over as the director of overseas procurement in the Foreign Economic Administration. From 1944 to 1946 Nitze served first as director and then as vice chairman of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, a study that sought to assess the impact of using conventional as well as atomic bombs against Germany and Japan. Nitze concluded that atomic weapons had probably not been decisive in forcing Japan’s surrender and were unlikely to deter future wars. This assessment would require the United States to anticipate the necessity of waging conventional wars after 1945.

In late 1946 Nitze began seven years at the Department of State as deputy director of its Office of International Trade Policy, becoming deputy assistant secretary of state for economic affairs in 1947, deputy director of the department’s policy planning staff in 1948, and director of policy planning in 1949—positions in which he helped to draft legislation for the European Recovery Program (also known as the Marshall Plan). His greatest contribution, however, was his role in formulating a central U.S. policy statement for the cold war. In January 1950, responding to the Soviet detonation of an atomic bomb and a Communist victory in China, Secretary of State Dean Acheson asked Nitze to chair an interdepartmental study group to review American foreign and defense policy, the first such comprehensive survey. The result of the group’s work was National Security Council Memorandum 68 (NSC-68), a classified report considered one of the most important historical documents of the cold war period. Nitze largely wrote NSC-68, which maintained that the Soviets sought world domination. Nitze recommended a strategy of active containment to meet this challenge, which committed the United States to rebuild the West economically while assuming primary responsibility for the entire non-Communist world’s security against outside attack. NSC-68 envisaged doubling or even quadrupling American defense spending, estimating that the United States could prudently devote up to 20 percent of its gross national product (GNP) to funding its armed forces.

President Harry S Truman received NSC-68 in April 1950. The budget-conscious Truman initially rejected the report’s recommendations but implemented them when the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 appeared to confirm Nitze’s assessment of the Communist threat. Annual American defense outlays rose from $13 billion in 1949 to $50 billion in 1953. For forty years the broad framework of U.S. defense capabilities, commitments, and objectives laid out in NSC-68 guided the country’s strategy in many respects.

Nitze left public office in June 1953, as McCarthyite congressmen hostile to his patron, Dean Acheson, blocked any possibility of an appointment in the Eisenhower administration for him. He served instead as president of the Foreign Service Educational Foundation from 1953 to 1961. In addition to writing and speaking prolifically on international affairs, Nitze gave major financial and intellectual patronage to the School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University, a graduate school he had cofounded in 1943. The school eventually took his name to become the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. Nitze subsequently held numerous second-rank national security offices but never attained the top positions that he coveted. His strategic outlook was normally hard-line, although he was prepared to jettison areas he considered insignificant to the security of the United States.

In 1957 Nitze became vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee’s advisory committee on foreign policy, working closely with Acheson to warn that the Eisenhower administration was insufficiently vigilant in waging the cold war. Nitze also served on the Eisenhower-appointed Gaither Committee on national security in 1957. The committee’s report warned that United States was trailing Soviet Russia in missiles, defense capabilities, and technology—themes taken up in the 1960 presidential campaign of the Democratic candidate, John F. Kennedy. Somewhat paradoxically, in the spring of 1960 Nitze floated proposals to confine U.S. nuclear forces to retaliatory systems under the command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the United Nations, uncharacteristic suggestions that he never subsequently developed and later claimed had advanced only as a devil’s advocate in the hope of stimulating discussion.

In January 1961 Kennedy appointed Nitze assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. In this capacity Nitze participated in deliberations during the Berlin and Cuba crises; in 1961 he even contemplated a preemptive strategic nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. From 1963 to 1967 he served as secretary of the navy, where he became a proponent of a negotiated peace settlement and de-escalation of the ground war in Vietnam, positions he maintained from June 1967 to January 1969 as deputy secretary of defense under Robert McNamara and Clark Clifford. Nitze was one of the “Wise Men,” members of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Ad Hoc Task Force on Vietnam, who recommended gradual American withdrawal from Vietnam in March 1968. As deputy defense secretary, Nitze also established an ad hoc committee to explore a potential agreement on arms control between the United States and the Soviet Union—proposals that laid the groundwork for the subsequent Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT).

