Final Foreign Policy Paper

Question 1

Both NSC-68 and NSS-2002 were born into imagined crossroads of the American experience. As it became clear that the United States would emerge from WWII strengthened, there was a flurry of domestic competition for post-war American identity and place in the world. Some, like Henry Luce, asserted a vision that imagined the duty of leadership in an often backwards world. Others, like the NAACP and the institutions of the Jim Crow South, rallied for a foreign policy that would either cast aside or affirm the domestic status quo. In some ways, NSC-68 represented the collusion of these internal ideological battles with the new specter of the communist menace. Coming in the wake of September 11, NSS-2002 represented not simply a new awaking to the terrorist threat, but an America searching for its place in a post Cold War world. For most Americans, the booming 1990s obscured the reality of a world decade that saw some of the most heinous civil war, pandemic disease, genocide, and post-colonial power vacuum politics in history. It was a decade in which transnational identity affiliations manifested themselves in ways as diverse as new calls for an International Criminal Court, an enlivened international humanitarian enterprise, and global terrorist networks. NSS2002 finds the Bush Administration trying to thread a line between classic notions of national sovereignty and international involvement. In some ways, it is nothing less than an attempt to assert a new transnational economic, military, and political paradigm on American terms. This paper undertakes a close textual analysis of each, in order to demonstrate the similarities, both in rhetoric and objective, that bind the two. Both set the United States in the contemporary moment and in so doing, assert a specific mythology of “America.” Both lay claim to an enemy that has significance not only as an enemy, but as a domestic specter. Global Communism previously and Terrorism today represent a self-justifying apparition as well as a real threat. Both documents assert a set of ideals that are vague enough to be almost unanimously agreed upon by the American public and explicit enough to be constantly contravened by administration’s actions. This is the true paradox of efficacy. If one is to judge success by the extent to which a foreign policy engenders tangibly the values it asserts rhetorically, both NSC-68 and NSS-2002 are miserable failures. If, however, the criterion of success is the average American’s willingness to accept the

Final Foreign Policy Paper

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asserted ideals and in turn understand their own sense of place, purpose, morality and importance on the world stage, both have been enormously successful. Securing the Ideal NSC-68 and NSS-2002 are similar in their assertion of an American identity and vision that transcends foreign policy. Perhaps because they were both created in times of transition, their first purpose is to lay claim to an idea of America, from which later policy directives will naturally flow. Although tenured with a slightly different tone, the projections of America tread a markedly similar course. In its very first section, NSC-68 claims that the fundamental purpose of the US is to “maintain the essential elements of individual freedom.1” Indeed, American society was, for the writers, “founded upon the dignity and worth of the individual.” This freedom is not the ends in and of itself, however, for what springs from it is “marvelous diversity…the deep tolerance,” and “lawfulness”2 NSS-2002 similarly, and much more frequently, takes the protection of “freedom” as the fundamental and justifying lynch pin of American policy, abroad and otherwise. In his introductory letter, President Bush files freedom of speech, popular participation in government, freedom of worship, private property, education and more under this banner. Importantly, however, NSS2002, unlike NSC-68 does not see freedom threatened by a competing seductive ideology of totalitarianism. That struggle, claims Bush, was the domain of the twentieth century. The delineation and creation of an overarching enemy and threat is also common to the two documents. In each, a real violent threat takes on the form of an imagined archetypal specter which serves to place America on the “good” side of a Manichean divide. For the framers of NSC-68, this fundamental “other” was the Kremlin. For the Bush administration, it is “shadowy networks” of global terrorists. Each is important in that their rhetorical and psychological value gives American foreign policy a sense of
1 2

American Cold War Strategy 26 American Cold War Strategy 27

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epochal purpose. At the very beginning of the Cold War document, policy makers write that
The United States…is the principal enemy whose integrity and vitality must be subverted or destroyed by one means or another if the Kremlin is to achieve its fundamental design.3

This sentiment is echoed a few pages later, when the document states that “we are…the only power which could release forces in the free and Soviet worlds which could destroy it.”4 It seems clear that, to some degree, America was selecting itself as the Soviet Union’s avowed enemy. This self-placement between the ideal of freedom and the menace threatening it arises in NSS-2002, as well, although terrorism has taken the place of communism. The third section of the document, which focuses entirely on this threat, concludes by saying that, “in the war against global terrorism, we will never forget that we are ultimately fighting for our democratic values and way of life…In leading the campaign against terrorism, we are forging new, productive international relationships and redefining existing ones in ways that meet the challenges of the twentyfirst century.”5 This last sentence reflects a general stance taken in each document that America is the ultimate leader in the defensible world. The tone of this leadership is defensive in NSC-68. Indeed, it is in this document that the idea of American “defense of the free world,” seems to come to rhetorical fruition. In the post-WWII world, American policymakers recognized that America and indeed, the American political ideal were uniquely suited to drive the second half of the 20th century. Not only was it the only superpower left unscathed, it seemed clear that the old enterprise of colonialism was on its last legs. Although the logic was often racialist and culturalist, many leaders were convinced that American-style federal democracy and open economy was the panacea that could lift allies out of wartime misery and the third world out of “backwardness” The Soviet Union, in offering an alternative to both capitalist governance and economics, threatened (at least in the minds of American leaders) to directly contravene the ideal of freedom. As such, first the Truman Doctrine and finally NSC-68 affirmed America’s right
3 4

