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George Ball
George Ball
The Passionate Attachment
ISBN: 0393029336
The Passionate Attachment
Former Deputy Secretary George Ball discussed his book, “The Passionate Attachment: America's Involvement in Israel, 1947 to the Present,” published by W.W. Norton and Company. He discussed his research for the book, and reflected on his experiences concerning American foreign policy during his lengthy Washington career. He served in the State Department during the Kennedy administration.
The Passionate Attachment
Program Air Date: May 23, 1993

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: George W. Ball, co-author of "The Passionate Attachment," what's the title mean?
Mr. GEORGE W. BALL , AUTHOR, "THE PASSIONATE ATTACHMENT Well, the title is from George Washington's farewell address. And the occasion at that time, in 1796, when it was delivered, was that there was a serious threat of factionalism in the new fledgling republic. And Washington was concerned that it would lead the country into trouble. There was a large group that were deeply attached to the French Revolution and to the revolutionary France that emerged from that. There were an equal number, or perhaps more, who favored Britain. And this factionalism led to internal fights that sometimes resulted in riots.

And Washington was very concerned that--particularly that France might lead the United States into a foreign war, which would be a disaster. Ultimately--well, Justice Marshall was over there before he was on the Supreme Court. He was there as a--commissioned to talk to Talleyrand, who was the French foreign minister. And as a result of his conversations with Talleyrand, Talleyrand treated him in a most arrogant and high-handed fashion and said to him, `Now you may think that you can--because you're a small, young country, that you can treat France in the way that you have, but we have great resources in your country as well as abroad. And you won't'--in effect, `You won't get away with it.' Well, this angered Washington, but also angered a great many people in the United States. And the thing--they finally broke up because the French behaved so arrogantly that even their American friends turned against them.
LAMB: Do we have a passionate attachment to Israel?
Mr. BALL: Well, when we looked at this subject and began to get more deeply into it, both my son and I became--he's an historian--became very concerned that what was happened here was very much what had been happening, that there was not only a factionalism in the United States, but that the favored nation--in this case, Israel, had the facility to interfere with American politics and that--just as Talleyrand had threatened that the French could do at that time. And so it seemed less that this was a very proper and appropriate kind of title, is this language.

Now actually, what took--what happened was that Washington developed the ideas. He said that, `A passionate attachment to another country creates an illusion of a common interest when, in fact, there is no common interest.' And by favoring one country over the others, that country is--becomes a subject of jealousy on the part of all the other countries. And what the United States should do to--would be to exercise equal treatment of all and cultivate peace and security.
LAMB: Douglas B. Ball, you say, is your son.
Mr. BALL: Yes.
LAMB: Where is he?
Mr. BALL: Well, at the moment he's in New Haven.
LAMB: What's he do?
Mr. BALL: He's a historian...(unintelligible). He has a PhD in history, and he has a great advantage over me because I get things all mixed up sequentially, and he can remember them, you know, in order.
LAMB: You were quite prominent in this government in years past. When was your first job in government?
Mr. BALL: My first job in government was in 1933, when I came down here to work in the Farm Credit Administration. And then when the head of the Farm Credit Administration, who was Henry Morgenthau Jr., went to the Treasury, I went with him. So at the age of 22 I was, for a brief period and the only time in my life I was absolutely omniscient. As a duty, it was a very yeasty affair and I became enamored with the view that there wasn't anything that we couldn't change, with a little effort. Subsequently, I got out of that line of country completely, and I went back to Chicago and practiced law.

And then I practiced law with a young man named Adlai Stevenson, who was the only other Democrat in a fairly large firm where I was. And when Stevenson came down to Washington--that was right after Pearl Harbor--why, he called me and said, `Come on down.' So I came down and I worked with--well, in the Lend-Lease Administration as an associate counsel--general counsel. And then I went to Europe as a director of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey. And when I got back from that, I was a founding member of a law firm, of which I'm the last surviving founding member of Cleary Gottlieb, which is a well-established New York and Washington firm and has offices all over the world now.

So then I--Kennedy became president and I was asked to join the State Department, which I--first as a undersecretary for economic affairs, and then nine months later I became what is today known as the deputy secretary. And I stayed through 1966, and then went briefly back to the UN, at Lyndon Johnson's request, in '68 as the United States' permanent representive to the United Nations, the ambassador.
LAMB: And Carter administration?
Mr. BALL: No, in the Johnson administration.
LAMB: Did you do anything in the Carter administration?
Mr. BALL: I did occasional chores for President Carter.
LAMB: And do you--are you still practicing law?
Mr. BALL: No. I'm retired. I retired completely in '82.
LAMB: When did you get the--by the way, where do you live?
Mr. BALL: Princeton.
LAMB: When did you get the idea to write a book about Israel?
Mr. BALL: Well, it had worried me a lot over the years, although when I was in the department I didn't actually involve myself very much in Israeli affairs. But later I got worried about the fact that it seemed, to me, to be a relationship which was not in the American interest and where we were far more--too complacent in our relations with Israel.
LAMB: How much...
Mr. BALL: Allow me to say that while I was in the State Department, my interests had been more in Europe to the extent that Dean Rusk, who was my chief and I divided--made a kind of de facto division of the places we had put our attention. He took the Far East and I took Europe because I spent a lot of time in Europe.