From January 1969, when the incoming Republican president, Richard Nixon, appointed Nitze as the representative of the secretary of defense on the United States delegation to the SALT meetings held in Helsinki, Finland, from 1969 to 1974, arms control became Nitze’s primary focus. A tough negotiator, he reached agreement with Soviet representatives on the 1972 SALT I treaty. In June 1974, however, Nitze resigned from the delegation, fearing that the Watergate scandal would impel the embattled Nixon to make unacceptable concessions in the ongoing SALT II talks at Moscow. Nitze later attacked the 1979 SALT II treaty that President Jimmy Carter subsequently negotiated as unacceptable on the ground that it placed the United States at a disadvantage in terms of nuclear throw-weight. Throw-weight refers to the total weight of the warheads, guidance systems, and other payload of a guided missile. Increased throw-weight increases the number of warheads that a missile can deliver and the number of enemy missiles it can destroy. Nitze emphasized the danger in the Soviet Union’s numerical heavy-missile superiority over the United States, rendering the latter vulnerable to a first strike. The hawkish Committee on the Present Danger, a nonpartisan group that Nitze helped to found in 1976, propounded similar views. These views were publicized in the committee’s policy studies, which Nitze chaired, and were eventually taken up by the 1980 Republican presidential candidate, Ronald Reagan.

Under Reagan, Nitze—now often dubbed the “Silver Fox”—headed his country’s delegation to the Geneva Arms Control Talks held between 1981 and 1984. In the course of a famous “walk in the woods” that Nitze and the Soviet negotiator, Yuli Kvitsinsky, shared in July 1982, the two diplomats tentatively agreed on a formula permitting each superpower to deploy seventy-five intermediate-range nuclear force missiles in Europe, the Americans the four-warhead Tomahawk cruise missile and the Soviets the three-warhead SS-20 missile. Many analysts considered this arrangement beneficial to the United States, but to Nitze’s acute disappointment, the agreement fell victim to a hard-line contingent in the Pentagon that included Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and Richard Perle, the assistant secretary for international security policy. The intermediate-range nuclear force talks collapsed when the Russians walked out of the negotiations in November 1983.

In the autumn of 1984 Nitze joined Secretary of State George P. Shultz as a special arms control adviser, drafting the 1985 Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) proposals, which envisaged reductions of 50 percent in Soviet and American nuclear forces. The START proposals also sought, over Weinberger’s and Perle’s sustained opposition, to trade the proposed Strategic Defense Initiative space-based shield against incoming missiles for deep cuts in Soviet nuclear weaponry. The START negotiations ultimately proved unavailing during Reagan’s presidency, although they bore fruit under his successor, President George H. W. Bush. On 1 May 1989, Nitze finally left public office at the age of eighty-two.

In retirement Nitze served as the diplomat in residence at School of Advanced International Studies, publishing his autobiography as well as several volumes of collected writings and addresses on current issues. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, he argued: “The United States, with first-class military potential, inherent political, economic and cultural strengths and no territorial ambitions,” must “play a unique role” in international affairs. Nitze’s first wife died of emphysema in 1987, and in 1993 he married Elisabeth Scott Porter. Despite a serious fall in 1989, a bout with colon cancer, and a heart attack, until his final months Nitze remained physically and mentally robust, dancing, swimming, employing a personal trainer, and maintaining a crowded social life. He died of pneumonia at his Georgetown home and is buried on his farm at Port Tobacco, Maryland, next to his first wife.

Nitze was one of the last surviving members of the East Coast elite, drawn from leading banking and law firms, which set the course of American foreign policy after World War II. Usually a hard-line hawk whose worldview was pessimistic, by the 1980s he nonetheless appeared to be a moderate among conservative Republicans. After Nitze’s impressive funeral service in Washington National Cathedral, several commentators observed that his passing also marked the effective disappearance of the cold war “wise men.”

