George Ball

Behind the Scenes in U.S. Foreign Policy

James A. Bill

View Inside Price: $32.00


August 11, 1998
302 pages, 6 x 9
20 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300076462
Paper

Also Available in:
Cloth

Diplomat and "wise man" George Ball wielded enormous influence in American foreign policy for more than forty years. Best known for his dissent from U.S. Vietnam policy when he was under secretary of state during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, he also helped those administrations formulate policy concerning the European Community, the Congo, the Cuban missile crisis, and Cyprus. His last formal appointment was in 1968 as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, but he continued to advise and unofficially assist presidents and members of the American political elite for another twenty-five years, often taking contrary and critical positions on the major issues of the day. In this book James Bill offers fascinating new insights into the inner workings of foreign policy by examining Ball's career and the political problems with which he grappled.

Drawing on Ball's personal archive as well as extensive interviews with Ball and with dozens of his associates, Bill traces Ball's involvement with foreign policy. He begins in the 1940s, when Ball was a close associate of Jean Monnet, chief architect of the European Community, and ends with Ball's death in 1994. He also chronicles Ball's forty-year involvement as a founding member of the Bilderberg group, an international clique of powerful European and American leaders. The book stresses a seldom-recognized dimension of the U.S. foreign policymaking process: the importance of the second tier of officialdom, the level just below that of cabinet secretary. And it provides a thoughtful comparison of the realpolitik model of statesmanship practiced by Henry Kissinger and the phronesis practiced by Ball, who was a prudent statesman guided by practical wisdom within a moral framework.

James A. Bill is professor of government and director of the Reves Center for International Studies, the College of William and Mary. He is the author of the highly acclaimed The Eagle and the Lion: The Tragedy of American-Iranian Relations, published by Yale University Press.

"A statesman of uncommon intelligence, prescience, irreverence and wit, George Ball was for half a century a vital figure in the formation and discussion of American foreign policy. James A. Bill's incisive biography provides both a candid account of a remarkable career and an illuminating analysis of the essence of statecraft."—Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

"George Ball was one of the most formidable and complex men I met in public life. He understood that foreign policy is a struggle both of personalities and forces. And he worked prodigiously to influence both. James Bill has performed a masterful work in capturing the essence of Ball's influence in the corridors of power."—Bill Moyers

"James Bill's biography of George Ball vividly describes the life and work of a man who contributed outstandingly to our country's foreign policymaking process in the Cold War period. But this fascinating book is much more than a study of the life and times of George Ball. It presents various approaches to the making of U. S. foreign policy and emphasizes the overarching importance of moral considerations in the process. As such, it stands as a basic primer defining the debate concerning the nature of American foreign policy at the dawn of the twenty-first century."—Cyrus R. Vance

"In a discipline in which process is king, James Bill offers a model of foreign policy studies which places means and ends, process and substance, in balance. His lucid and eloquent new book, George Ball: Behind the Scenes in U.S. Foreign Policy, builds this model around the career of one of America's great statesmen."—Gabriel A. Almond

"George Ball, more than any person of his generation, was a political figure and public servant of independent force. On European union with Jean Monnet, on liberal trade policy, as the principal political guide of Adlai Stevenson, as a skeptic of Air Force claims and, above all, as a voice against the egregious error in Vietnam he was superb; and on Vietnam in the higher councils, almost unique. Here in admirable detail is his story. It is for all who look for some redeeming voices in the foreign policy establishment."—John Kenneth Galbraith

"James Bill's fascinating and important biography puts George Ball's courageous and farsighted opposition to the war in Vietnam within the larger context of his long career as a major maker of American foreign policy. This book not only fills an important gap in the Cold War bookshelf, it illuminates Ball's unorthodox but brilliant style, his ambitions and frustrations, his feuds and friendships." —Richard Holbrooke

"The section on the Congo of 1960 was particularly revealing; this is the first account that unravels the complex skein of political, economic, and economic self-interest that shrouded that episode. A superb book!"—Victor LeVine, Dept. of Political Science, Washington University

"[Bill] provide[s] a useful, balanced synthesis of Ball's life sprinkled with additional evidence and illustrative anecdotes drawn from Ball's personal papers and interviews with his former colleagues."—Jeffrey Kimball, American Historical Review

"In providing us with a first-rate case study, James Bill has made an important contribution to our understanding of ethics and statecraft."—Joel H. Rosenthal, Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs



"Bill, one of the nation's premier authorities on Middle East politics and US-Iranian relations, with this study further enhances his eminent credentials. . . . This important book helps understand one of the giants of Cold War statesmanship."—Choice

"A thoughtful and interesting study of a significant American policymaker. . . . This fine book should encourage policymakers of the present and the future to learn from his experience and example."—Wilson D. Miscamble, History

"Bill has fashioned a perceptive, intelligent study . . . Readers will learn much from it."—Lawrence S. Wittner, The Journal of American History

"For those who consider American foreign-policy making a black box and therefore are prone to conspiracy theories, Professor Bill's magisterial work on one of the consummate 'insiders,' George Ball, and his opposite in almost every way, Henry Kissinger, can be an eye-opener."—Robert Dickson Crane, Middle East Affairs Journal