LAMB: Is this a partisan issue?
Mr. BALL: Of course it is. Well, in terms of domestic politics, not between Democrats and Republicans, I would--no, I think it cuts across party lines.
LAMB: In the beginning, how much did politics have to do with our relationship with the state of Israel?
Mr. BALL: Well, I think that there was--there's a long argument about what Truman--why Truman finally decided to recognize the Jewish state. And he denies that--or he denied that there was any political interest in it. But, factually, Clark Clifford was following--advising him on domestic politics, and it was very clear that he was running very far behind and he desperately needed the votes in '48.
LAMB: I think you said something like 75 percent of the Jews in 1948 voted for Harry Truman?
Mr. BALL: I think that's right, yeah.
LAMB: How did Israel get established in the first place?
Mr. BALL: Well, it got established as a result of a long effort by a group of so-called Zionists, who finally persuaded the British government to adopt a--the letter which--well, the British--let me go back a bit. The British had been awarded the mandate for Palestine. Even before that it was going to be a trustee under the trustee system of the League of Nations.
LAMB: Why were the British awarded the mandate?
Mr. BALL: Well, because they'd had a long interest in the area and they had, in effect, dominated a large part of the area, even when the Turks were still there.
LAMB: And what year was this, that the British were awarded the mandate?
Mr. BALL: Well, they were awarded the mandate--it must have been, oh, '49 or '50, I would think, something like that. Oh, no, I'm sorry yeah, that's right.
LAMB: Well, is--actually, though, didn't the UN vote to make it a country--What?--it was in '48?
Mr. BALL: Yeah.
LAMB: And so that would have been before then, sometime.
Mr. BALL: It was about 10 years before, yeah, in '38.
LAMB: And so they were in control of the country for 10 years.
Mr. BALL: Roughly 10 years, yes. And they had to live through a lot of terrorist actions by the Stern Gang and the Irgun, one run by Mr. Shamir and the other by Mr. Begin in those days. And...
LAMB: And what were the terrorist gangs, the Irgun and the Stern Gang--what were they trying to do?
Mr. BALL: Well, they were trying to discourage the British and force the British to give up their mandate and get out.
LAMB: And these are two gentlemen that went on to be prime minister.
Mr. BALL: They went on to be prime minister.
LAMB: Did you ever deal with them when you were...
Mr. BALL: Oh, I dealt very extensively with Mr. Begin, not when I was in the government, but, I mean, I met him several times and we had long conversations after I'd left the government.
LAMB: So when Israel was created as a state by the United Nations and we recognized--we were the first country to recognize them?
Mr. BALL: We were, but deliberately got in, a day ahead of the Soviet Union.
LAMB: Why?
Mr. BALL: Well, because this was part of the--a reflection of the domestic politics. We were going to make ourselves the principal sponsor of Israel.
LAMB: Where were you in 1948?
Mr. BALL: I was in--'48, I was just back from Europe, where I had been with the bombing survey.
LAMB: Can you remember how big a deal it was in this country at that time, that we recognized Israel?
Mr. BALL: Oh, yes, it was quite a--there was quite a lot of excitement, particularly in the American Jewish community.
LAMB: Was it a political issue in that campaign of '48? Were the Republicans against the idea?
Mr. BALL: No, they weren't against it. In fact, one of Truman's concerns was that they were going to preempt the issue, so he wanted to get in first.
LAMB: How much aid do we give Israel every year?
Mr. BALL: Well, it depends on what assumptions you make. In the direct aid, the figure that is passed by the Congress is $3 billion. And when that--given the fact that that is surrounded by all kinds of special arrangements and special treatments, Senator Dole has said that the figure is much closer to $4 billion. And a number of other experts who have looked at it say it's much closer to $5 billion, when everything is--$5 billion to--well, let's assume that it's $4 billion. We've given them, since the founding of Israel, well over $50 billion.
LAMB: And why do we give a country--well, let me just ask you the broad question: How much foreign aid do we have a year, total?
Mr. BALL: Oh, it's about--the aid that we give to Israel, plus the aid that we give to Egypt in order to--and that's really a part of the aid to Israel, because we give it to Egypt in order to maintain the Camp David awards--treaties. That is--amounts to, I think, a third of—no--well, 40 percent maybe of all our foreign aid.
LAMB: And why do we give that much aid of our foreign aid to two countries in the world?
Mr. BALL: Well, I think that's exactly why we wrote this book. I think that it's totally inordinate for a country of four and a half million Jewish people to receive this amount of money every year when they don't actually need it. They have a estimated per capita income of around $10,000, and the World Bank has decided that any country with a per capita income of over $6,000 is an advanced country. But we still give it to Israel.
LAMB: Why?
Mr. BALL: Well, what we try to explain in the book, that the Israeli lobby is a highly developed one. I think that it is probably the most effective single lobby in the United States. And they have an organization known as AIPAC, which is at the top of the pyramid. AIPAC is the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee. It's a lobby group, so it doesn't dispense with any money, but there are 50 PACs around the country which take their signals from what AIPAC does. And AIPAC has a kind of giant factory that is always producing mythology on the Israeli side.
LAMB: You point out that a fellow by the name of Tom Dine runs AIPAC...
Mr. BALL: That's right.
LAMB: in this town, former aide to Senator Kennedy.
