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George Ball

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

James A. Bill
Copyright Date: 1997
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 302
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  • Book Info
    George Ball
    Book Description:

    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 therealpolitikmodel of statesmanship practiced by Henry Kissinger and thephronesispracticed by Ball, who was a prudent statesman guided by practical wisdom within a moral framework.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14339-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xx)

    This volume is not a conventional biography. Instead, I have attempted to use the career and ideas of George Ball to uncover the essence of the American foreign policymaking system and to develop a model of statecraft for the twenty-first century. Because this study is more than the life story of one man, I have not sought to describe all the political and personal issues that concerned George Ball. Rather, I have selectively chosen to cover those events that most profoundly affected Ball and the world that he helped shaped.

    After a Prologue that describes one particularly important day in...

  5. Prologue
    (pp. 1-16)

    Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, July 21, 1965, the under secretary of state awoke, switched on the bedside lamp, reached for the pencil and the yellow pad on the night table, and scratched out some ideas that he wanted to use during the critical meetings scheduled for the White House later that day. He then tried to get back to sleep.¹

    After dozing fitfully, fifty-four-year-old George Ball rose at 7 A.M., shaved quickly, put on his Anderson and Shepard tailored blue suit and red striped tie, gulped a quick liquid breakfast of Metrecal, stuffed a sheaf of papers (including the...

  6. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)

    • 1 Personal Roots and Rites of Passage
      (pp. 19-55)

      On Tuesday, November 7, 1961, Under Secretary of State George Wildman Ball, sensing that momentum was building for increasing U.S. military personnel in Vietnam, bluntly broached the subject with President John F. Kennedy. “Mr. President,” Ball said, “to commit American forces to South Vietnam would, in my opinion, be a tragic error. Within five years we’ll have three hundred thousand men in the paddies and jungles, and we’ll never find them again.”

      President Kennedy glared at his tall, opinionated under secretary and caustically responded, “George, you’re just crazier than hell. That just isn’t going to happen.”

      Six years later, on...

    • 2 Political Practitioner and Intellectual Gladiator
      (pp. 56-98)

      George Ball approached the 1960 presidential sweepstakes with some trepidation. He personally favored Democratic Party candidates Hubert Humphrey and Adlai Stevenson, but he realized from the beginning that Senator John F. Kennedy was a formidable force. In spite of his reservations about Adlai’s losing streak and his annoyance with the governor’s reticence once again to commit himself as a candidate, Ball supported Stevenson—but in a subdued and quiet manner. As in the past, Stevenson consulted Ball about the campaign. They spent a week together in July 1959 on William Benton’s yacht in the Mediterranean brainstorming the issue.

      Ball watched...

  8. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)

    • 3 The Politics of European Integration
      (pp. 101-135)

      Throughout his career, George Ball focused much of his energy on the formation of a European community. Both as a private citizen and as a public official, Ball remained committed to the idea of a working, thriving, growing European economic and political union. Ball was a Common Marketeer par excellence. His keen understanding of the U.S. political process enabled him to work effectively to promote a united Europe.

      After World War II, Europe faced serious economic and political challenges. Economically, the Marshall Plan enabled the battered European countries to get back on their feet. In spite of U.S. assistance, however,...

    • 4 Rebellion and War in Africa and Asia: The Congo and Vietnam
      (pp. 136-175)

      During his campaigns in the early 1960s for the transformation of U.S. trade policy and for the promotion of European integration, George Ball also found himself embroiled in other important political issues. This was a time of exploding international crises. In 1962 alone, there were coups or countercoups in the Dominican Republic, Burma, Argentina, Syria, Yemen, Laos, and Peru. Secretary of State Dean Rusk delegated to Ball the primary policymaking responsibility for the Congo crisis while also assigning the under secretary major roles in the Cuban missile crisis and the Cyprus problem. Meanwhile, Ball slowly insinuated himself into the debate...

    • 5 Public Policy and Private Dissent: Cuba, Cyprus, and the Middle East
      (pp. 176-200)

      As demonstrated in the cases of the European Community, the Congo crisis, and the Vietnam war, George Ball believed in the diplomatic path to conflict resolution and in the inherent rationality of humankind. He agreed to the application of military force only as a last resort. When military force became necessary, he contended, the conflict had to be accompanied by continuing dialogue between the warring parties.

      Ball relentlessly and creatively pursued his goal of diplomatic engagement and negotiation. In so doing, he developed a rich array of interpersonal skills that helped make him extremely effective in administrative and decision-making circles....

  10. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)

    • 6 The Essence of Statesmanship: George Ball and Prudence
      (pp. 203-232)

      The career of George Ball provides a model of effective statecraft for the future. In spite of his blemishes, Ball stood as an outstanding example of an American statesman. In an age when wise and honorable statesmen are in short supply and when global challenges are plentiful and complex, it is important to identify and analyze the qualities that define respected and successful leadership. In a world of incoherence and disintegration, a world where old systems shatter and new systems remain to be formed, the ability to recognize, understand, and develop leaders of excellence and statesmen of merit is more...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 233-260)
  13. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 261-264)
  14. Index
    (pp. 265-274)