- Comments on Footnotes to Near History
As one of the principal documents of United States foreign and security policy in the Cold War, NSC-68 has been reviewed closely by scholars since its declassification in 1975. At that time, the bulk of the materials associated with the document were released, including earlier drafts which had circulated back and forth between the drafting subcommittee and the rest of the national security council. 1 A handful of pages, however, remained classified and speculation swirled as to what they might contain—anything from an outline of how to “sell” the containment program to the American people to a more detailed account of the intelligence materials and sources upon which some of the conclusions of the document were based. Nearly a quarter-century later, in mid-November 1998, after a request by Paul Nitze, the national security council authorized the release of twenty additional pages, which are published here for the first time.
What was released proved anti-climatic. The new material covers drafts of two annexes of the document (both already known) describing related aspects of the containment effort outlined in NSC-68. “The Information Program,” Annex No. 5 from NSC-68/3, discusses American propaganda efforts to counter Moscow’s influence abroad. Two versions of “The Internal Security Program,” Annex No. 7 from NSC-68/1 and /3, detail initiatives for combating Soviet efforts within the United States. Just why these twenty pages [End Page 9] remained under wraps for a further two decades is not clear—nothing in them appears to be particularly sensitive. Even if the frank description of efforts intended to stir up trouble within the Soviet Union and its satellites was politically problematic during détente in the mid-1970s, the general content of the approach is well-known. Somewhat more discomforting, if also familiar, are the proposals for strengthening the internal security of the United States by expanding domestic intelligence capabilities and widening the government’s legal weapons for dealing with “potentially” subversive groups. Here the materials seem to anticipate the excesses of the McCarthy era.
Annex No. 5 covers the tasks and objectives of the information program, not only to reveal the Kremlin’s design and to demonstrate why it threatened the interests of other nations, but also to explain the measures taken by the United States in a way which would win support and cooperation abroad. The drafters took a realistic view of the ability of the United States to win over others:
Nations and peoples have interests additional to those shared with the United States; these will also shape their attitudes and govern their actions. Propaganda that fails to take account of this diversity in the world will not only misrepresent United States policy but over-reach itself. In some cases, political, economic, and military considerations will require that propaganda endeavor to bring about as full as possible correspondence between the commitments and the actions of another nation or people with the commitments and the actions of the United States. In others, the United States can afford to be satisfied if the other nation or people only decline to associate themselves with the Soviet Union. 2
At the same time, the drafters saw peoples under Soviet domination as possible allies who should “be developed as potential subverters and defectors. This is particularly true of intellectuals in government and out, of many in the armed services and of a large part of the peasantry. To the degree to which, while refraining from premature action, they identify their interests with those of the free world, the internal structure of the Soviet Union will be weakened, its controls strained and its aggressive possibilities restricted.” 3 The annex later lists those people who offered the best chance of “producing at a suitable time subversion within and defection from the areas now dominated by the Kremlin” as possible first targets of propaganda efforts. 4
Annex No. 7 spells out existing efforts to frustrate Soviet ambitions within the United States and calls for additional measures. Its language reflects the almost paranoid fear of Soviet infiltration [End Page 10] at the time: “The major threat to the...