Mr. BALL: That's right.
LAMB: Is he effective?
Mr. BALL: I think he's been terribly effective, but lately he's gotten--or rather overreached himself and gotten the AIPAC in trouble with the Israeli government.
LAMB: How?
Mr. BALL: Well, because he made some--a number of boasts, which were in the paper, of things that they could do for the--did do for the Israelis. And when Mr. Rabin became prime minister, he chewed him out when he was in Washington recently. And I think that's been rather disturbing to them.
LAMB: I'll come back to that, but let me ask you about Israel. You said there are four and a half million people that live there.
Mr. BALL: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: How...
Mr. BALL: Four and a half million Jewish people.
LAMB: All right. The area--and you've got some maps in here...
Mr. BALL: Yeah.
LAMB: ...of Israel, and this is not--this'll give us a chance to take a look at it. This is not the way that the boundaries are today.
Mr. BALL: No, it's not.
LAMB: This is a United Nations partition plan of 1947.
Mr. BALL: No.
LAMB: Tell us what you know about that. I mean, have you been there?
Mr. BALL: Oh, sure, several times.
LAMB: What's so controversial about this area?
Mr. BALL: Well...
LAMB: Why is it controversial?
Mr. BALL: Well, it's controversial because it's an inordinate drain on American resources for--without getting any real return because while Israel claims that it's an ally of the United States, it certainly doesn't behave like one. And while it claims that it's a strategic asset of the United States because it defends it from the encroachment of communism in the Middle East, that has obviously disappeared now with the dissolution of the Soviet empire. So they're looking for a new explanation and then--in the form of a new common enemy. And so they've invented one, which we're going to hear a great deal more about in the future, and that is Islamic fundamentalism, which they say is the great wave that's going to--that's threatening the West.

Well, actually, in the Shamir regime, they treated Hamas, which is the Islamic fundamentalist group--they treated them very well because they wanted to encourage them to get a hold over the Arabs and diminish the PLO, which was--they regarded as the greater evil. I think it was a fundamental mistake that--I think that the wise ones now realize that. And that's why they expelled 415 members of Hamas through Lebanon or through that no-man's-land between Lebanon and Israel. And that's what the recent brouhaha has been about.
LAMB: When they moved them up in the tents and we saw them...
Mr. BALL: That's right.
LAMB: ...and we saw them outside during the winter. For somebody that doesn't follow this issue closely, what are the ingredients that you think they need to know about in order to unders--you mentioned PLO and, I mean, I can ask you to define each one of those. But how would someone that's never paid close attention to this--maybe buy your book--but how would they figure out--what are the ingredients to understand that whole part of the world and why it's so controversial?
Mr. BALL: Well, the reason that it's so controversial is that there's a conflict between Israel, which has moved into the area and attempted, by expansion, to take over more and more of the land. One of my friends compares Israel's policies to that of the American cowbird. The American cowbird doesn't build a nest of its own; it lays its egg in other birds' nest. And then when those--the other birds' eggs hatch, it throws the offspring out. This has been, in effect, the--Israel's situation, because Israel and the original Zionist dogma, which supported the doctrine which supported the creation of Israel--the state that they envisaged had to be an exclusively Jewish state, run by Jews for Jews; that it also had to be a democracy, or at least follow democratic forms; and, finally, that it had to be expansionist.

Now the reason they talked about expansionism in those days, and everybody the leaders of Zionism included that as a main element in the plans--was that they envisaged the coming together of all the Jews in the world in that state and that, therefore, they had to be able to expand to accommodate them. But expansionism, as they have founded in practice, in an area of the world where they're completely surrounded by densely suppled--settled Arab states means that--a conflict with the Arabs are inevitable because of the fact that they have to keep taking the Arab land, which is what they've done in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
LAMB: Are you saying that they in the '67 War and '73 and you keep talking about the '82 Lebanese situation, that those were not forced on them by the Arabs?
Mr. BALL: No, not at all. Well, let me say that '73 was a situation where the Arabs actually crossed the canal, but this was a desire to retaliate and to expand their borders again. I think expansion has played a good deal in the '67 War.
LAMB: What's a Zionist?
Mr. BALL: Well, a Zionist is the one who believes that the Jews deserve a home of their own.
LAMB: Where's that term come from? Do you know?
Mr. BALL: Comes from the--I've forgotten who it was in the 19th century. I am 83 years old, so if I have a memory slip from time to time, that's--well, if I had my son here, he would tell you exactly. No, the--originated it in the 19th century, in the writings of a couple of Jewish visionaries who saw the possibility of--saw the desire for creation of a state where the Jews could come back to.
LAMB: How did the--how have American governments, through the years, who have spent so much time on things like civil rights and integration, supported a country that you say is a Jewish state for Jewish people?
Mr. BALL: Mm-hmm. Well, it's practical politics in the world scene. There's a lot of situations where purism--a puristic doctrine has been distorted by the practical considerations. And the--let me say that there was a great support in this country for the state of Israel when it was created. It seemed that--it appealed to people, particularly as the word of the Holocaust--the knowledge of the horrible things that had happened to the Jewish people, became more and more apparent. And, obviously, the building of the Holocaust Museum in Washington and so on--all of this has contributed to the natural feeling of the Americans of compassion for the fate of the Jews. And they were sympathetic with the idea of a Jewish state, a Jewish home for that purpose.
