George Ball (diplomat)
|7th United States Ambassador to the United Nations|
June 26, 1968 – September 25, 1968
|President||Lyndon B. Johnson|
|Preceded by||Arthur J. Goldberg|
|Succeeded by||James Russell Wiggins|
|23rd Under Secretary of State|
December 4, 1961 – September 30, 1966
|President||John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
|Preceded by||Chester Bowles|
|Succeeded by||Nicholas Katzenbach|
|Born||George Wildman Ball
December 21, 1909
Des Moines, Iowa, U.S.
|Died||May 26, 1994
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||Northwestern University|
George Wildman Ball (December 21, 1909 – May 26, 1994) was an American diplomat and banker. He was a protégé of Adlai Stevenson II and played a major role in his unsuccessful presidential campaigns of 1952 and 1956. He served in the top rank of the State Department, 1961–66, where he is most remembered as the only dissenter against the escalation of the Vietnam war. He refused to go public with his doubts, which were based on realistic calculations that South Vietnam was doomed. He also helped shape American policy regarding trade expansion, the Congo, the Multilateral Force, policy toward de Gaulle' France, Israel and the Middle East, and the Iranian revolution. Critics complain about his Eurocentrism, his elitism, and his indifference to social justice.
Ball was born in Des Moines, Iowa. He lived in Evanston, Illinois and graduated from Northwestern University with a B.S. and a J.D.. Ball worked for the New Deal in 1933 then joined the Chicago law firm in which Adlai Stevenson II was one of the partners, and became a protégé of Stevenson.
In 1945 Ball began close collaboration with Jean Monnet and the French government in its economic recovery in its negotiations regarding the Marshall Plan. In 1950 he helped draft the Schuman Plan and the European Coal and Steel Community Treaty. He played a major role in the in Stevenson's presidential campaign in 1952. He was the liaison between Stevenson and President Truman, and help publicize Stevenson's viewpoint in major magazine articles. He was the executive director of the Volunteers for Stevenson, focused on winning over independent and Republican voters. It was also a speechwriter in the Stevenson campaign. Ball likewise played a major role in Stevenson's 1956 presidential campaign, and his unsuccessful 1960 bid to gain the Democratic nomination.
He was the Under Secretary of State for Economic and Agricultural Affairs in the administrations of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He is well known for his opposition to escalation in the Vietnam War. After Kennedy decided to send 16,000 "trainers" to Vietnam, "Ball, the one dissenter in Kennedy’s entourage, pleaded with JFK to recall France’s devastating defeat in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu and throughout Indochina. 'Within five years we’ll have 300,000 men in the paddies and jungles and never find them again.'" In response to this prediction, "JFK laughed and replied, 'Well, George, you're supposed to be one of the smartest guys in town, but you're crazier than hell. That will never happen.'" As Ball later wrote, Kennedy's "statement could be interpreted in two ways: either he was convinced that events would so evolve as not to require escalation, or he was determined not to permit such escalation to occur." 
As President Lyndon Johnson was prodded by his closest foreign policy and defense advisors towards a decision to initiate a sustained bombing campaign against North Vietnam in the winter of 1965-66, Ball forcefully warned Johnson against such a move. In a February 24, 1965, memo he passed to the President through his aide Bill Moyers, Ball provided a piercing, accurate analysis of the situation in South Vietnam, and of the US stake in it, as well as a startlingly prescient description of the disaster any escalation of American involvement would entail. Urging Johnson to re-examine all the assumptions inherent in the arguments for increasing US involvement, Ball stood alone among the upper echelons of Johnson's policymakers when he attacked the prevailing notion, virtually unquestioned at the time in Washington, that America's fundamental strategic interest in escalating the conflict lay in protecting US international prestige and the reliability of its commitments to allies. He observed that other international actors, including both allies and enemies, rather than concerned whether the US could live up to its promises, were instead watching to see whether the US could avert a disaster in time, and cease squandering its strategic capital in a fruitless struggle to prop up a failed regime. If the US continued in its course, Ball argued, US loyalty would not be questioned so much as US strategic judgement would. Although Johnson took the memo very seriously, Ball had waited too long to deliver it—the decision had already been made, and sustained US bombing operations against North Vietnam commenced on March 2, 1965.
Ball also served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from June 26 to September 25, 1968. In August 1968 in UN Security Council he passionately defended the right of Czechoslovakia for freedom against the Soviet invasion and the right to live without dictatorships.
