PRESENT AT THE CREATION by Dean Acheson

PRESENT AT THE CREATION

My Years In The State Department
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A memoir of Mr. Acheson's subordinate service from 1941 to 1947 and of his five years as Secretary of State. The book is suffused with praise of Truman. Its reconstruction of specific engagements like Iran and postwar Germany is detailed, with attention to diplomatic stresses; its recollections of State Department life emphasize administrative problems and the task of putting policies across to Congress. Acheson depicts himself as worker, not architect; basic foreign-policy stands are taken for granted. It is unnecessary to dwell on ideological distortions and evasions -- they arise most conspicuously in Acheson's account of the Korean War, which shows how the Chinese were provoked yet terms them "aggressors" off and on. Acheson not only refuses to condescend to argue for his view of Russia as "aggressively expansionist," but censures the "preventive war" advocacy of his opponents. Aphorisms, jokes and reminiscences of individual statesmen from Morgenthau to Mossadegh outweigh salient advice to posterity. Acheson's remarks on the China issue and the McCarthy days are lively and dignified; however, they also clinch the impression of an anti-democratic regard for the American citizenry as primitives open to demagoguery from right or left, and mere troop-suppliers for ventures like Korea, whose sufferings on all sides he quite ignores. As apologetics, the book may be more effective than Truman's memoirs. As analytic history it is less interesting than Kennan's or Ridgway's. As narrative, it's rarely tedious or inspiring although obviously important.
Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1969
ISBN: 0393304124
Page count: 850pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1969




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