LAMB: What was your reaction when you saw all the publicity recently for that $162 million Holocaust Museum in Washington?
Mr. BALL: Well, I'm troubled by it because I think that this is past history, and while I can understand the feelings of people who have been subject to such a genocide, that they want to--don't want to have the world forget it, nevertheless it keeps alive something that is a tragic event in their past, which only makes any kind of a rational settlement more difficult.
LAMB: Do you know how many Jews there are in the United States?
Mr. BALL: Oh, around five million, I think.
LAMB: So the same number as there is in Israel.
Mr. BALL: Roughly, yes.
LAMB: How strongly do American Jews feel about Israel, and how strongly do the Israeli Jews feel about America?
Mr. BALL: Well, the American Jews feel about Israel on a generational basis. The older Jewish people are very pro-Israel; the new generation, I think, is more indifferent.
LAMB: Why?
Mr. BALL: Well, they have got their own concerns. They feel they identify with the United States, and they don't have any past memories of mistreatment in Europe and so on. As for the attitude of the Israeli people toward the American Jews, it's largely one of disdain, as a matter of fact, because they say, `Look, these people went to New York and they're living in great luxury in an entirely safe and secure country.

And they didn't take the option that they should have, of joining us on the barricades in Israel and fighting the Arabs off.'
LAMB: When was the last time you went to Israel?
Mr. BALL: Oh, it was about a year ago.
LAMB: How many times have you been there?
Mr. BALL: Oh, five, I think, or six.
LAMB: What did you see when you were there a year ago? What did you think of it?
Mr. BALL: Well, I was there--covered several countries. I was there and I was in Jordan, and then I went up to Syria. So--well, what did I think? I mean, it simply confirmed my general views that I've expressed in this book.
LAMB: Well, the reason--what I was getting at is you say in your book that Israel is a socialist state.
Mr. BALL: Well, I say that they have vestiges of socialism, which they--is a great drag on their economy. There are a couple of American economists who have looked at this thing and know it very well. One of them is Herbert Stein, who used to be the chief of President Ford's economic advisers; and a man, Professor Fisher, who joined him in an analysis of the Israeli situation. And one of the main thrusts of their conclusion is that Israel ought to speed up the privatization process because the Jewish--I mean, the Israeli government now controls not merely--it doesn't merely own all the land in the country, but it controls a high proportion of industry. And that has been the subject of where the main elements of corruption have come in.
LAMB: You write a lot about arms development and arms sales. How much of the budget of Israel is devoted to defense?
Mr. BALL: I can't recall at the moment. I have known, but...
LAMB: Is it large?
Mr. BALL: Oh, yes, very large. Yes, it's--must be at least twice what it is in a percentage basis with the United States.
LAMB: You write that they have sold arms around the world, even competed against American arms.
Mr. BALL: Well, they have a problem. The great resource of Israel is a brilliant and highly educated people, and they have an enormous resource there. They don't have the internal market to support a big export trade in manufactured goods, therefore, they can't indulge themselves in the economies of scale. They can't take advantage of the economies of scale. So they have great difficulty pricing themselves in competition in the world market.

In the case of arms, however, they have a situation where the United States, for political reasons which are deemed proper by the Congress and by the president, from time to time imposes a blockade on a certain country and says, `This country cannot receive any arms.' Well, that's an `open sesame' as far as the Israelis are concerned because then they pump in all the arms that they can possibly sell. And this has resulted, it seems to me, in seriously diminishing the effect of economic weapons that we might use against such a country.
LAMB: How long do you think the United States will contribute $3 billion a year in aid to Israel?
Mr. BALL: Well, at the moment, this is a sacrosanct figure. If you ask anybody on the Hill if they're going to vote for a lower figure, they'll laugh at you. I mean, the Israeli lobby has entrenched itself so deeply in the--particularly the Congress, that you can't get anybody who's willing to risk his neck in Congress, because they've made examples of people who've tried it, such as Senator Adlai Stevenson, such as Paul McCloskey from California...
LAMB: Paul Findley, you mentioned, too, from Illinois.
Mr. BALL: Paul Findley from Illinois.
LAMB: How about Chuck Percy?
Mr. BALL: And Chuck Percy.
LAMB: And what happened to them?
Mr. BALL: Well, they said some things which were interpreted as being not wholly enthusiastic for Israel. So they simply supplied the opponent with massive amounts of money. And in these days when television time is--are the key to campaigns, when television is so horribly expensive, as it is, money makes a difference.
LAMB: But as you point out in your book, there's a limit--$5,000 a PAC--that you can give to any one...
Mr. BALL: Well, you could...
LAMB: ...campaign.
Mr. BALL: But you've got a lot of PACs around the country.
LAMB: Is that all controlled?
Mr. BALL: Well, that's not controlled, but they follow the signals they get from AIPAC. Now AIPAC does not dictate to these PACs, but there's a general understanding that if AIPAC says that this fellow is not a good fellow because he's not totally on the Israeli side, then the PACs will follow suit. Not only PACs, but there are a number of very rich Jewish contributors to political campaigns, and Jews are very generous by nature. So that you have a situation where, in the case of Chuck Percy--there was one man who contributed out of his own pocket something like $1 million to the other side so he could beat Percy.
