A PRETTY GOOD CLUB: The Founding Fathers of the U.S. Foreign Service by Martin Weil

A PRETTY GOOD CLUB: The Founding Fathers of the U.S. Foreign Service

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KIRKUS REVIEW

At the turn of the century, increasing US involvement in world affairs necessitated an expansion of the diplomatic bureaucracy. At the same time, the sons of the late 19th-century financial tycoons were graduating from the new New England prep schools and Ivy League colleges. Financially secure and bored with the business world, these new American aristocrats were perfectly suited to fill these new positions and thereby transform US diplomacy into a fulltime profession for members of their class or those who wished to emulate them. These men -- Joseph Grew, William Phillips, Jay Pierrepont Moffat, et al. -- are the ""founding fathers"" of Well's title, and, indeed, they saw themselves as such. Well traces the influence of this elite from 1919 to 1949, when Dean Acheson became Secretary of State, but their influence continues to this day. The most compelling chapters deal with the Warsaw and Riga outposts between the wars, as Weil exposes the vicious anti-Semitism and conjoint anti-Bolshevism of this group, which went with their flagrant admiration for the pre-WW I feudal social systems of Eastern Europe, and issued in a pro-German, anti-Russian position in the 1930s. One of Weil's main themes is the solidification of a bureaucratic foreign policy apparatus resistant to the influences of democratic electoral politics, which he illustrates through a first-rate study of the running battle between the State Department aristocrats and the New Dealers who attempted to extend their influence into foreign affairs. The winning over of Dean Acheson to their anticommunist policies signaled the ultimate victory of ""the club."" Well covers much of the same ground as Daniel Yergin's A Shattered Peace (1977), but with a much narrower focus and a more clearly defined aim. The result is an engrossing examination of 20th-century dinosaurs and their fossilized institution.

Pub Date: April 24th, 1978
Publisher: Norton