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Present at the Creation: My Years in the…
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Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department

by Dean Acheson

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Memoirs of the leading Anglophile Dean Acheson, U.S. Secretary of State 1949-53. On pages 323-324, he
describes his elevation of the British Ambassador, Sir Oliver Franks, into a de facto member of the Truman Cabinet
  chaitkin | Apr 17, 2017 |
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..." ( )
  DanSheerin | Oct 29, 2009 |
1630 Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department, by Dean Acheson (read 3 May 1981) (Pulitzer History prize in 1970) This is the author's account of his years with the State Department, which extended from Feb 2, 1941, when he became Assistant Secretary of State, till Jan 20, 1953, with a hiatus from June 1947 to Jan 1949. It is superbly written, extremely persuasive, and one such as I, who all during those years was an avid defender of the course which Acheson upholds, cannot be but totally convinced that Dean Acheson was a most able man and a great Secretary and that Harry Truman was a great President. I found the account of the early years at State--when Acheson was dealing with relatively minor matters, fully as interesting as those momentous times when he dealt with NATO, Korea, MacArthur, and Joe McCarthy. This was a fascinating book, and really brought to mind and organized for me much that I really knew rather haphazardly during the time. ( )
1 vote Schmerguls | Nov 25, 2008 |
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. ( )
1 vote Smiley | Mar 28, 2007 |
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Epigraph
Had I been present at the creation I would have given some useful hints for the better ordering of the universe.  --Alphonso X, the Learned, 1252-84, King of Spain
Dedication
To Harry S. Truman, "The captain with the mighty heart"
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Apologia Pro Libre Hoc, "Pen, ink and paper," John Adams confided to his diary in 1770, "and a sitting posture are great helps to attention and thinking."
Chapter One, In September 1939, soon after the war broke out in Europe, a bitter debate engulfed the United States.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0393304124, Paperback)

Dean Acheson joined the U.S. Department of State in 1941 as an assistant secretary for economic affairs. Shortly after the end of World War II, he attempted to resign, but was persuaded to come back as under secretary of state; Harry Truman eventually rewarded Acheson's loyalty by picking him to run the State Department during his second term (1949 to 1953).

"The period covered in this book was one of great obscurity to those who lived through it," Acheson wrote at the beginning of his memoirs, first published in 1969. "The period was marked by the disappearance of world powers and empires ... and from this wreckage emerged a multiplicity of states, most of them new, all of them largely underdeveloped politically and economically. Overshadowing all loomed two dangers to all--the Soviet Union's new-found power and expansive imperialism, and the development of nuclear weapons." Present at the Creation is a densely detailed account of Acheson's diplomatic career, delineated in intricately eloquent prose. Going over the origins of the cold war--the drawing of lines among the superpowers in Europe, the conflict in Korea--Acheson discusses how he and his colleagues came to realize "that the whole world structure and order that we had inherited from the nineteenth century was gone," and that the old methods of foreign policy would no longer apply. Among the accolades Acheson garnered for his candid self-assessment was the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for history.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:11 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

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

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