In This Review

George Ball: Behind the Scenes in U.S. Foreign Policy
George Ball: Behind the Scenes in U.S. Foreign Policy
By James A. Bill
Yale University Press, 1997, 275 pp

An unusual biography, innovative in method and theme, that uses Ball's career to illuminate deeper truths about statecraft and governance. The cover photo -- Ball in his disheveled office, surrounded by heaps of books and papers, with the turned-up brow suggestive of sagacity and wit -- nicely captures the character of this intelligent and prescient diplomat. The book begins with a day in the life -- an arresting description of a July 21, 1965, cabinet meeting that resolved, over Ball's dissent, on escalation in Vietnam; proceeds with an examination of his roots and professional preoccupations; and then examines his outlook on and participation in a succession of crises in foreign policy. The book concludes with an extended contrast between Ball and Henry Kissinger that is overdrawn but makes the right assumption: that students learn of wisdom and prudence in statecraft by observing the wise and prudent in action. That George Ball was one such is convincingly shown in this admirable study.