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Kirkus ReviewsIn an important contribution to Cold War scholarship, Bill (Government/Coll. of William and Mary) traces the foreign policy career of "wise man" George Ball from the 1940s until his death in 1994.
Bill briefly outlines Ball's upbringing as the intellectually precocious son of a midwestern oil executive, his largely dysfunctional marriage and relationship with his two sons, and his role as counsel to the wartime Lend-Lease program and the US Strategic Bombing Survey, among other aspects of his long career. Avoiding the sweep of a full biography, however, the author focuses primarily on Ball's policy preoccupations and accomplishments: his concern with European political integration, his strong involvement in Democratic Party affairs (especially in his friend Adlai Stevenson's two presidential campaigns), and his service in the State Department under presidents Kennedy and Johnson. The author analyzes in detail Ball's role in several major foreign-policy case studies: European integration (he and friend Jean Monnet did more than anyone else to bring the European Community into being), US involvement in the Congo and Vietnam, and crises in Cuba, Cyprus, and the Middle East. Ball was often eerily prescient. He strongly favored British entry into the Common Market decades before it happened, advocated a tunnel between Britain and France before the "Chunnel" was on anyone's drawing board, and vigorously opposed US involvement in Vietnam as a disaster almost from its inception. Many criticized Ball, however, for remaining loyal to the administration during the deepening Vietnam crisis despite his strong feelings against the war; he resigned quietly in September 1966 and refrained from publicly criticizing Johnson for the escalating bombing campaign. After leaving the State Department, Ball continued to exert influence as a private citizen on such issues as the Middle East crisis.
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.