Nitze’s personal papers are in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Official records generated during his service in the Departments of State, Navy, and Defense are deposited in the U.S. National Archives II, College Park, Maryland; the Truman Presidential Museum and Library, Independence, Missouri; the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Presidential Library, Columbia Point, Boston, Massachusetts; the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, Austin, Texas; and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Simi Valley, California. Nitze published an autobiography, with Ann M. Smith and Steven L. Rearden, From Hiroshima to Glasnost at the Center of Decision: A Memoir (1989). His later book, Tension Between Opposites: Reflections on the Practice and Theory of Politics (1993), also contains autobiographical material. NSC-68 and Nitze’s reflections thereon are in S. Nelson Drew, ed., NSC-68: Forging the Strategy of Containment (1994). Three published collections of Nitze’s speeches and writings are Kenneth W. Thompson and Stephen L. Rearden, eds., Paul H. Nitze on Foreign Policy (1989); Paul H. Nitze on National Security and Arms Control (1990); and Paul H. Nitze on the Future (1991). Full-length studies of Nitze’s career include Steven L. Rearden, The Evolution of American Strategic Doctrine: Paul H. Nitze and the Soviet Challenge (1984); Strobe Talbott, The Master of the Game: Paul Nitze and the Nuclear Peace (1988); and David Callahan, Dangerous Capabilities: Paul Nitze and the Cold War (1990). A study of Nitze’s tenure as secretary of the navy is Paul R. Schratz, “Paul Henry Nitze, 29 November 1963–30 June 1967,” in American Secretaries of the Navy, Vol. 2: 1913–1972, edited by Paolo E. Coletta (1980), 941–959. He figures extensively in Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas, The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made: Acheson, Bohlen, Harriman, Kennan, Lovett, McCloy (1986). Obituaries are in the New York Times (20 Oct. 2004); the Washington Post (21 Oct. 2004); and the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, and the Times (London) (all 22 Oct. 2004). Nitze also recorded oral histories for the Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson presidential libraries and for the U.S. Air Force Oral History Collection, Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama.

Priscilla Roberts

Nitze, Paul H.

views updated May 14 2018

Paul H. Nitze

Excerpt from "National Security Council Report on Soviet Intentions (NSC-68)"

Originally published in Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS),
1950, Volume I, National Security Affairs, Foreign Economic Policy,

published in 1977

"It is quite clear from Soviet theory and practice that the Kremlin seeks to bring the free world under its dominion by the methods of the cold war. The preferred technique is to subject by infiltration and intimidation.… Those institutions of our society that touch most closely our material and moral strength are obviously the prime targets: labor unions, civic enterprises, schools, churches, and all media for influencing opinion."

B y 1950, a Red Scare was rampant in the United States. The Red Scare was a time in the 1950s when Americans were particularly fearful and wary of communists penetrating into U.S. society. World events of 1948 and 1949 caused great alarm and anxiety in America. These events included a communist takeover of Czechoslovakia, a Soviet blockade of Berlin, the communist victory in China, and the successful detonation of an atomic bomb by the Soviets on August 29, 1949.

U.S. president Harry S. Truman (1884–1972; served 1945–53), always a man of action, ordered Paul H. Nitze (1907–), director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department, to reevaluate U.S. foreign policies and strategic plans now that the Soviets had the atomic bomb. Nitze assembled a team of administrative officials from the State Department and the Defense Department to write a top-secret report to offer analysis of and recommendations for U.S. foreign policy. Known as National Security Council (NSC) document 68 (NSC-68), it was completed and presented to appropriate U.S. officials on April 7, 1950.

