George Ball (diplomat)

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George Ball
GeorgeWildmanBall.jpg
7th United States Ambassador to the United Nations
In office
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
In office
December 4, 1961 – September 30, 1966
President John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded by Chester Bowles
Succeeded by Nicholas Katzenbach
Personal details
Born George Wildman Ball
(1909-12-21)December 21, 1909
Des Moines, Iowa, U.S.
Died May 26, 1994(1994-05-26) (aged 84)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Northwestern University
Profession American diplomat

George Wildman Ball (December 21, 1909 – May 26, 1994) was an American diplomat and banker. He served in the management of the State Department from 1961 to 1966 and is remembered most as the only major dissenter against the escalation of the Vietnam War. He refused to publicize his doubts, which were based on calculations that South Vietnam was doomed. He also helped determine American policy regarding trade expansion, Congo, the Multilateral Force, de Gaulle's France, Israel and the Middle East, and the Iranian revolution.

Early life[edit]

Ball was born in Des Moines, Iowa. He lived in Evanston, Illinois and graduated from Evanston Township High School and Northwestern University with a B.S. and a Juris Doctor (JD). Ball joined a Chicago law company in which Adlai Stevenson II was one of the partners, and became a protégé of Stevenson.

Early career[edit]

During 1942, he became an official of the Lend Lease program. During 1944 and 1945, he was director of the Strategic Bombing Survey in London.[1]

During 1945, Ball began collaboration with Jean Monnet and the French government in its economic recovery in its negotiations regarding the Marshall Plan. During 1950 he helped draft the Schuman Plan and the European Coal and Steel Community Treaty.

Ball had a major role in Stevenson's presidential campaign during 1952. He was the liaison between Stevenson and President Truman and helped publicize Stevenson's opinions in major magazine articles. He was also the executive director of the Volunteers For Stevenson, concerned mainly with enlisting independent and Republican voters. He was also a speechwriter in the Stevenson campaign. Ball likewise had a major role in Stevenson's 1956 presidential campaign and unsuccessful 1960 bid to gain the Democratic nomination.[2]

State Department[edit]

Ball was the Under Secretary of State for Economic and Agricultural Affairs for the administrations of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He is known for his opposition to escalation of 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.'"[3] 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.'"[4] 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."[5]

Ball was one of the endorsers of the 1963 coup which resulted in the death of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother.

As President Johnson was urged by his closest foreign policy and defense advisors to initiate a sustained bombing campaign against North Vietnam during the winter of 1965-1966, Ball forcefully warned Johnson against such an action. In a February 24, 1965, memorandum he passed to the President through his aide Bill Moyers,

Ball provided an 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 was 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 being concerned whether the US could live up to its promises, were instead watching to see whether the US could avert a disaster in time instead of squandering strategic capital in a struggle to assist 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 considered the memorandum 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.[6]

Ball also served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from June 26 to September 25, 1968. During August 1968 at the UN Security Council, he endorsed the Czechoslovakian struggle against the Soviet invasion and the right to live without dictatorship.

During the Richard Nixon administration, Ball helped draft American policy proposals concerning the Persian Gulf.

Arguments[edit]

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" during 1977[7] and, during 1992, co-authored The Passionate Attachment with his son, Douglas Ball. The book argued that American aid to Israel has been morally, politically and financially costly.[8]

He often used the aphorism (perhaps originally invented by Ian Fleming in the novel Diamonds Are Forever) "Nothing propinks like propinquity," later dubbed the Ball Rule of Power.[9] It means that the more direct access one has to the president, the greater one's power regardless of title.

Ball was an advocate of free trade, multinational corporations and their theoretical ability to neutralize what he considered to be "obsolete" nation states. Until and after his ambassadorship, Ball was employed by the banking company Lehman Brothers Kuhn Loeb. He was a senior managing director at Lehman Brothers until his retirement during 1982.[10] Ball was among the first North American members of the Bilderberg Group, attending every meeting except for one before his death.[11] He was a member of the Steering Committee of the group.[12]

Death[edit]

Ball died in New York City on May 26, 1994. He was buried in Princeton Cemetery.

Popular culture[edit]

George Ball was portrayed by John Randolph in the 1974 made-for-TV movie The Missiles Of October, by James Karen in the 2000 movie Thirteen Days and by Bruce McGill in the 2002 TV movie Path to War.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Robert D. McFadden (May 28, 1994). "George W. Ball Dies at 84; Vietnam's Devil's Advocate". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ Eleonora W. Schoenebaum, ed. Political Profiles: The Truman Years (1978) pp 19-22
  3. ^ Polner, Murray (2010-03-01) Left Behind, The American Conservative
  4. ^ Stanley Karnow, in "Vietnam, A History," 1983.
  5. ^ George Ball, "The Past Has Another Pattern: Memoirs," 1983, p. 366.
  6. ^ VanDeMark, Brian (1991). Into the Quagmire: Lyndon Johnson and the Escalation of the Vietnam War. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 87. ISBN 0195065069. 
  7. ^ McConnell, Scott (2007-12-03) The Lobby Strikes Back, The American Conservative
  8. ^ George Ball's Mideast Views Were Muffled by U.S. Media, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July/August 1994.
  9. ^ Hugh Sidey, "Learning How to Build a Barn," Time, Oct. 17, 1983
  10. ^ George Ball : Alumni Exhibit: Northwestern University Archives
  11. ^ "George W. Ball Papers, 1880s–1994: Finding Aid". Princeton University Library. 
  12. ^ "Former Steering Committee Members". bilderbergmeetings.org. Bilderberg Group. Archived from the original on February 2, 2014. Retrieved 2014-02-08. 

Bibliography[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • 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. 

Primary sources[edit]

  • Ball, George W. (1983). The Past Has Another Pattern: Memoirs. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-30142-7. 

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
C. Douglas Dillon
Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs
February 1, 1961 – December 3, 1961
Succeeded by
Thomas C. Mann
Preceded by
Chester Bowles
Under Secretary of State
December 4, 1961 – September 30, 1966
Succeeded by
Nicholas Katzenbach
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Arthur J. Goldberg
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
June 26, 1968 – September 25, 1968
Succeeded by
James Russell Wiggins