Chace, James 1931–2004

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Chace, James 1931–2004

(James Clarke Chace)

PERSONAL: Born October 16, 1931, in Fall River, MA; died of a heart attack, October 8, 2004, in Paris, France; son of Hollister Remington and Harriet Mildred Chace; married Jean Valentine, 1957 (divorced, 1968); married Susan Denvir, 1975; children: (first marriage) Sarah, Rebecca; (second marriage) Zoe. Education: Harvard University, A.B., 1953; graduate study at University of Paris, Institut d'Etudes Politiques, 1954. Religion: Episcopalian. Hobbies and other interests: Sailing.

CAREER: Esquire, New York, NY, assistant editor, 1957–58; East Europe, New York, NY, managing editor, 1958–64; Interplay, New York, NY, managing editor, 1964–69; Foreign Affairs, New York, NY, managing editor, 1970–83; New York Times Book Review, New York, NY, member of editorial board, 1983–87; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC, senior associate, 1987–88; Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs, New York, NY, director of Program on International Affairs and the Media, beginning 1988; Bard College, professor of government and public law and administration, beginning 1990. Visiting lecturer at Yale University, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1979, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, 1974–77, and Columbia University, 1980. Fellow, Jonathan Edward College, Yale University. Member of committees on fellows and programs, Lehrman Institute, 1972–86; member of board of directors, French-American Foundation, beginning 1975. Military service: U.S. Army, 1954–56.

MEMBER: International Institute of Strategic Studies, Council of Foreign Relations, PEN, German-American Council, Phi Beta Kappa, Century Association.

AWARDS, HONORS: Rotary International fellow, 1954; Guggenheim fellow, 1985; decorated Chevalier des Arts et Lettres, government of France, 1986.


The Rules of the Game (novel), Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1960.

(Editor) Conflict in the Middle East, H.W. Wilson (New York, NY), 1969.

A World Elsewhere: The New American Foreign Policy, Scribner (New York, NY), 1973.

(Editor, with Earl C. Ravenal) Atlantis Lost: U.S.-European Relations after the Cold War, New York University Press (New York, NY), 1976.

Solvency: The Price of Survival, Random House (New York, NY), 1980.

Endless War: How We Got Involved in Central America and What Can Be Done, Vintage Trade (New York, NY), 1984.

(With Caleb Carr) America Invulnerable: The Quest for Absolute Security from 1812 to Star Wars, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1988.

What We Had: A Memoir, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1990.

The Consequences of the Peace: The New Internationalism and American Foreign Policy, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1992.

Acheson: The Secretary of State Who Created the American World, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.

1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft & Debs—The Election that Changed the Country, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributor to New Republic, Esquire, Harper's, New York Review of Books, and New York Times Magazine.

SIDELIGHTS: Editor and author James Chace blended a career in letters with a personal interest in politics to write a number of well-received works on international relations, foreign policy, and public affairs. In Solvency: The Price of Survival, the veteran foreign affairs scholar created "a brief, intelligent exposition of the connection between our economy and our foreign policy," stated a New Yorker critic. Describing it as a balance of a nation's military commitments with its available resources and power, Chace takes his definition of political "solvency" from Walter Lippman's classic work U.S. Foreign Policy: Shield of the Republic. Although Lippman's work is over forty years old, Chace "reminds us in his important new work [that] Lippman's concept still provides the key to an understanding of America's world position which we ignore at our own peril," described David Fromkin in the New Republic. Chace expands on the earlier theory, however, by suggesting that the U.S. "must continue to meet this enormous [foreign policy] commitment," added Fromkin, "and that we have to do so while meeting enormous but equally necessary social, economic, and political commitments within the United States. Like Lippmann, Chace tells us that the problem is that we don't have the means to make good on our pledges. Unlike Lippmann, Chace believes that we have to go out and create those means by ourselves." The author traces the nation's insolvency to wasteful defense spending; he is "clear … [and] persistent on the relationship between Vietnam and inflation," asserted John Leonard in the New York Times. "We have to learn to pay for what we want to do instead of just printing money that our allies will cease to hold in reserve—there went the dollar."

