How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love NSC-68

For you youngsters in the audience (or those who slept through PoliSci 102) , National Security Council Report 68, issued in April 1950 and approved by President Truman the following year, provided the blueprint for America’s conduct of the Cold War.  It’s a sophisticated document and well worth pondering for lessons today — along with George Kennan’s “Long Telegram” and “X” article, upon which it draws heavily.

Army Major Jeremy Kotkin has done just that.  In the attached article, The Shadow Course of Action, or, How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love NCS-68 (243 KB PDF), he calls for a reassessment of US foreign policy as fundamental as that which led to NSC-68:

What is a vital national interest and what is existential to our way of life, is the credibility and influence we must maintain as a world power to pursue other policies of vital interest. We must achieve a positive result in Afghanistan and not be seen to run from adopted partners in Kabul in a fit of capriciousness. To do this, we must understand two lessons: 1) to learn the 5 critical differences regarding national interests so we again do not allow ourselves to think we can force non-vital socio-economic change in another country, and 2) realize that the largely unilateral efforts of the U.S. military are not the solution to a non-military problem.

This is a significant piece, and I suggest you break out a good single malt and dig into it.

Editor’s note:  MAJ Jeremy Kotkin entered the US Air Force from Rutgers University as a communicator in 1995.  In 2008, he transferred to the Army as a Functional Area-59, Strategist, and is assigned to the J5 directorate at the US Special Operations Command in Tampa.  The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the US Government.

[CR:  It should also be noted that 36 years before MAJ Kotkin’s transfer in the other direction, I switched affiliation from the Army to the US Air Force.]

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