ibid American Cold War Strategy, 34 5 NSS-2002, 7

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not only to defend herself but to defend against the forces of communism and “slavery6” on all fronts. In 2002, the situation was different. NSS-2002 takes this sort of rhetoric and entitlement to an entirely different level. In the document, the Bush Administration declared that ideological competition against the American system was over, and that the new war was against those radical few who sought to contradict what was, apparently, a world consensus. Indeed, terminology such as “rogue state” suggests a belief (or at least assertion) that those states opposing the US and American policies were fundamentally outside the global norm. In introducing the document, Bush writes that “We will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent.”7 Echoing the NSC-68 language of “containment” he continues
The United States and countries cooperating with us must not allow the terrorists to develop new home bases. Together, we will seek to deny them sanctuary at every turn. 8

The interesting thing about the American internationalism is that while it affirms the necessity of “lasting institutions” like the United Nations, it not only declares the United States’ right to undertake unilateral, preemptive action, but states explicitly that America’s international cooperation will be undertaken on its own terms.
The U.S. national security strategy will be based on a distinctly American internationalism that reflects the union of our values and our national interests. The aim of this strategy is to help make the world not just safer but better.9

Creating the Apparition Even more than their emphasis on domestic identity as a starting point for foreign policy, the two documents share in the creation of a rhetorical and tangible other that serves not only to help place American on the “good” or “right” side of a painful modern dichotomy, but indeed, serves to justify and frame all resulting American action. While they manifested themselves differently, the Kremlin of NSC-68 and NSS-2002’s “terrorists” were not only

6 7

American Cold War Strategy, 28 NSS-2002, Intro 8 ibid 9 NSS-2002, 1

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real threats, but functioned as ideologically affirming creations that wrenched control over life and death from the hands of the average American. Both NSC-68 and NSS-2002 assert that the other has a value system fundamentally at odds with that of the average American. On page 29 of American Cold War Strategy, the framers write “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.” Indeed, much of the first section is a philosophical diatribe which explores the appeal of the Soviet system’s “slavery” to “human irrationality” and pits it directly against the freedom so nobly embodied by America. NSS-2002 finds the contemporary administration attempting to create the same dichotomy. On page 7, they write “Freedom and fear are at war and there will be no quick or easy end to this conflict.” The verbal Manichaeism is taken to the next notch a few pages later in the section about Weapons of Mass Destruction. The Bush team asserts that the “rogue states” that had developed during the 1990s shared a number of characteristics. Most importantly, they “sponsor terrorism around the globe,” and “reject basic human values and hate the United States and everything for which it stands.”10 Perhaps even more interesting than the polarities themselves were the ostensible purpose they seemed to have within the document and with regard to the intended audience. In 1948, there was still much competition for vision even within the Truman administration. Although the Truman Doctrine had done much to assert the official position that communism was a threat to be faced around the world, the degree to which the military would be built up to these ends was still a pertinent discussion. During most of the immediate post-war period George Kennan had been the leading voice on American-Soviet relations. He was an originator of the notion of containment, and thought that the “mystical, Messianic movement”11 of the Kremlin was unsustainable with the correct application of American power. His voice was gradually supplanted, however, by Dean Acheson and his new chief of Policy Planning Staff, Paul Nitze.
10 11

NSS-2002 American Cold War Strategy, 6

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Ernest May suggests that Kennan and Acheson/Nitze differed on some critical aspects of containment: the role of military and overtly hostile rhetoric.
Kennan did no share Acheson’s belief that containment required substantial military forces. He had misgivings about Truman’s recent decisions on nuclear and thermonuclear weapons, and he had begun to criticize the stridency of administration rhetoric. 12

NSC-68, then, was offered to Truman not simply as a policy document,

but one whose fundamental purpose was to convince the president that the “new, fanatical faith” of communism was so wholly opposite to and totally bent upon undermining every potential good contained within American power and American ideals that nothing short of massive military build up could ensure its defeat. NSS-2002 found itself seeking a different target audience. While the Cold War document was classified, NSS was created for popular consumption. If NSC-68’s purpose was to convince Truman of a certain set of circumstances, then NSS-2002 was designed to propagate the Bush Admin worldview among the general public. More subtly, it was written in a way which strengthened the federal government by ensuring their unique mastery over the situation. Part of this was vocalizing the terrible danger of the terrorists. No longer, asserts Bush and Co, are WMDs and other terrible weapons which target civilians last resorts, but instead are weapons of choice. Indeed, in this way, the new threat is even more menacing than the Soviet Empire.
The nature and motivations of these new adversaries, their determination to obtain destructive powers hitherto available only to the world’s strongest states, and the greater likelihood that they will use weapons of mass destruction against us, make today’s security environment more complex and dangerous.13

