Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department

by Dean Acheson

Hardcover, 1969

Status

Available

Publication

New York, Norton [1969]

Description

"As autobiography (this book) is enthralling, as history indispensable, as a manual on government and diplomacy invaluable". -- Wallace Carroll, New York Times Book Review.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Smiley
Excellent, personal "you are there" account of the end of WWII and the beginnings of the Cold War. Acheson is relevant, informative, entertaining and a great storyteller. The reader gets not only the nuts and bolts of post war American foreign policy but brilliant sketches of Truman, George Marshall, Churchill, Eden, Bevin, and the second tier players. Highly reccomended. At 737 pages, a long read.… (more)
LibraryThing member DanSheerin
I read this book after hearing the late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan describe Acheson as "the Great Man of American diplomacy." Moynihan went on to say that anyone who wanted to know about what American diplomacy stood for and was all about should read Acheson's Present at the Creation. I took Moynihan's advice, and have been a huge fan of this book and Acheson every since.

As Acheson himself puts it in the opening of the book, he wrote this work, about his experience from 1941 through 1952, in 1969 -- over 17 years since he had served as Secretary of State -- for the following reasons:

"The experiences of the years...have brought the country, particularly its young people, to a mood of depression, disillusion, and withdrawal from the effort to affect the world."

In response, Acheson wrote to: "tell a tale of large conceptions, great achievements...Its hero is the American people."

Clearly these Acheson ideas and ideals still apply now, and are a great reason to read this book today.

Acheson also writes clearly and beautifully, with great insight and wry wit. A few examples:

"Unfortunately, the hyperbole of the inaugural (President Truman's) outran the provision of the budget."

"President (Truman) observed (that) 'to assure the Arabs that they would be consulted (prior to official US recognition of Israel) was by no means inconsistent with my generally sympathetic attitudes toward Jewish aspirations.' The Arabs may be forgiven for believing that this did not exactly state the inconsistency as they saw it."

"Throughout the Near East lay rare tinder for anti-Western propaganda: a Moslem culture and history, bitter Arab nationalism galled by Jewish immigration under British protection and with massive American financial support, the remnants of a colonial status, and a sense of grievance that a vast natural resource was being extracted by foreigners under arrangements thought unfair to those living on the surface. This tinder could be, and was, lighted everywhere..."
… (more)

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