In NSC-68, Nitze and the other authors painted a picture of the Soviet Union as overwhelmingly bent on taking over the world. The authors used many frightening words such as "fanatic," "mass destruction," "annihilation," "domination," and "mortally challenged." In the report, the authors set up a grave battle between the "idea of freedom" versus the "idea of slavery" under communistic control. The authors repeated many times that the Kremlin (the location of the Soviet government in Moscow) must be "frustrated" into "decay" by every means known to Cold War strategy. According to Nitze and his associates, the policy of "containment" demanded "maintenance of a strong military posture." Acknowledging that the country's "very independence as a nation may be at stake," the authors listed eleven imperative points in "a comprehensive and decisive program to win the peace and frustrate the Kremlin." Finally, the report warned the U.S. government and American people to remember that "the cold war is in fact a real war in which the survival of the free world is at stake."

The report rested partly on an old idea in the United States that when the nation was in trouble, usually acceptable limits (money for defense or espionage activities, for example) could not stand in the way of whatever leaders deemed necessary. The NSC-68 report also perpetuated the proactive diplomacy first started in the "Long Telegram" (see Chapter 1) sent by Truman administration policy analyst George F. Kennan (1904–). Stunned and amazed by the frightening, warlike tone, U.S. officials read and reread the very long report.

Things to remember while reading the "National Security Council Report on Soviet Intentions (NSC-68)":

  • Nitze, the chief author of NSC-68, was known for his hawkish, or prowar, tendencies.
  • Nitze replaced Kennan, original author of the containment policy, as director of the State Department's policy planning staff. Kennan intended for containment to be carried out by diplomatic means and was very opposed to the continuing U.S. nuclear development program and buildup of weapons.
  • With fear of the Soviets running rampant in the United States, U.S. senator Joseph R. McCarthy (1909–1957) of Wisconsin made his dramatic announcement in February 1950 that the U.S. State Department was infiltrated with hundreds of employees who were communists. McCarthy added to the U.S. hysteria and made NSC-68 seem correct in its approach.
  • In January 1950, Americans learned that Soviet spies had infiltrated to the heart of the U.S. atomic bomb development project, the Manhattan Project, in the mid-1940s. The spies had regularly funneled information to the Soviet atomic bomb project.
  • All events combined, the American sense of security in the spring of 1950 was dramatically shaken. It seemed entirely possible that

Excerpt from "National Security Council Report on Soviet Intentions (NSC-68)"

The Soviet Union … is animated by a new fanatic faith, antithetical to our own, and seeks to impose its absolute authority over the rest of the world. Conflict has, therefore, become endemic and is waged, on the part of the 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 conflict enter the phase of total war.…

The issues that face us are momentous, involving the fulfillment or destruction not only of this Republic [United States] 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 Kremlin regards the United States as the only major threat to the achievement of its fundamental design. There is a basic conflict between the idea of freedom under a government of laws, and the idea of slavery under the grim oligarchy of the Kremlin.…

The idea of freedom is the most contagious idea in history.… The breadth of freedom cannot be tolerated in a society which has come under the domination of an individual or group of individuals with a will to absolute power.…

Thus unwillingly our free society finds 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, … and no other has the support of a great and growing center of military power.…

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 … 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.…

Our overall policy at the present time may be described as one designed to foster a world environment in which the American system can survive and flourish. It therefore rejects the concept of isolation and affirms the necessity of our positive participation in the world community.… [We must produce] a policy of attempting to develop a healthy international community … [and] the policy of "containing" the Soviet system.…

As for the policy of "containment," it is one which seeks by all means short of war to (1) block further expansion of Soviet power;(2) expose the falsities of Soviet pretensions; (3)induce a retraction of the Kremlin's control and influence; and, (4) in general, so foster the seeds of destruction within the Soviet system that the Kremlin is brought at least to the point of modifying its behavior to conform to generally accepted international standards.…

In the concept of "containment," the maintenance of a strong military posture is deemed to be essential.

