REVIEWSrnPresent at thernDeconstructionrnby Paul GottfriedrnAcheson: The Secretary of State WhornCreated the American Worldrnby James ChacernNew York: Simon and Schuster;rn512 pp., $33.00rnI ames Chace’s biography of DeanrnJ Acheson is a generally interestingrnbook dealing with a provocative figure.rnWhat makes it less than engrossing is thernpredictability of Chace’s left-liberal judgments.rnBecause of his pervasive bias, hernnever surprises: Republicans in thern1920’s were heartless plutocrats and dimwittedrnisolationists, against the workingrnman and for tariffs. Never mind thernfacts: e.g., that tariffs usually enjoyedrnbipartisan support in Congress; thatrnHoover and other Progressive Republicansrnchampioned collective bargainingrnand public works programs; and thatrnRepublican administrations, far fromrnbeing isolationist, were feverishly negotiatingrndisarmament treaties and lavishingrn”loans” upon foreign governments.rnChace, who invariably regards relationsrnwith communist governments as problematic,rnunqualifiedly defends Wilson’srnand Franklin Roosevelt’s wars for democracy,rnwhile his unflattering commentsrnabout “Japanese warlords” and the ThirdrnReich are never matched in verbal intensityrnby his assessment of communistrnt’ranny.rnFinally, his portraits of conservativernRepublican leaders —in particular,rnRobert Taft—are both patronizing andrncontradictory. Though Chace accuratelyrndescribes Taft as “humorless in debaternbut well informed, hardheaded, and determinedrnto curb America’s involvementrnin a world beyond its control,” he doesrnnot concede any truth to that outspokenrnconservative, casting him as an “isolationist”rneven as the senator insists that hisrndifferences with the Democratic administrationrnare over the appropriate militaryrnaid to be given during the Cold War.rnTaft’s opposition in 1951 to the PlevenrnPlan, for an integrated Euro-Americanrndefense force that led to the formation ofrnNATO, was not based on a “FortressrnAmerica” mentality; it exemplified Taft’srnconcern that the United States mightrnmaintain a large land force in Europe indefinitely,rnthus enhancing consolidatedrnexecutive power and hardening war-timernsocialism into a permanent condition.rnTaft also believed, correctiy, that WesternrnEurope had the capability of creatingrnits own defense force, provided the UnitedrnStates furnished air and naval support.rnHe did not oppose an integrated WesternrnEuropean force but saw no compellingrnreason to have Washington run it. And,rncontrary to Chace’s misstatement, Taftrndid vote for the Marshall Plan, in its finalrndraft.rnTaft was wrong, and Acheson right,rnhowever, about the extent of Americanrnintervention on the side of NationalistrnChina. Taft’s willingness to throw discretionrn—and his own principles—to thernwind in defense of Chiang Kai-shek’srngovernment against a popular communistrninsurgency demonstrated the powerrnof the China lobby over post-war congressionalrnRepublicans. On this point,rnChace is right to scold Taft and his Republicanrnsenatorial colleagues, thoughrnTaft did not advocate the commitmentrnof American land forces in the Chinarnconflict, as Chace suggests. Indeed, itrnmight be argued that, as a Western countryrnculturally and geographically, thernUnited States had far more to lose fromrnseeing Europe engulfed by communismrnthan it did by the fall of China to indigenousrncommunists.rnThe son of the Episcopal bishop ofrnConnecticut and a descendant of bothrnBritish Unionist Canadian and UlsterrnLoyalist families, Acheson mixed easilyrnwith English aristocrats. In his demeanor,rnappearance, and speech, hernepitomized patrician elegance andrngained affection and respect from KonradrnAdenauer, Anthony Eden, and otherrnanti-communist European statesmen.rnIn his set-tos with the even more illustriouslyrnconnected Taft (the son of a presidentrnand grandson of Grant’s secretary ofrnwar and attorney general), Acheson wasrnmore eloquent and had far greater presencernthan his opponent. Though lessrndistinguished as an undergraduate atrnYale, the glib Acheson made Taft lookrninsufferably pedantic when he debatedrnwith him before the Senate Policy Committee.rnNonetheless, the American right hadrngood reason to distiust Acheson, howeverrnmuch in retrospect one may approvernof his general record as Truman’s secretaryrnof state. His political career, fromrnthe time he clerked for Justice LouisrnBrandeis through his enthusiastic associationrnwith the New Deal, indicated whatrnseemed at times a reckless support for organizedrnlabor. Acheson was also conspicuouslyrnpro-British, even for a WASPrnpatrician. As a charter member of thernCentury Croup and the Committee tornDefend America—both interventionistrnassociations formed in 1940—and as arnclose friend of leading politicians inrnCanada and England, Acheson wasrnthought to be connected to British intelligence.rn(This may in fact have been therncase, as the historian Thomas Mahl suggestsrnin Desperate Deception, a history ofrnBritish intelligence operations in thernUnited States.) Even more significantly,rnAcheson had long-standing personal andrnprofessional contacts with two figuresrnthen and now widely believed (thoughrnnot by Chace) to be communist spies,rnHarry Dexter White and Alger Hiss.rnShortly before his appointment as secretaryrnof state in January 1949, Achesonrnhelped Hiss draft a statement to be readrnbefore the House Un-American ActivitiesrnCommittee; later he did more thanrnfriendship required not to repudiaternHiss, claiming that the case had beenrnconcocted by anti-Truman Republicansrndespite the super-abundant evidencernlinking the Baltimore socialite to communistrnespionage. Because of Acheson’srnobstinacy, even Truman’s most dependablernRepublican ally in the Senate,rnArthur Vandenberg, expressed his distasternfor voting to confirm the new secretaryrnof state.rnSuch circumstances, pace Chace,rnmust be taken into account in attemptingrnto understand why decent and usuallyrnprincipled Americans, like RobertrnFEBRUARY 1999/31rnrnrn