Paul Henry Nitze (16 January 1907 – 19 October 2004) was an American politician who served as U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Defense, U.S. Secretary of the Navy, and Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. State Department. He is famous for being the principal author of the policy paper NSC 68 (1950) and a co-founder of Team B. From 1950 on, he helped shape Cold War policy over the course of numerous presidential administrations from that of Harry Truman to that of Ronald Reagan.
- Some people say there are two policies in the executive branch … one is mine and the other is the president's, which is marginally so. Some of the things I've said are different from what the president has said, but all the things I have said have been approved by the president.
- Statement (January 1986), as quoted in "Paul Nitze, Cold War Strategist, Dies at 97" by Marilyn Berger, The New York Times (20 October 2004)
War Whether We Need It Or Not? (1991)
- "War Whether We Need It Or Not?" (co-written with Michael F. Stafford) in The Washington Post (6 January 1991); also in Paul H. Nitze on the Future (1991), p. 177
- One of the most dangerous forms of human error is forgetting what one is trying to achieve. In the gulf crisis, it is crucial that we look beyond our anger at Saddam and remind ourselves of precisely what U.S. interests are in the crisis and what we seek to accomplish.
- Our main goal should be to establish a precedent for a new post-Cold War era, in which the community of nations, working through the United Nations and other organizations, can insure that would-be aggressors do not profit from invasion, coercion and force.
- In our view, all-out war promises the least success in achieving the objectives we have outlined.
First, it would not necessarily discourage other potential aggressors. Defeating Saddam Hussein promptly in an all-out war would send an unequivocal signal that this aggression had not been tolerated. But if casualties were high, U.S. sentiment probably would be driven toward a more isolationist posture. Many Americans would be dismayed by the carnage and resentful that our allies were not paying a similar price. (The seeds of such resentment already exist.) They could be expected to oppose any comparable U.S. role in the future. The message would be that the United States had neither the inclination to work in concert with other nations nor the stomach to repeat the anti-Iraq action. Many of our current collaborators, who are ambivalent at best about the war option, might also lose interest in future cooperation with us. A world of growing brutality and chaos would become a likely prospect.
- For the past generation, Americans have regretted that in Vietnam, we let the passions of the moment and a lack of healthy skepticism toward presidential claims obscure a clear-headed assessment of our national interests. The result was that we were driven into a costly, divisive, and ultimately counterproductive expansion of a war that lacked adequate public support. Let's not spend the next generation wondering how we came to repeat that mistake.
Quotes about Nitze
- From the beginning of the nuclear age, whether in government or out, Mr. Nitze urged successive American presidents to take measures against what he saw as the Soviet drive to overwhelm the United States through the force of arms. Yet he may be best remembered for his conciliatory role in efforts to achieve two major arms agreements with the Soviet Union. … A man of intimidating intellect, Mr. Nitze could be warm and affectionate or cerebral and brittle. He was a formidable bureaucrat with a brilliant mind and a persuasive pen. Out of government — as he was during the Carter administration — he was an equally effective critic, as he showed in the late 1970's as the mastermind of the opposition to the second strategic arms limitation agreement. He used complicated charts and computer printouts to warn that the treaty would lock the United States into permanent strategic inferiority. Despite this vigorous opposition, once Mr. Nitze was back in government, he urged President Reagan to comply with the terms of the treaty even though it was never ratified. … He always seemed too conservative for the liberal administrations and too liberal for the conservative ones.