At the same time, it is essential to the successful conduct of a policy of "containment" that we always leave open the possibility of negotiation with the U.S.S.R. [the Soviet Union].…

In "containment" it is desirable to exert pressure in a fashion which will avoid so far as possible directly challenging Soviet prestige, to keep open the possibility for the U.S.S.R. to retreat before pressure with a minimum loss of face.…

We have failed to implement adequately … aspects of "containment." In the face of obviously mounting Soviet military strength ours has declined relatively.… We now find ourselves at a diplomatic impasse with the Soviet Union, with the Kremlin growing bolder.…

It is quite clear from Soviet theory and practice that the Kremlin seeks to bring the free world under its dominion by the methods of the cold war. The preferred technique is to subject by infiltration and intimidation .… Those institutions of our society that touch most closely our material and moral strength are obviously the prime targets: labor unions, civic enterprises, schools, churches, and all media for influencing opinion.…

A program for rapidly building up strength and improving political and economic conditions will place heavy demands on our courage and intelligence; it will be costly; it will be dangerous. But half-measures will be more costly and more dangerous, for they will be inadequate to prevent and may actually invite war. Budgetary considerations will need to be subordinated to the stark fact that our very independence as a nation may be at stake.…

A comprehensive and decisive program to win the peace and frustrate the Kremlin design … would probably involve:

(1) The development of an adequate political and economic framework for the achievement of our long-range objectives.

(2) A substantial increase in expenditures for military purposes adequate to meet the requirements for the tasks listed in Section D-1 [a recommendation section].

(3) A substantial increase in military assistance programs, designed to foster cooperative efforts, which will adequately and efficiently meet the requirements of our allies for the tasks referred to in Section D-1-e.

(4) Some increase in economic assistance programs [for our allies] and recognition of the need to continue these programs until their purposes have been accomplished.…

(6) Development of programs designed to build and maintain confidence among other peoples in our strength and resolution, and to wage overt psychological warfare calculated to encourage mass defections from Soviet allegiance and to frustrate the Kremlin design in other ways.

(7) Intensification of affirmative and timely measures and operations by covert means in the fields of economic warfare and political and psychological warfare with a view to fomenting and supporting unrest and revolt in selected strategic satellite countries.

(8) Development of internal security and civilian defense programs.

(9) Improvement and intensification of intelligence activities.

(10) Reduction of Federal expenditures for purposes other than defense and foreign assistance, if necessary by the deferment of certain desirable programs.

Our position as the center of power in the free world places a heavy responsibility upon the United States for leadership.…

Our national security demands that we achieve our objectives by the strategy of the cold war, building up our military strength in order that it may not have to be used.…

The whole success of the proposed program hangs ultimately on recognition by this Government, the American people, and all free peoples, that the cold war is in fact a real war in which the survival of the free world is at stake.

What happened next …

President Truman and the Republican-controlled Congress were not prepared to spend the billions of dollars requested to comply with the recommendations in NSC-68. The report was widely viewed as overblown, painting a picture of the Soviets on a determined march to world conquest. Afterall, it was only five years after the end of World War II (1939–45), in which the Soviets suffered massive damage. George F. Kennan, author of the "Long Telegram," believed that the Soviets had no intention of going to war with anyone at this time. However, Nitze's report was less interested in possible Soviet intentions

and more interested in what the Soviets were actually capable of militarily, especially now that they had atomic weapons. Nevertheless, NSC-68 was shelved, but not for long.

The Soviets had paid attention in 1949 when Secretary of State Dean Acheson (1893–1971) said that the Southeast Asian country of Korea was outside the U.S. perimeter of defense. Coupled with the fact that the United States had not stood in the way of the communist takeover of China, the Soviets and the communist leader of North Korea, Kim Il Sung (1912–1994), expected no U.S. action when Kim's army launched a surprise military attack on democratic South Korea on June 25, 1950. The Soviets, as revealed in Soviet documents released in the 1990s, reasoned that if the United States was in Japan, then they needed to have Korea.

