The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War.
George Kennan, the most renowned American scholar-diplomat of the twentieth century, is already the subject or author of numerous books. Paul Nitze, arguably the most influential defense intellectual and arms negotiator of the postwar era, is the author or subject of several more. Even so, this dual biography by Nicholas Thompson, an editor at Wired magazine, breaks new ground. As Nitze's grandson, the author had access to a wealth of previously untapped documentation, which he has supplemented with Kennan's copious diaries, at least 150 interviews, and thorough secondary research.
For more than a half century, Nitze (the "Hawk") and Kennan (the "Dove") fought frequent battles over issues of policy. Yet, both in and out of government, they maintained a cordial relationship with each other. Thompson uses their intersecting personal and professional lives as a framework upon which to shed new light on how the United States conducted its long Cold War with the Soviet Union. Thompson's presentation of the debates about national security policies and priorities symbolized by these two men is eminently fair and balanced. On the personal level, he also describes the political circumstances and self-inflicted wounds that derailed each of these overachievers from attaining the positions to which they once seem destined: Kennan as Secretary of State, and Nitze as Secretary of Defense.
Although primarily a politico-diplomatic history, this book can offer students of air power useful insights into the policies that shaped U.S. military forces during the Cold War. Kennan's articulation of the policy for containment of the Soviet Union in 1946 and 1947, augmented by Nitze's formulation of National Security Council (NSC) directive 68 in 1950 (done behind the back of cost-cutting Defense Secretary Louis Johnson), helped lead to the rapid growth of the USAF and its worldwide network of bases. Although Kennan regretted what he considered the militarization of his containment policy, Nitze continued to foster the American side of the arms race well into the 1980s. He was especially influential in supporting the build-up and preservation of the US nuclear arsenal. As he wrote in 1954, "I want us to have the best radar net in the world, the most potent Strategic Air Command, the most advanced guided missiles, the most ghastly atomic weapons, [and] the strongest and most prosperous allies...."
Nitze, who had been a key author of the U.S. strategic bombing surveys in Europe and the Pacific, was less disturbed by examining Hiroshima and Nagasaki shortly after their atomic destruction than was Kennan by seeing the fire-bombed ruins of Hamburg. These experiences helped convinced Nitze of the need to prepare for the possibility of waging nuclear war and Kennan of the need to limit nuclear weapons. In essence, Kennan believed that American defense policy should be based on insight into Soviet intentions, while Nitze demanded it be based on worst case" scenarios of Soviet capabilities.
Some of the book's other revelations about Nitze's influences on policies affecting the USAF could be of special interest to readers of this journal. To reduce the danger of a wider conflict, he was largely responsible for the suppression of evidence that Soviet pilots were flying MiG-15s during the Korean War. As an undersecretary of defense during the Berlin Crisis of 1961, he designed a new multi-phase nuclear strike plan, consistent with the Kennedy administration's flexible response doctrine, to replace the existing Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP-62) that mandated launching an all-out nuclear attack. Although an early opponent of intervention in Southeast Asia, he supported escalation of, and then perseverance in, the Vietnam War while Secretary of the Navy and Deputy Secretary of Defense from 1964-1969. In the 1970s and 1980s, he was best known for his role in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I) and Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) negotiations. Between those two accords, Nitze helped sabotage ratification of a SALT II Treaty. He also nurtured the "NeoCon" movement as a leader of the Committee on the Present Danger, the CIA's "Team B," and other factions opposing detente with the Soviets. Yet he later joined Kennan as a proponent of nuclear disarmament and a skeptic about intervening militarily in other nations.
Only months after World War II, Kennan had perceptively explained how a contained Soviet Union would eventually collapse under the weight of its own inefficiency, corruption, and suppressive rule. Although this took longer than first expected, he was able to bask in the renown of having his prediction come to pass 45 years later. He died in 2004 at the age of 101, shortly after the death of Nitze at the age of 97. Thompson's story of their parallel lives is well worthwhile for anyone interested in the history of the Cold War from its beginnings to its end.
Lawrence R. Benson, retired Air Force historian
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|Author:||Benson, Lawrence R.|
|Publication:||Air Power History|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2010|
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