On July 8, 1948, at one of the meetings of the Washington Exploratory Talks for an Atlantic Alliance, the chief American representative, Acting Secretary of State Robert Lovett, gave his assessment of a “hypothetical nation in Western Europe, ” which he called “Neuralgia.” This nation, he explained, “was prepared resolutely to defend itself if it could obtain appropriate assistance.” Lovett went on saying that if “Neuralgia” “saw the U.S. associated with some European group to which it was not a party it might see only two alternatives, either to yield to Soviet pressure, or to appeal piecemeal to the U.S. for military assistance.” In order to avert either alternative, the United States had by that time resolved to participate in Europe's collective security arrangements.
Lovett's “diagnosis” of Europe's security problems in “neurological” terms made obvious the link between self-esteem and self-reliance in Europe. Those problems were presumably a symptom of a short-term, pathological condition to be cured, not the basis for a long-term alliance. While accepting overseas commitments, Washington remained devoted to the idea of creating an integrated, self-reliant Western Europe that would do away with the need for constant American assistance. That had been the main purpose of the Marshall Plan. Two months after its announcement, State Department Soviet expert Charles Bohlen wrote: “our main preoccupation now is just how to help Western Europe get on its feet