Skip to main content

Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Primary Source Final Paper: NSC-68: United States Objectives and Programs for National Security

On April 14, 1950, President Truman was presented with the document, NSC-68: United States Objectives and Programs for National Security. It was composed by the planning staff of the State Department and was intended for the attention of the National Security Council. The document focused on the concern that America had regarding the security of the nation as they were headed in the direction of war against the Soviet, communist society. The Cold War was a time of much uncertainty among Americans with the expectation of dangerous times ahead, due to the conflict in values and morals between the two countries. The United States, however, had no desire to back down and let their values be undermined by a society that was founded on absolute power and corrupt morals. In the document, the United States National Security Council overemphasizes the perfect structure of the United States, in contrast to the Soviet Union, through the use of strong and glorifying words that were intended to create an emotional connection between Americans and the goals of their democratic government. The proposals of various ideas on how to unite both the U.S. and the Soviet Union through means of peace, stability and freedom, are outlined throughout.

The NSC-68 document was written in a military point of view by the State Department. Because of this, an obvious sense of urgency is presented through the use of exaggerated language. The opening section of the document highlights past wars, defeats, and declines/collapses of an assortment of empires and countries around the world. By doing so, they are trying to emphasize the attention that needs to be given to America in order to keep it from being added to the list of fallen societies or governments. It continues on by expressing the result of all these past events and how they have led to the distribution of power between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Because of this, the Soviets were America’s greatest threat because they had grown and formed a highly comparable amount of strength and power. The threat, however, was not just in the size of the Kremlin power, but more so in the values and morals of the leaders and the absolute power they enforced. They sought to spread their communist practices and way of life in order to take over and assume absolute power worldwide. The Soviet ideas and societal structure greatly contrasted the United States’ morals and beliefs, however, and as a solution, the State Department proposed that America should reach out to the Kremlin government and teach them the ways of freedom, equality, tolerance, integrity, and peace among their people. The Soviet way of life has a deep root in slavery and absolute power that causes conflict within the society and a governmental hunger for dominance, and because of this, there was much speculation regarding the success of the United States’ idea of fixing such a broken society. Many people feared that the Soviet Union’s twisted ideas would push their way into the firmly founded U.S. ideas of integrity and freedom and those people were not willing to compromise their way of life.

This leads into the next point. The fundamental purpose of the United States is addressed in the document by citing the Preamble of the Constitution where it reads, “We the people…establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” The inclusion of this particular section of the Preamble overemphasizes the idea that all Americans must always defend their country and form a stronger foundation for the quality of life for all persons in America. This greatly reflects the military point of view behind the words in the document because the oath to defend their country is one that every soldier must take. The State Department believed that if American society could increase the strength of these ideas, they would be ready to take on those of the Kremlin and plant a seed of change in the Soviet system. This is a very ambitious goal for one country to make and in many ways is unrealistic. Merely stressing one’s own values into another’s lifestyle does not mean that the latter is going to accept them and immediately change to match the former. A prideful, communist government like the Kremlin are not going to simply lay down all their beliefs and practices and follow their biggest threat, the United States.

In addition, this type of a solution to an extensive problem would require a lot of work and would in no doubt lead to war. A quote from the document reads, “…the negative responsibility of the individual not to exercise his freedom in ways inconsistent with the freedom of other individuals” brings up the clear point that an individual, or complete civilization of people, has a natural instinct to not change even when their actions go against those of others. This is recognized in the document, yet undermined by the continuous determination to change this corrupted government and lead them in the ways of the Preamble. This, again, is an exaggeration of power that the U.S. has. Because it is written with the military view as the foundation, it is no surprise that they would want to appear extraordinary and able to accomplish the impossible. They are driven to bring others unto the acceptance of the ideals and deep roots of freedom that America promises, but make America seem perfect and capable of sustaining its strength when the U.S. could fall apart just as easily as the Roman Empire did generations before. To believe that America is completely superior to the rest of the world is just as prideful as the Soviet government saying that they will take over the world with their atomic warfare and communist practices.

This document doesn’t reflect the extent of preparation needed to combat such an intense and difficult war, while still maintaining the high hopes and faith that the people had for their country. A complete change in the Soviet system was crucial for any form of lasting abatement to their ideas and current laws to occur. The scary reality that faced America was the lack of total surety that they were grounded enough to send soldiers out to risk their lives for the establishment of change and freedom in another society. Was America so superior to the rest of the world that there was no possibility of conflict in their own homeland? Would the following-through of the goals intended to improve the Soviet Union which were presented by the State Department end up being detrimental to the United States, consequentially leaving it weaker? The only way of achieving a free society in the Soviet Union was by the strategy of the Cold War, and the outcomes were incredibly uncertain. Self-discipline, self-restraints and change would have to be carried out by the Kremlin for any success to occur. That is not something an opposing government can control or accomplish for them. It has to be directly desired by the individuals themselves.

Today, this document is seen as important part of history because it explains the foundation of the Cold War and the United States’ critical views of the Soviet society. The Cold War originated from the contrast between American morals and Soviet Union ideals. Both the U.S. and the Soviet Union were the biggest and most powerful leaders in the world, and therefore, were each other’s biggest threat. The Soviet goal was to spread their morals and ideas, and eventually run the world according to their leadership. The U.S. had no desire to give up the freedom and values that their ancestors had so diligently fought for, and in result, analyzed their options regarding the disarming of the Soviet Union. Two main ideas surfaced during the Cold War. First, send troops and government leaders into the Kremlin territory and convert them to the views and values of the United States, or second, go to war and defeat the idea of global communist ruling. While the first option provided more security for the American people, the ease of such a feat was very unlikely because even though the societal set-up of America functions well for its people, doesn’t mean that the rest of the world believes that it will work the same way for them. Therefore, war seemed more likely to occur because of the Soviet Union’s determination to conquer and control the world, despite the resistance of the U.S. The NSC-68 is evidence of the happenings of this time in history. It shows the determination of America and the extent at which the value of such a historical, societal structure is viewed. The document also expresses such committed attitudes as the State Department continuously addresses the firm structure that America was built on. These ideas and beliefs can be applied today as conflicts never cease between the U.S. and other countries around the world. Focus on the views of America’s smooth-running society and preservation of ideals always seem to be at the base of every conflicting opinion or nature of war between the United States and another country. This is evidenced in how the document highlights differences in the Soviet society and ultimately supports that if a war were to ever ensue, the main purpose all Americans should have, is the willingness to love and defend their country and what it stands for, no matter what the consequences will be. “…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.”

In conclusion, the document NSC 68: United States Objectives and Programs for National Security outlines many important, and justified points regarding the direction that the United States should take during the time of the Cold War. The overly expressive, and somewhat 6 misleading, language emerges throughout the document in hopes to inspire a collective following through this time of unsurety as conflict was arising between America and the Soviet Union. The State Department re-emphasizes the firm values and structured beliefs throughout the document to clearly contrast the Soviet way of thinking in order to bring to light the purpose for the beginning of the Cold War, and why America stood its ground when the consequences weren’t favorable.


Keywords: Cold War, Soviet Union, Freedom

By accessing or using any part of this site, you agree to not download, copy, or otherwise plagiarize its contents in any way.

Salt Lake Community College

4600 South Redwood Road Salt Lake City, UT 84123
Student Services hours: M - F : 7am -7pm
Enrollment Info: 801-957-4073 |