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The Dissent PapersThe Voices of Diplomats in the Cold War and Beyond$
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Hannah Gurman

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780231158725

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231158725.001.0001

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Revising the Vietnam Balance Sheet

Revising the Vietnam Balance Sheet

The Rhetorical Logic of Escalation Versus George Ball’s Writerly Logic of Diplomacy

(p.119) three Revising the Vietnam Balance Sheet
The Dissent Papers

Hannah Gurman

Columbia University Press

This chapter explores how the principle of the “balance sheet” was used by former undersecretary of the State Department George Wildman Ball in his dissent from the escalation of Vietnam War. The principle of “balance sheet” holds that in facing a complex problem, one should step back from the specifics and re-focus on its “overall view” in order to “change the context that the problem is posed in.” This principle has been ingrained in Ball's policy positions and writing. Between October 1964 and September 1966, Ball wrote eight major memos to former President Lyndon B. Johnson and his cabinet, challenging the logic of the escalation of the Vietnam War. Ball wanted to revise America's image-centric foreign policy in Vietnam and replace it with a more balanced set of strategic principles that will not heavily rely on “face.”

Keywords:   balance sheet, George Wildman Ball, State Department, Vietnam War, Lyndon B. Johnson, image-centric foreign policy

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