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Tension Between Opposites, by Paul H. Nitze

- Abstract

Paul Nitze’s latest book, Tension Between Opposites, provides a fascinating glimpse into the character, and inner growth, of one of our most extraordinary and distinguished public servants, a man whose life critically affected—indeed, almost embodied—the history of the cold-war era. Designed to distill the lessons of a long and extremely active life, Tension Between Opposites briefly sets forth some theoretical observations about politics and then applies them to the characters and decisions of famous men Nitze has known. But what is most interesting about the book is what it reveals about Nitze himself.

The résumé of Nitze’s public achievements is nothing short of remarkable. In 1945, he supervised the Pacific branch of the Strategic Bombing Survey, which made the first systematic study of the effects of the atomic bomb. A key adviser to President Truman and Secretary of State Dean Acheson by 1950, he was the principal author of NSC-68, often considered the master document of American cold-war strategy. In 1962, he participated in the Cuban-missile-crisis deliberations with President Kennedy. Later he served as Secretary of the Navy. A member of the SALT I negotiating team in the early 1970′s, he helped shape the key provisions of the 1972 ABM treaty. In the mid- to late 1970′s, disillusioned with Presidents Nixon and Carter, he became a leading critic of SALT II and, as a founder of the Committee on the Present Danger, may have been more responsible than anyone for that treaty’s virtual defeat. Under President Reagan, he was chief negotiator at the crucial Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force (INF) talks and later played a key role in the dramatic 1987 Reykjavik summit.

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