NSC-68 immediately came off the shelf. Truman decided that the United States must respond. Korea became the first hot spot in the Cold War, and it became a test of the United States' tougher policy on confronting communist expansion.

Did you know …

  • The NSC-68 report called for military defense spending to go from a budget of less than $14 billion a year to $50 billion a year.
  • As a result of the communist North Korean invasion of South Korea, the basic elements of NSC-68 were widely viewed as correct.
  • The United States began a massive military buildup to counter any possible communist aggression.

Consider the following …

  • Recall Isaac Don Levine's words in the first excerpt of this chapter. In light of NSC-68 and the Korean invasion, do you think Levine's viewpoint of U.S. defense was justified?
  • Imagine yourself as a young person in the summer of 1950. What would your assessment of Soviet intentions be?

For More Information


Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), 1950, Volume I, National Security Affairs, Foreign Economic Policy. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1977.

LaFeber, Walter. America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945–1996. 8th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997.

Larson, Deborah W. Anatomy of Mistrust: U.S.-Soviet Relations During the Cold War. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997.

McCullough, David. Truman. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992.

Talbott, Strobe. The Master of the Game: Paul Nitze and the Nuclear Peace. New York: Vintage Books, 1989.

Web Site

Truman Presidential Museum and Library. (accessed on September 10, 2003).

Nitze, Paul H.

views updated May 17 2018

Nitze, Paul H. (1907–2004).U.S. government official, author, educator. Early in 1950, as director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff, Paul H. Nitze oversaw the drafting of a report, NSC 68, to President Harry S. Truman urging a general strengthening of U.S. armed forces to counter the threat of Soviet aggression. The outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 convinced many policymakers, including Truman, that the report had merit. It thus became for all practical purposes the basic blueprint for the ensuing Cold War military buildup.

Nitze's role in NSC 68 was only one of the many crucial decisions in which he participated during a public career spanning fifty years. Despite the Great Depression, Nitze prospered as a Wall Street bond trader in the 1930s, but came to Washington in 1940 at the request of his business partner, James V. Forrestal, to work part‐time on the mobilization effort. In World War II Nitze served with the Board of Economic Warfare and as a director of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey. After the war, he joined the State Department and helped draft the 1948 Marshall Plan legislation to rebuild war‐torn Europe. Nitze left government in 1953, but returned with the Kennedy administration as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs to become a key figure in U.S. policy during the Berlin Wall Crisis (1961) and the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962). Though regarded as a “hawk” on most defense matters, he was a “dove” on Vietnam and regretted U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War during the 1960s because it drained American resources and diverted attention from the growing problem of Soviet strategic nuclear power.

In the 1970s and 1980s Nitze turned his attention to nuclear arms control and disarmament, first as a member of the U.S. delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) between Washington and Moscow. Though instrumental in negotiating the 1972 Anti‐Ballistic Missile Treaty, he lobbied against Senate ratification of the 1979 SALT II Treaty limiting offensive strategic launchers because he felt it made too many concessions to the Russians. Under President Ronald Reagan, however, he helped negotiate the 1987 ban on U.S. and Soviet intermediate range nuclear missiles and participated in laying the groundwork for the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

When not serving in government, Nitze was a highly successful businessman and a prolific writer on arms control, foreign policy, and strategic theory. He encouraged closer ties between government and academia and was one of the founders in 1944 of what became the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, which now bears his name.
[See also Berlin Crises; Cold War: External Course; Cold War: Domestic Course; National Council Memoranda; National Security in the Nuclear Age; SALT Treaties.]


Steven L. Rearden , The Evolution of American Strategic Doctrine: Paul H. Nitze and the Soviet Challenge, 1984.
Strobe Talbott , The Master of the Game: Paul Nitze and the Nuclear Peace, 1988.
Paul H. Nitze , From Hiroshima to Glasnost: At the Center of Decision—A Memoir, 1989.
David Callahan , Dangerous Capabilities: Paul Nitze and the Cold War, 1990.

Steven L. Rearden