This “complexity” of the situation is found elsewhere in the document

as well. On Page 5, the writers give the War on Terrorism an epochal and prophetic tone, saying that The struggle against global terrorism is different from any other war in our history. It will be fought on many fronts against a particularly elusive army over an extended period of time. Progress will come through the persistent accumulation of successes – some seen, some unseen.
12 13

American Cold War Strategy, 8 NSS-2002, 13

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In effect, the document enshrines fear by suggesting that this shadowy enemy is so devious and so hard to uncover that the average American citizen must be on total alert to the possibility of attack. Additionally, the motivations and methods of the global terrorist threat are so monumental that only the government could possibly understand the scope of action necessary to remedy it. Efficacy Perhaps because it was not intended for a public audience, NSC-68 is able to spend a little time talking about the psychological and ideological dimensions of a successful containment policy. Indeed, it is explicit about the need to demonstrate the power and integrity of the ideal of American freedom in order to create internal ruptures within the citizens of the Soviet state and its satellites. On Page 30, Nitze and co. write “by practically demonstrating the integrity and vitality of our system the free world widens the area of possible agreement and thus can hope gradually to bring about a Soviet acknowledgement of realities which in sum will eventually constitute a frustration of the Soviet design.” The document talks about how the government’s actions needed to consider the perception of Soviet citizens who might rally behind the government that “enslaves” them. Even more importantly, the document recognizes that certain means are unavailable to it to protect its free system. Force is only acceptable as a last resort and in a situation where the potential for turmoil caused by American force is outweighed by the greater potential for horror of doing nothing. NSS-2002 pays little mind to the foreign perception of its actions. It makes the case that the consensus surrounding the forces of freedom and the actions necessary to uphold that ideal is so unbreakable that dissent or misperception, internally or externally, is unthinkable, except by the “embittered few.”14 The moral absolutism of the document revolves around the troika of inviolable world principles: human dignity, political freedom, and economic liberty.

14

NSS-2002 pg 1

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While the last sixty years has offered plenty of evidence that, at their most basic, many of these principles are globally resonant, American administrations and citizens have failed to recognize the degree to which demonstrated hypocrisy undercuts the ideal of America. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, Administrations seemed to forget that they were fighting communism because it contravened political freedom, rather than because it was called freedom. Too often, autocrats like Mohammed Reza Shah were supported despite the same secret police, lack of political choice, and lack of economic, press, and religious freedom railed against in the Soviet Empire. With damaging frequency, the stated ideal of American economic liberty was demonstrated to be more about access to markets than the dignity of the individual. Thus there was at all times a competition between the promise and mythology of America, a place where freedom and dignity were sanctified and supposed to be upheld, and the on-the-ground reality, which often found people languishing because of some remote ideological struggle. So too does today find the many of the assertions of NSS-2002 contravened not by ideal but by example. Notions of human dignity ring hollow in light of Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo Bay. People cannot help but question the political freedom of something as universally upheld as selfdetermination when it is brought at the barrel of a gun and in the wake of massive civilian bombing campaigns. Moreover, people cannot help but question the consistency of our rhetoric when economically and strategically useful autocrats such as the Saudi Royal Family are continuously supported. Yet both NSC-68 and NSS-2002 have been remarkably successful at coloring the tone of public American discourse. How could these two totally different perceptions exist side by side? It seems to me that where both NSC68 and NSS-2002 succeeded domestically was in enshrining the ideals of America in a way which resonated with the best hopes and aspirations of citizens, and at the same time, bound the fate of individuals with the common fate of the nation. The Soviet menace threatened the extinction of the individual life and the life of the nation. So too does terrorism menace both the person and the state. As long as this argument remains convincing

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to a majority of Americans, it seems unlikely that there will be a major departure in the support of foreign policy. Conclusion NSC-68 and NSS-2002 are different documents. They were born into unique historical moments and their recommendations and goals reflect each administration’s understanding of the exigencies of modernity. Yet at the same time, they mirror each other in their close binding of domestic identity and foreign policy. They are similar in their creation of an “other” which serves not only to define America as good, but also heightens the psychological and tangible power of the government. Finally, they both found (and find, in the case of NSS-2002) contradiction in practice yet sustained domestic support. A reading of one can inform the other, and indeed, it is only by understanding the historical realities of each document that we might learn how to progress and better calibrate ideal and reality.

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