George Ball: Behind the Scenes in U.S. Foreign Policy

In This Review

George Ball: Behind the Scenes in U.S. Foreign Policy

By James A. Bill
Yale University Press, 1997
275 pp. $30.00
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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.