LAMB: What's the reaction to your book from--I mean, have you gotten reaction from any quarter?
Mr. BALL: Well, I have--the reviews, by and large--the respectable papers, I mean, other than the papers that are slanted or limited, have been uniformly bad. They've not been the kind of reviews that I hoped I would get, which would be reviews that would begin a discussion, the controversy. They've largely taken the form of trying to diminish me and my competence, which is not anything of wide public interest.
LAMB: Why would they do that?
Mr. BALL: Well, to avoid any controversy because they want to see the book drop like a stone.
LAMB: And what happened? It's been out for--when did this book actually come out on the market?
Mr. BALL: Oh, last--I can't remember.
LAMB: Six months ago.
Mr. BALL: Six months ago.
LAMB: I mean, it was at the end of '92.
Mr. BALL: Well, it's gone into its second printing, which doesn't say much, but at least the book is selling.
LAMB: Has there been any effort made on the part of AIPAC or any of these groups to try to diminish the value of the book?
Mr. BALL: There hasn't been any because they don't want it talked about. The more that the--if they can get a couple of sour reviews attacking the competence of the author, then people won't read it, won't buy it. And they deliberately are trying to play it down. I don't blame them. I mean, it's a kind of tactic. I think if I were there, I think I'd adopt, too. But the result is rather than get this in the area of controversy, because the more controversy there is, the less opportunity they have to sell their bill of goods in this country.
LAMB: How did they attack your competency?
Mr. BALL: Oh, they simply said that--well, there was a review in The Washington Post by a gentleman named Walter Laqueur. The Post neglected to mention that Mr. Laqueur had been, for 10 years, a professor in the University of Tel Aviv and had done all his graduate work at Israeli universities. So it was a deliberate attempt to diminish the book by saying, `Don't bother to read it because this fellow doesn't know what he's talking about.' And it was not very helpful.

But then they had a review in The New York Times, which only came about because the reviewer at The New York Times had originally assigned the book to a lady who read it and then resigned the assignment. So I had some friends at the time who were kind enough to talk to the management, and the result was that they did reassign the book for a review. And they reassigned it to Rabbi--good God--Hertzberg, who gave--made a much fairer review, but nevertheless it was an unfavorable review.

Now I've gotten favorable reviews in a number of other papers, but those papers are primarily concerned with the Middle East and so they're not a part of the popular press.
LAMB: The first person that was supposed to review it for The New York Times, why did she withdraw?
Mr. BALL: I can only speculate that it was either under instructions or she was sympathetic with the other side.
LAMB: Have you been known for a long time as someone who's anti-Israel?
Mr. BALL: I have been--I have written from time to time calling in question the treatment of Israel, which I think from a point of view of the United States, has been far too uncritical. And I think we've done the Israelis a great disfav--favor in a curious way.

For example, there's the question of the amount of socialist vestiges in the Israeli economy. If we had threatened that we would reduce the aid--if they didn't do something about privatization, which is what we've done with Eastern European countries--trying to move them toward a fully capitalist economy--then I think that by failing to do that, I think we've given them an impression that it doesn't make any difference what they do, they're going to get the American aid as a--by right as a...
LAMB: How did you and your son, Douglas B. Ball--you said earlier he's a professor at Yale?
Mr. BALL: No. He lives in New Haven, although he lives in Long Island, actually. But he just happens to be in New Haven today.
LAMB: And where is he a professor.
Mr. BALL: No, he's not a professor.
LAMB: Oh, he's not. I'm sorry.
Mr. BALL: He's a professor of ...(unintelligible).
LAMB: What's he do for a living?
Mr. BALL: He's a numismatist. A numismatist, in case you don't know it, is a man who deals in rare coins, in money.
LAMB: And how long has he been interested in Israel?
Mr. BALL: Well, I think--I started this on my own, and I was getting nowhere because I didn't have a proper focus. And so I enlisted Douglas' help, and he helped provide the proper focus. So we got it in the shape which we wanted it.
LAMB: How old is he, by the way?
Mr. BALL: Oh, he's 52, I think.
LAMB: And where was he born?
Mr. BALL: He was born in Iowa.
LAMB: What year? Well, I guess 52 years ago.
Mr. BALL: Yeah, 52 years...
LAMB: What were you doing in Iowa at the time?
Mr. BALL: Well, I had originally been born there myself, so I had family connections there.
LAMB: What town in Iowa were you born in?
Mr. BALL: Des Moines.
LAMB: How did you two separate your responsibilities for this book?
Mr. BALL: Well, it was an agonizing experience because we'd each write sections, and then we'd try to combine them or meld them or incorporate inserts from one into the other.
LAMB: How did you--but how did you separate your responsibilities? Who did what?
Mr. BALL: Well, I can't say that there was any very systematic separation of responsibilities, division of labor.
LAMB: Well, for instance, you start out in the first part of the book and you talk a lot about the history...
Mr. BALL: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...then you talk about the different administrations...
Mr. BALL: Yeah.
LAMB: ...from Eisenhower to Kennedy to Johnson and Nixon, and you go through all those years. Did you write the history of it or did he write the history, or did you both do...
