Cold Warrior on Ice


Paul Nitze, adviser to eight presidents and one of the architects of the Cold War, has died at the age of 97. As the Wash Post writes,

In 1950, he wrote NSC 68, the official National Security Council blueprint for American strategy in the Cold War, which called for "a rapid and sustained buildup of the political, economic and military strength of the free world" to combat the power of the Soviet Union. Nitze, then chief of policy planning at the State Department, wrote that such an unprecedented peacetime mobilization was required "to wrest the initiative from the Soviet Union [and] confront it with convincing evidence of the determination and ability of the free world to frustrate the Kremlin design of a world dominated by its will."

In the 1980s, he played a role in negotiating arms reduction with the Soviets, including his infamous (and unauthorized) "walk in the woods" (later the subject of a prize-winning play of the same name) with Soviet Ambassador Yuli Kvitsinsky.

Whole Post obit here.

Curious tidbit: A Democrat by affiliation, he hated Jimmy Carter and did what he could while out of power to undermine the Man From Plains' foreign policy.

As we're in the thick of something that both John Kerry and Donald Rumsfeld have dubbed a new cold war, it's especially worth ruminating on the Nitze's life. I think the work of Cold War critic Arthur A. Ekirch, Jr.--especially his The Decline of American Liberalism--is particularly relevant, as it offers up one of the most trenchant analyses of the Cold War's effect on Amerian society.

"As part of the struggle against Communism," wrote Ekirch, "the American people were won over to the necessity of military preparedness on a virtual wartime basis….The individual citizen…live[d] in a near-war atmosphere, in which his own aspirations were subordinated to the demands of the state."

That's not an argument against waging the/a cold war--indeed, it may simply elevate post-war anti-Soviet efforts to the level of tragic necessity, even as it opens specific actions up to tough questions. But it's also definitely something worth keeping in mind as the war on terror unfolds.