In This Review

Fulbright: A Biography
Fulbright: A Biography
By Randall B. Woods
Cambridge University Press, 1995, 711 pp

An engrossing biography of the long-serving chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (1959-75), J. William Fulbright. The junior senator from Arkansas, who died this year, became a thorn in the side of every sitting president, yet his outlook is difficult to encapsulate with any of the customary designations. An early advocate of the United Nations and a champion of the Atlantic Community in the late 1940s, Fulbright stood for limited containment in the "great debate" of early 1951, arguing against both a fortress America and a universalized Truman doctrine. Though he would later come to think that the liberal internationalism he had championed was responsible for the imperial adventures that he began denouncing in the 1960s, he was never an unvarnished cold warrior. Most of the themes that would distinguish his later senatorial career--his distrust of "pactomania," for instance, or his attachment to the principle of nonintervention--were clearly adumbrated in the 1950s. In its wide scope and illuminating characterizations, this book is reminiscent of Ronald Steel's Walter Lippmann and the American Century. Fulbright and Lippmann were close friends, establishment dissenters whose foreign policy trajectories were in synchronous orbit throughout the Cold War (though J. W.'s engines tended to run a bit hotter). They now have one more thing in common: gifted biographers.