Mr. BALL: We both did that. Actually, it was his idea that we ought to start out by a recital of the relationship over the years, and he was dead right because I had the subject--is an overwhelming subject--just the subject of Israel is an overwhelming subject when you get into it. The amount of literature that's been produced is beggar's imagination. And the--so with--I didn't have a focus on it when I started, and he was good enough to provide the focus.
LAMB: When did you start it together?
Mr. BALL: Oh, about five years ago, six years ago.
LAMB: And when did you finish it? Actually--I know you've got some stuff that you wrote here in April, 1992, but when did you actually finish the book?
Mr. BALL: Well, it's--What?--April, 1992. Mm-hmm.
LAMB: And in here, is there new information or is this--I mean, did you come up with some new--between the two of you, some new--some files that you found somewhere or just your own analysis?
Mr. BALL: No. I don't think we had any new information and that's one of the accusations that was made in The Washington Post review, for example, that there's nothing new in the book that hasn't been said before. Well, it hasn't been said before in a coherent way and it hasn't been tied together, and that's what we tried to do. We don't pretend to have uncovered secret archives or anything of that sort.
LAMB: Well, then let me ask you this. How did you go about writing a book that you thought would be of value to an audience out there? What did you do different in this book that no one's done before?
Mr. BALL: Well, I think it's a coherent argument which tries to tell the story of Israel without the gloss of myth which has been put on it by AIPAC, which has a--and the Jewish community has a--have a giant machine for the fabrication of mythology.
LAMB: When you go back to--I want to ask you the question: Why would American politicians, I mean, be afraid to go against Israel? Is it the money only, or do these politicians--I mean, I'll just ask you that: Why is it that they are so powerful?
Mr. BALL: Well, I think it's--they see the example of their fellow members who don't come back after an election. And they see the example of those who did--do come back against serious odds because they've been amply fortified by the Jewish community.
LAMB: I guess what I'm...
Mr. BALL: The Jewish are a wonderfully generous. They're encaisse in the sense that they--politics is something that's very real to them. They're very good citizens in that regard.
LAMB: Let me ask it in another way. If Arabs spent a lot of money in American politics, if there were you know, Arab-Americans...
Mr. BALL: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...would they have the same impact on the system that the Jewish Americans have?
Mr. BALL: No, because the Jewish Americans start with a basis of people who feel themselves as Jews and are concerned about what happens to Jewry generally. So they're passionately for the state of Israel. The--an Arab-American doesn't think of himself as an Arab. He thinks of himself as a Syrian an Iraqi or a Lebanese or something of that sort, so that they don't have the same passion about it. Let me say there's a very serious effort being made now, though, to organize the Arab-Americans far more effectively than they've been in the past, but they've got a long way to go to catch up.
LAMB: Is there anything illegal being done?
Mr. BALL: No, I don't think illegal. I think it depends--the laws, it seems to me, on campaign contributions are very much in need of overhaul. That's what the Clinton administration is trying to get the Congress to do.
LAMB: Wouldn't an American Jew say that this is a marketplace decision, `We go out and raise money, we feed into these campaigns and it works. People buy our argument'?
Mr. BALL: Well, that simply suggests that the American electoral system is corruptible, which it means--the reason why we ought to get through public financing of campaigns.
LAMB: Complete public financing?
Mr. BALL: Complete public financing.
LAMB: Of both Congress and the Senate?
Mr. BALL: Both Congress and Senate. The amount of money it costs in relation to our other government expenditures, it would not be all that much.
LAMB: Should there be a limit to how much you spend on campaigns?
Mr. BALL: Well, that--sure. But the problem is that they--there's a lot of--casuistry about the--the Bill of Rights and the freedom of speech amendment and so on, and concern that if you limit the amount of money you can spend, you're, in effect, eliminating the right of the citizens to speak out and so on. So that the way they've gotten around that in the past is that the government makes a matching grant if--on the basis that the candidate raises a certain amount of money. And the candidate has the option of electing either to accept the government grant or to raise money in the private marketplace.
LAMB: Talking earlier about your experience in government, are you surprised that--the way the world is in 1993?
Mr. BALL: No, I'm not surprised--well, I am surprised that the Cold War ended as decisively as it did. I had thought that it--but the fact that we now have all the old enmities and ethnic differences uncovered was something that was easily predictable. Matter of fact, I sat around, I think it was four years ago, with George Kennan, who's my neighbor in Princeton, and we were speculating of what would happen if the Cold War really ended. And we predicted that there would be an enormous number of regional wars.
LAMB: And?
Mr. BALL: Well, that's what's happened.
LAMB: Why are there regional wars in light of the end of the Cold War?
Mr. BALL: Because they--as long as the Cold War was maintained, then all the parts of the Soviet Union are--were under the thumb of Moscow, and they suppressed their ethnic dislike for one another-- hatreds.
LAMB: Why did the Cold War end, and how much did the American government, over the years, have to do with ending it?
Mr. BALL: Well, I'm sure that the college scholars are going to be working on that for the next 50 years. My own impression is this Cold War ended because the Soviet people finally realized that they had an unworkable system and that it couldn't go on forever. This was a prediction that Kennan had made at the beginning, that it would end. And it finally did.
LAMB: By the way, who is George Kennan?
Mr. BALL: George Kennan was ambassador to the Soviet Union. He was a career foreign service officer. And he was the author of the original doctrine of containment and the famous Mr. X article that he wrote for Foreign Affairs magazine, which really set the pattern for the American strategy vs. the Soviet Union.
