Paul Nitze, a life long Democrat who also served under Ronald Reagan, died on Wednesday. Having spent his childhood around the UofC where his father taught, he made it big both in Washington and on Wall Street. I suspect the readers of this page may not agree with some of the positions he took in over 50 years of political life in national security affairs, but in his National Security Council memorandum 68 (NSC 68), a classified report to President Harry Truman in the aftermath of first nuclear explosion by the Soviets, he framed US relations with the Soviet Union as a struggle between freedom and slavery. It was this kind of moral clarity, not nuance and international sophistication, that won the Cold War. Also it was the policies set forth in the aftermath of WWII by people like Nitze that have created the longest peace among major Western powers since the time of Romans. And it was the American security net championed by distinguished individuals like Nitze that allowed Western Europeans to take their minds off national jealousies and concentrate on economic integration. The world had never seen the spread of prosperity in such a short period of time.
It is hard to believe that Nitze’s party — with its affinity for international forums and therapeutic approaches towards foreign policy — has become the heir of Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Truman, and John Kennedy. The abdication of national security – reaffirmed during the Carter era and also during eight years of Clinton when the enemy plotted and attacked four times (WTC, Kohbar Towers, embassies, USS Cole) – has unfortunately rendered the Democratic party unelectable and opened the door for potential excesses and incompetence by the Republicans.