Acheson, Simply PutIssue: Winter 1998-1999
James Chace, Acheson: The Secretary of State Who Created the American World (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998), 512 pp., $30.
He was colorful and brainy, stylish and witty, hot-tempered and domineering, visionary and pragmatic--and a near genius with the written and spoken word. He was a partisan Democrat, and the skillful architect of an enduring bipartisan foreign policy. He was also an indefatigable workhorse who was always and everywhere a passionate seeker after excellence. He was a brilliant manager, leader, and administrator of the Washington bureaucracies of his day. He was not just an immaculately tailored Washington figure: he enjoyed barnstorming the country on behalf of his policies--sharing the spotlight with Mayor Hubert Humphrey at a huge civic affairs seminar in Minneapolis, speaking to a convention of the Machinists Union in Kansas City, sharing a three-day, 5,000-strong "family" gathering of planters in the Mississippi Delta. He was equally and completely at ease in the palaces of Europe and the cities of Asia. He staved off Soviet hegemony in Western Europe and bound the Federal Republic of Germany into NATO: the democratic, political, economic, and military alliance of the West. He fashioned a balance of power in Europe so that American soldiers would never again have to fight a great war there, and so far--that is, fifty years on--they haven't had to.