LAMB: As you look back at the American strategy, do you think it was right?
Mr. BALL: I think it was right. No, I think it was absolutely right.
LAMB: Would you have done anything differently?
Mr. BALL: I don't think so.
LAMB: Did we spend the right amount of money on armament?
Mr. BALL: Well, again, that's--when you get into the--particularly when you get in the question of nuclear armaments, which isn't, by any means the biggest part of the defense budget, there, I think, we overbuilt terribly because not only was our intelligence not very good about what the other side was doing, but there was a kind of desire, a feeling that we ought to be able just to not only to wipe the enemy out, but to wipe out any recollection of the enemy. And I think we overdid it. But, I'm not too critical of the defense budget. I think that while the Cold War lasted, we did about what we should.
LAMB: When you look back at history, who are your favorite politicians or leaders? And that can be recent. I mean, it doesn't have to be, you know, 200 years ago.
Mr. BALL: Well, in recent years Truman comes to mind. I mean, he was a--but Truman was effective in the foreign field primarily because of Dean Acheson, who was, I think, a very considerable leader, secretary of state. He was a controversial figure, but somewhat deliberately controversial, I think. He's one. Certainly, Roosevelt remains, I think, a towering figure on the...
Mr. BALL: FDR. And--well, I like these other people now, but I don't--I think if John F. Kennedy had lived, he could have emerged as a man of great importance, too, and...
LAMB: Which president did you know the best?
Mr. BALL: Johnson, actually. I knew Kennedy very well. I saw him every day. I never was particularly a part of the inner circle.
LAMB: Your name pops up in a lot of these books being written about the Vietnam War, as you know.
Mr. BALL: Oh, that's right.
LAMB: Your position on the Vietnam War at the time you were in the Johnson administration was what?
Mr. BALL: Well, I wrote a memorandum to the president in September of--I get these dates all mixed up--September of '64, right after the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and said that--challenged every assumption of our policy for involvement in Vietnam.
LAMB: Where were you then?
Mr. BALL: I was deputy secretary of state.
LAMB: And who was secretary of state?
Mr. BALL: Dean Rusk. And I will say for my colleague, Dean Rusk, that he was a man of great generosity. And he said to me, `George, the president is as much entitled to your views as he is to mine, so don't ever hesitate,' although he was diametrically opposed to me on the Vietnam War.
LAMB: What happened to your relationship with Dean Rusk after you took this strong position?
Mr. BALL: Well, nothing changed--exactly as it was. It--we never--these were not personal arguments we had and the personalities never got involved.
LAMB: What did you tell President Johnson you thought he ought to do?
Mr. BALL: Well, I--we ought to cut our losses and get out. And I wrote a long 75-page memorandum, which was the principal one, and thereafter I sent memoranda about every two weeks, really cautioning that we shouldn't commit more forces; we should find a way out and that as it--as we got deeper and deeper into the war, it became apparent that we couldn't find a way out unless we were willing to relinquish the rather artificial objectives that we had set for ourselves. The North Vietnamese were going to take over. They had the power to do it and they had the perseverance.
LAMB: What happened to you and your relationship with the president?
Mr. BALL: No--president was always my best friend in that argument.
LAMB: Why?
Mr. BALL: Because I think he was deeply troubled himself, and I think he welcomed the fact of getting a contrarian view to the one that he was getting from the other members of the government.
LAMB: Who fought you the most?
Mr. BALL: Well, it was an interesting situation. I would send the president a memorandum. I would first send it to Rusk and to Bob McNamara and McGeorge Bundy. And then I would see it went to the president. I'd give them an opportunity to challenge it first. McNamara would always call me and come over and say, `Look'--that he and I are, more or less, on the same side and that he was all for me. But then, when we'd go in before the president the next day, the president-- McNamara would shoot me down in flames and Rusk would attack me vigorously and McGeorge Bundy would do the same thing. So that--but on a personal basis, it never affected our relations.
LAMB: Why do you think they would tell you they were for you and then shoot you down in the meetings?
Mr. BALL: Well, I think they were deeply troubled. I read a review of biography of McNamara in the New York Review of Books, which was just published, which is a long 10,000-word review, which goes into the problems that McNamara was facing in his own mind, as far as that was...
LAMB: Is this the book that was written, the Deborah Shapley book?
Mr. BALL: Yeah. And it's a review of the Deborah Shapley book, but it's more of a lot of my own personal experiences.
LAMB: You wrote the review of the book.
Mr. BALL: I wrote the review of the book.
LAMB: Now she's been where you are, in that chair there, and we've talked about this book. What do you think of her book?
Mr. BALL: Well, she did, obviously, an enormous lot of work. and I think that, by and large, her reporting is sound and her conclusions are, for the most part, sound. I would disagree with a number of them, as I did in the review. But I think she's a--was much too harsh on McNamara.
LAMB: In what way?
Mr. BALL: I don't think she fully understood the inner turmoil in the man's mind and the fact that he was a--basically tortured by having gotten into this bloody war.
LAMB: And did he--and when we came--again, let's go back to--he came to you and was saying he's on your side, but then in the public meeting he would side with the president--or would he side with the president?
