A compilation of ten essays by senior scholars on American foreign policy on the subject of Dean Acheson, this volume grew out of a 1989 conference at the the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at the Johns Hopkins University. The theme was best expressed by Nitze himself, who told the conference, "The happiest and most productive years of my life were those from 1947 to January 1953, when I was among those working closely with Dean and creating the modern world." Although criticism of Acheson is scattered through the volume, James Reston set the tone when he remarked that the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan were misnamed: They should obviously be called the Acheson Doctrine and the Acheson Plan.
In the view of the authors it is hardly possible to be excessive in admiration for Acheson. And of course there can be no doubt about his importance, which he took care not to overstress when he entitled his memoirs Present at the Creation rather than My Creation.
Nonetheless, Forrest Pogue's wonderful essay on Marshall and Acheson provides a bit of a corrective to the statement that the Acheson Plan would be a more accurate name. He notes that the Marshall Plan was not a light bulb kind of idea of Marshall, Acheson or anyone else. It was in the air. It was obviously necessary. Acheson helped get it going, but Pogue makes it clear that without Marshall, neither Acheson nor Truman nor anyone else could have gotten congressional approval. How high was Marshall's reputation? Pogue relates that when Truman sent Marshall's nomination as Secretary of State to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Arthur Vandenberg called the committee into session and told it to approve the nomination without a hearing. He then arranged for full Senate approval the same day. That Acheson won Marshall's highest approval was his greatest compliment. Pogue shares an Acheson oral history and prints Acheson's letter to Marshall when Acheson became secretary. This alone is worth the price of the book.