Ball was long a critic of Israeli policies toward its Arab neighbors. He "called for the recalibration of America’s Israel policy in a much noted Foreign Affairs essay in 1977," and in 1992 co-authored The Passionate Attachment with his son, Douglas Ball. The book argued that American support for Israel has been morally, politically and financially costly.
He often used the aphorism (perhaps originally coined by Ian Fleming in Diamonds are Forever) "Nothing propinks like propinquity," later dubbed the Ball Rule of Power. It means that the more direct access you have to the president, the greater your power, no matter what your title actually is.
Ball was an advocate of free trade, multinational corporations and the their theoretical ability to neutralize what he considered to be "obsolete" nation states. Prior to and following his ambassadorship, Ball was employed by Lehman Brothers Kuhn Loeb bankers. He was a senior managing director at Lehman Brothers until his retirement in 1982. Ball was among the first North American members of the Bilderberg Group, attending every meeting except for one before his death. He was a member of the Steering Committee of the group.
Ball died in New York City on May 26, 1994. He was buried in Princeton Cemetery.
In popular culture
- Bill (1997)
- Robert D. McFadden (May 28, 1994). "George W. Ball Dies at 84; Vietnam's Devil's Advocate". The New York Times.
- Eleonora W. Schoenebaum, ed. Political Profiles: The Truman Years (1978) pp 19-22
- Polner, Murray (2010-03-01) Left Behind, The American Conservative
- Stanley Karnow, in "Vietnam, A History," 1983.
- George Ball, "The Past Has Another Pattern: Memoirs," 1983, p. 366.
- VanDeMark, Brian (1991). Into the Quagmire: Lyndon Johnson and the Escalation of the Vietnam War. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 87. ISBN 0195065069.
- McConnell, Scott (2007-12-03) The Lobby Strikes Back, The American Conservative
- George Ball's Mideast Views Were Muffled by U.S. Media, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July/August 1994.
- Hugh Sidey, "Learning How to Build a Barn," Time, Oct. 17, 1983 (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,952191,00.html)
- George Ball : Alumni Exhibit: Northwestern University Archives
- "George W. Ball Papers, 1880s–1994: Finding Aid". Princeton University Library.
- "Former Steering Committee Members". bilderbergmeetings.org. Bilderberg Group. Retrieved 2014-02-08.
- The Passionate Attachment: America's Involvement With Israel, 1947 to the Present, with Douglas B. Ball, ISBN 0-393-02933-6.
- Dileo, David L. (1991). George Ball, Vietnam, and the Rethinking of Containment. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-4297-4.
- Bill, James A. (1997). George Ball: Behind the Scenes in U.S. Foreign Policy. Yale University Press.
- Ball, George W. (1983). The Past Has Another Pattern: Memoirs. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-30142-7.
- George W. Ball Papers at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University
- Photo: George Ball
- Cold War International History Project's Cold War Files
- Bio at Northwestern University
- Bio at Montgomery Endowment
- Profile: George Ball, The Center for Cooperative Research
- Memorandum for the President from George Ball, "A Compromise Solution in South Vietnam"
- Memo from George Ball to McNamara
- Personal papers at National Archives Records
- Personal papers at Princeton University
- George W. Ball. How to save Israel in spite of herself, Foreign Affairs, The Council on Foreign Relations, April 1977.
- George W. Ball. The Coming Crisis in Israeli-American Relations, Foreign Affairs, The Council on Foreign Relations, Winter 1979.
- George W. Ball. The conduct of American foreign policy, Foreign Affairs, The Council on Foreign Relations, 1980.
- James A. Bill. George Ball: Behind the Scenes in U.S. Foreign Policy
- Robert Dallek. George Ball: Behind the Scenes in U.S. Foreign Policy, The Washington Monthly, July 1997.
- Richard Curtiss. George Ball's Middle East views were muffled by U.S. media, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 1994.
- William Engdahl. George Ball's role in the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Payvand News, March 10, 2006.
- Book review of biography on George Ball
- New York Times obituary
- Oral History Interviews with George Ball, from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library
- Interview with George W. Ball, 1981, on the Vietnam War. WGBH Open Vault.
- Booknotes interview with Ball on The Passionate Attachment: America's Involvement in Israel, 1947 to the Present, May 23, 1993.
C. Douglas Dillon
|Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs
February 1, 1961 – December 3, 1961
Thomas C. Mann
|Under Secretary of State
December 4, 1961 – September 30, 1966
Arthur J. Goldberg
|U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
June 26, 1968 – September 25, 1968
James Russell Wiggins