In 1945, the United States emerged from World War II prepared to help shape a new world order. A small group of policymakers, including Paul Nitze, cofounder of SAIS and at the time Director of the Policy Planning Staff at the State Department, gathered to create a strategy that would help guide the new superpower. What developed, NSC-68, was a comprehensive document that encompassed the roots of America’s containment policy and would prove to be the backbone of U.S. foreign policy for decades to come.
In 1999, almost fifty years after NSC-68’s drafting, we at SAIS Review felt it important to turn back to this document because of its enormous effects on foreign policymaking. Ambassador Nitze was extremely generous with his time, and we are honored to publish his reflections on NSC-68. His remarks are especially important because in them he lays out new guidelines for U.S. foreign policy as we move into the twenty-first century. American policymakers would do well to take note.
Following Ambassador Nitze’s opening piece, we have asked five scholars to reexamine NSC-68 keeping in mind the question, “Do we need a new NSC-68 today?” The answers are varied and make thought provoking cases for future policy. Marc Trachtenberg offers a historical perspective on the document, and questions whether grand strategy is a flawed approach to foreign policymaking. Adam Garfinkle argues that there is an underlying consensus for maintaining U.S. global preponderance today, but he believes that such a policy is dangerous and inappropriate in a post-Cold War context. On the other hand, Fred Kagan describes NSC-68 as a vision for U.S. policy so long as the United States remains a global power. Thus he postulates that the United States can still [End Page vii] benefit from an ambitious strategy, though this must be matched by parallel military force. Ted Galen Carpenter emphasizes that NSC-68 responded to specific conditions (those of 1950) and that the position we find ourselves in today is quite different. He asserts that the best strategy for the United States now is selective management of world crises. Finally, Odd Arne Westad looks specifically at the case of U.S.-China relations. He argues that NSC-68 misinterpreted China’s position in 1950 and that today, as it may have been then, engagement with China is the most important way to anchor it in the international system.
A great addition to this section is the newly declassified portions of NSC-68. Two annexes from several drafts of the document were declassified in December, per Ambassador Nitze’s request. We would like to thank him for his help in this matter. We are also indebted to James McCall for all of his assistance working with the National Security Council throughout the declassification process. These two annexes are most likely the only remaining parts of the document yet to be seen by the public. McCall has provided brief comments on the relevance and context of these annexes.
The second section of the journal explores the unique geostrategic, ideological, and political position that Turkey finds itself in as it faces the end of the century. Alan Makovsky provides a new look at Turkey’s recent foreign policy strategy, noting the new activist trend in Ankara. Hakan Yavuz makes a strong case for a new social contract in Turkey based on a neo-Ottoman ethos. His article explores the role that the Islamist movements and Turkey’s Kurdish population can play in shaping such a new social contract. Finally, Birol Yesilada describes the worsening of Turkey’s relations with Europe. Besides the important background he shares on Turkey-EU relations, he suggests alternative partners for Turkey in the coming years.
This issue also attempts to analyze the pressing energy issues in the former Soviet Union and Baltic states. Henry Hale identifies the different security and economic problems that confront the various Central Asian republics. He provides an important framework for understanding why certain states support reintegration with Russia while others struggle for independence. Walter Clemens reaches the surprising conclusion that three of the world’s smallest states...