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

Article excerpt

George Ball: Behind the Scenes in U.S. Foreign Policy, by James A. Bill. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997. xvii + 232 pages. Notes to p. 260. Bibl. to p. 263. Index to p. 274. $30.

James A. Bill's book has three parts. Part one describes George Ball's personal roots and his professional development. It discusses his family environment, his education, the strong impact of Midwestern values on his character, his prominent role in Adlai Stevenson's 1952 and 1956 presidential campaigns, his appointments in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and, from 1968 until his death in 1994, his criticism of American foreign policy.

Part two discusses Ball's participation in some major foreign policy decisions. Ball was a strong believer in European integration and trade liberalization. During his tenure as undersecretary of state (1961-66), Ball extended US support for European integration and helped the passage of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act, which greatly enhanced the president's power to "make acrossthe-board tariff cuts in exchange for trade concessions from other nations" (p. 121). Although James Bill considers George Ball an intellectual giant, his book does not point to any major intellectual contribution Ball made to either European integration or trade liberalization. European integration is the brain-child of Jean Monnet; Ball simply adopted Monnet's idea. While the economic efficiency argument in favor of economic integration is well accepted, political arguments in favor of political integration are considerably less persuasive. Generally, it is argued that political integration leads to peace; however. as Michael Doyle, following Emmanuel Kant, has argued and demonstrated, liberal democracy, even without political integration, can promote peace among states. Furthermore, conservative statesmen such as Charles de Gaulle have advanced serious arguments for the desirability of maintaining national states. Bill's book does not discuss any argument by Ball regarding the moral or practical superiority of a supranational society. Bill simply states Ball's belief about the rapid decline of the nation-state. As Kenneth Waltz and Stephen Krasner, among others, have persuasively argued, however, the nation-state is still the primary player in international relations. Thus, Ball's beliefs in the supremacy of supra-national states and the decline of the nation-state are not well founded. Similarly, although the benefits of free trade for consumers are well known, neomercantilists have presented some serious arguments in favor of selective protectionism and against unilateral free trade policy. Bill does not discuss any argument by Ball that would address the legitimate concern of neomercantilists against a more liberal trade policy of the United States in the 196Qs, when US competitors were pursuing the policy of selective protectionism. …