Mr. BALL: No, no, he would side with the president, yeah, or the president would side with him. I won't--I don't--not suggesting that there was any mendacity about this. I think that he honestly agreed with a number of the things that I was saying, but he wouldn't come to the same final conclusions.
LAMB: Put yourself, for a moment--I mean, say President Clinton's watching this, and from your experience of the Vietnam War, what recommendations would you make to him as president about the structure of government and advice, anything? How to get it?
Mr. BALL: I think every president has to have his own means of organizing the people that advise him. And Clinton obviously has his group that advise him. But there's no set formula for this that will satisfy every president because presidents approach their task quite differently. I mean, Clinton is obviously a man who wants to control the final decisions, and he's very important--very insistent that actions not be taken unless he's had a chance to review them. Well, I can understand this. And Lyndon Johnson was the same way, to a very considerable extent. But I wouldn't try to lay down any general rule.
LAMB: Are there any general lessons from the Vietnam War experience, do you think, that have played out over the years since then--last 20 years?
Mr. BALL: Well, I think that we ought to--you know, we ought to make very sure that we don't get into a commitment of our own forces in a situation where both the political and the topographical terrain is as unhappy for us as Vietnam was. This is a far-away land. We were fighting on a people of a different race. We were fighting in the jungles, in a terrain where--which is not fitting ground for heavy operations.
LAMB: Vietnam War and the aftermath have any impact on the country?
Mr. BALL: Oh, I think it's had a terrible blight on the country. I think the agonies that we're going through right now, with our refusal to consider the commitment of any forces in the Balkans, for example, or elsewhere, is because of Vietnam. We don't want to commit any of our forces unless we are sure that we can get them out almost immediately and that there'll be practically no casualties. Well, these--you can't be the --pretend to be the leader of the free world on this basis.
LAMB: Why did you leave government--'66?
Mr. BALL: '66--because I was tired and broke. I'd been there too long. And it was a very exhausting job, believe me. I mean, Dean Rusk destroyed his health by staying there for the balance of the Johnson term. No, I wanted to get out. I mean, it was not just Vietnam, although Vietnam contributed, because--it wasn't that I wasn't making--getting anywhere in my protest, but--which is true--but that I couldn't get the president and the people around him interested in any other part of the world. My big interest in the beginning had been our relations with Europe, where I had spent a lot of time and had some familiarity with the situation.
LAMB: When you went back into law practice...
Mr. BALL: Yeah.
LAMB: ...where did you live?
Mr. BALL: I lived--I was--well, I was in law practice, so I lived in Washington.
LAMB: And you retired in Princeton.
Mr. BALL: Yeah. Well, after I came back from the government the last time, I joined an investment banking house in New York, Lehman Bros. I was a partner of Lehman Bros. And so I'm--had to move to New York to do that. And then we lived in New York for--oh, 10 years or more, and then we moved to Princeton about 15 years ago.
LAMB: What did you think--I mean, I haven't got much time, but what did you think of your experience at Lehman Bros.?
Mr. BALL: Well, it was--I learned a fair amount that I hadn't known before. I had an opportunity to travel widely. It was an instructive experience.
LAMB: Why did you retire in Princeton?
Mr. BALL: Well, because Princeton was a place that gave me more scope. I wanted to do some writing and I wanted to live in a--my wife and I made a very cold-blooded decision: We wanted to get out of New York because while we had a duplex apartment at the UN Plaza, which was--had an elegant view of the city, it was too constraining. I finally bought a couple of maids' room on the seventh floor so that I could have a place to work, but even that was too constraining, so we agreed that we'd find someplace that was close enough to New York so we could have access to the city. Nevertheless, it was near a good library and preferably near a university, because of the--kind of cross-fertilization of talent that you encounter in that kind of environment. And Princeton has served us admirably well.
LAMB: You say you've been retired for about 11 years. What do you think of the business of retirement?
Mr. BALL: Well, I have--I'm as busy as I ever was.
LAMB: What do you do most of the time?
Mr. BALL: Well, I write--every morning my secretary comes and I do my work and writing in the morning. Then she leaves at 1:00, and I try to relax.
LAMB: Do you have another book you want to write?
Mr. BALL: I'm toying about it, but I'm unwilling at the moment to commit myself to the kind of sustained, protracted effort that a book would take. So I do short articles and reviews and that sort of--kind of thing.
LAMB: The book, "The Passionate Attachment," which we've been talking about here, on Israel: What do you think, after all the sales are made, will be the major impact of the book?
Mr. BALL: Well, I hope it'll convince a few people, but, I mean, it will shake a lot of people who I think are inclined to accept the conventional wisdom. And I think the conventional wisdom is just plain wrong, and I think it's--at the moment, I say we're doing a hardship--not only to ourselves, but I think to the Israelis.
LAMB: Was this a tough book--because it is not pro-Israel--to get published...
Mr. BALL: Not to get published...
LAMB: this...
Mr. BALL:, because Norton had published my memoirs earlier than that.
LAMB: Do you find people touchy about the subject when you start to tell them what you're going to write?
Mr. BALL: No, not at all. Norton was very friendly to the idea.
LAMB: This is what the book looks like, its called “The Passionate Attachment,” co-written by George W. Ball and his son, Douglas B. Ball --“America’s Involvement with Israel, 1947 to the Present.” Thank you very much for joining us.
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