"That Bill can recognize Ball's shortcomings and still pronounce him 'a leader of prudence and wisdom' (p.232) is a mark of how well this book succeeds as a balanced look at one of this century's most influential shapers of American foreign policy. Specialists as well as readers would do well to give it a reading."—Mary Ann Heiss, Ohio History

"[This is] a scrupulously researched book, brimming with fresh anecdotes, which is essential reading for anyone interested in the last 40 years of U.S. foreign policymaking."—Douglas Brinkley, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

"The section on the Congo of 1960 was particularly revealing; this is the first account that unravels the complex skein of political, economic, and economic self-interest that shrouded that episode. A superb book!"—Victor LeVine, Dept. of Political Science, Washington University

"James Bill. . . has given us a superb life of the man. . . a useful guide to how foreign policy decisions are made. . .[and] inspiration to think about what it takes to make a real statesmen."—Middle East Studies Association

"A carefully researched volume that is the authoritative analysis to date of George Ball's life and times."—Gary Sick, Iranian Studies

"Not only is the book an important assessment of Cold War diplomacy, it is an engaging and intimate look at the man behind the striped pants."—Larry D. Hatfield, San Francisco Examiner

"[An] elegantly written volume."—Susan Carruthers, Times Higher Education Supplement

"In providing us with a first-rate case study, James Bill has made an important contribution to our understanding of ethics and statecraft."—Joel H. Rosenthal, Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs

"[Bill] provide[s] a useful, balanced synthesis of Ball's life sprinkled with additional evidence and illustrative anecdotes drawn from Ball's personal papers and interviews with his former colleagues."—Jeffrey Kimball, Americ

"An unusual biography, innovative in method and theme, that uses Ball's career to illuminate deeper truths about statecraft and governance."—David D. Hendrickson, Foreign Affairs

"A thoughtful and interesting study of a significant American policymaker. . . . This fine book should encourage policymakers of the present and the future to learn from his experience and example."—Wilson D. Miscamble, History

"A carefully researched volume that is the authoritative analysis to date of George Ball's life and times."—Gary Sick, Iranian Studies

“A provocative and persuasive account of how Ball’s prudence and moral perspective enabled him to understand the why, and not just the how, of policies. Bill makes his point that George Ball was a statesman to be emulated.”—David L. Anderson, Journal of American History

"An important contribution to Cold War scholarship, Bill traces the foreign policy career of "wise man" George Ball from the 1940s until his death in 1994. . . . Bill concludes that because of his extraordinary prudence, characterized by pragmatic idealism, Ball was the quintessential American statesman, one whose career stands as a model for 21st-century statecraft."—Kirkus Reviews


"An admirable life of Ball using extensive primary and secondary sources. . . . A significant book on the life of a man who quietly shaped American foreign policy during the coldest years of the Cold War. Recommended for all collections."—Edward Goedeken, Library Journal

"For those who consider American foreign-policy making a black box and therefore are prone to conspiracy theories, Professor Bill's magisterial work on one of the consummate 'insiders,' George Ball, and his opposite in almost every way, Henry Kissinger, can be an eye-opener."—Robert Dickson Crane, Middle East Affairs Journal

"James Bill has written a superb political biography of the diplomat George Ball. . . . In the work under review, Bill adds to our understanding of U.S. foreign-policy making by focusing upon the seldom examined 'second tier' of officials, those just below cabinet rank."—Robert J. Bookmiller, Middle East Policy

"James Bill. . . has given us a superb life of the man. . . a useful guide to how foreign policy decisions are made. . .[and] inspiration to think about what it takes to make a real statesmen."—Middle East Studies Association

"That Bill can recognize Ball's shortcomings and still pronounce him 'a leader of prudence and wisdom' (p.232) is a mark of how well this book succeeds as a balanced look at one of this century's most influential shapers of American foreign policy. Specialists as well as readers would do well to give it a reading."—Mary Ann Heiss, Ohio History

"Bill maintains interest by...drawing on Ball's personal life and professional ideas as explaining 'the essence of the American foreign policy system.'"—Publishers Weekly

"George Ball. . . is one of the finest books on foreign policy I have ever read. . . . I urge you to rush to the nearest bookstore to buy it."—Maury Maverick, San Antonio Express-News

"Not only is the book an important assessment of Cold War diplomacy, it is an engaging and intimate look at the man behind the striped pants."—Larry D. Hatfield, San Francisco Examiner

"[This is] a scrupulously researched book, brimming with fresh anecdotes, which is essential reading for anyone interested in the last 40 years of U.S. foreign policymaking."—Douglas Brinkley, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science


"Mr. Bill's book is much more than just another review of Vietnam War issues. He offers valuable insights about the essentials of effective foreign policy: recruiting a good staff; addressing diverse issues simultaneously; establishing an international network of colleagues; and having a well-reasoned philosophy on which to build policy positions."—Philip Seib, The Dallas Morning News

"Bill has fashioned a perceptive, intelligent study . . . Readers will learn much from it."—Lawrence S. Wittner, The Journal of American History

"[An] elegantly written volume."—Susan Carruthers, Times Higher Education Supplement