I fully appreciate and support the need to create a position from which we would be able to respond, within reasonable limits, to any form of Soviet aggression in the NATO area, forcefully, but in such a way as to minimize the risk of general war. I believe, however, that realistic planning must seek to exploit our strengths without overlooking our weaknesses; above all, it must weigh immediate needs against interests of the long-term defense posture of the West. While preparing to exploit any favorable developments, we must avoid convincing ourselves that the possible is probable. We must not confuse the wish with the fact.
-- Lauris N. Norstad, September 16, 19611
While Kennedy's advisors played nuclear warrior, the President searched for every avenue out of the crisis. A back channel message came through George Kennan, now Ambassador to Yugoslavia, that the minimum Soviet demands for a resolution of Berlin was a peace treaty and de facto recognition of the GDR under a formula that preserved the status quo of two Germanies. Kennedy pursued this and other unofficial contacts while approving efforts by Rusk to open a direct dialogue.
He also met with McNamara, Taylor, Lemnitzer, Acheson, and others on September 7 to talk out what might occur if no diplomatic solution could be achieved. Ever eager to sacrifice lives to uphold American prestige, Acheson urged a permanent increase of four U.S. divisions in Western Europe and an attack up the autobahn with five or more if that were necessary to establish the credibility of the nuclear deterrent. And if nuclear war did come, the U.S. should promulgate it to a victorious conclusion and worry about picking up the pieces of a wrecked Europe afterward. Jolted, Kennedy ordered McNamara and Rusk to study how the Soviets and allies would react to a mobilization of six more divisions for Western Europe and how much it would cost. He had already approved the movement of ten fighter squadrons and six more B-47 wings (including 20 planes to Spain to augment the 33 already there) to Europe