Although Commentary contributor Peter W. Rodman believed that Chace's description of the nation's economic situation is basically sound, he called Solvency "a sermon on foreign policy, not on economics. The dismal economic diagnosis serves to soften up the reader for the true message: that overextension and overcommitment abroad have weakened our foreign policy and have even been a main cause of our economic woes." The critic also considered Chace's prescriptions incorrect, claiming that "[American] weakness [has been] underscored if not created by four years of policies following precisely the precepts he now urges upon us." Paul C. Warnke, however, finds Chace's analysis and solutions suitable: writing in the Washington Post Book World, the critic observes that "Chace in no way ignores the reality of Soviet military strength and the threat it presents. But he contends that the threat cannot be met by policies that erode our economic power, that frighten our allies and that yield increased tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union." In addition, Warnke characterized Chace's presentation as written "with felicitous style and clarity." And while Fromkin noted that some of Chace's suggestions are politically unsuitable, he remarked that "Chace's illuminating and eloquent essay makes it clear that political leaders must start fighting for programs regarded as politically impossible if they are serious about meeting our problems." In Solvency, Chace "has written a short (107-page) essay," commented William J. Miller in the Los Angeles Times Book Review; "its importance is in inverse proportion to its length."

Chace, along with Caleb Carr, once again explores U.S. foreign affairs in America Invulnerable: The Quest for Absolute Security from 1812 to Star Wars, this time from the standpoint of national security. "America Invulnerable is a feast of historical perspective," noted Washington Post Book World contributor Richard Rhodes, "tracing the American obsession with absolute security from Star Wars all the way back to the burning of Washington in 1814." The authors follow the progress of the American empire, including movements such as manifest destiny and expansionism, proposing that "absolute security" has been the justification for this empire. Jefferson Morley elaborated in the Los Angeles Times Book Review: "[Chace and Carr] say that the American empire was built as a buffer from all manner of territorial and ideological threats. They make their case through a series of witty and illuminating historical essays," and note that the idea that had its beginnings with the sacking of Washington, DC, during the War of 1812.

While he found the authors' analysis of current U.S. policy basically sound, New York Times Book Review contributor Gaddis Smith remarked that in their historical analysis, "the authors seldom clarify the difference between necessary responses to real threats to national security and violent, irrational responses to imaginary enemies. Leaders in the history of American foreign policy are depicted, with few exceptions, as obsessed devotees of unilateralism, violence, and absolute security." Smith also faulted Chace and Carr for overarguing "their case by selecting episodes illustrative of unilateralism … while ignoring or misinterpreting contrary examples of reliance on diplomacy." Some critics have also remarked on a number of historical errors; George Russell, for example, called America Invulnerable an "arresting, quirky, quite flawed, and sometimes misleading work," adding in his Commentary review that the book "is marked throughout by misleading assertions … and occasional inaccuracy." But Rhodes believed that in American Invulnerable "much of the story is examined with penetration and is powerfully told. Even the obscure James Polk comes alive." The critic concluded that "America Invulnerable discovers one important reason, rooted in our national character, why he have found [nuclear compromise] hard to learn." While the authors are less successful in their attempts to influence current national policy, noted Morley, "In American Invulnerable, Chace and Carr succeed in their primary aim: to provide an enlightening history of U.S. imperial ambitions."

In 1998, Chace published the critically acclaimed biography Acheson: The Secretary of State Who Created the American World. As a statesman, Dean Acheson was involved in many of the most important post-World War II decisions and policies, including the development of the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. After retirement, Acheson continued to play a key role as advisor to presidents from John F. Kennedy to Richard Nixon. According to Booklist contributor Vanessa Bush, Chace provides, in his Acheson, a "lively and compelling look at a major figure in U.S. foreign relations." A reviewer for the Economist praised Chace as "a master at summarising complex situations," while Peter W. Rodman, writing in the National Review, found the same biography "a thorough account of Acheson's life and career, benefiting from personal papers and interviews with family and close associates." Similarly, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly felt Acheson's career "is vibrantly brought to life … in this superbly written and erudite biography." For Commonweal critic James Finn, Acheson "is not only an absorbing biography and a sweeping historical overview of the years following World War II, it is a document that bears directly on our present post-cold war period."

In his last book, 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft, & Debs—The Election That Changed the Country, Chace offers a "well-crafted and timely page-turner," according to Library Journal contributor William D. Pederson. In the book, Chace recounts the spirited 1912 presidential race between four disparate contenders: the incumbent, William Howard Taft, the progressive previous incumbent, Theodore Roosevelt, the socialist Eugene V. Debs, and a former college president, Wood-row Wilson. With Roosevelt splitting the Republican vote with Taft, the Democrat, Wilson, was elected. It is Chace's contention that the election of 1912 ultimately shaped the political landscape in the United States and defined the roles of the two major political parties. Matthew Spalding, writing in the National Review, commended the "vivid detail and lively writing" in this historical reconstruction, which "provides a compelling account of this unique episode, focusing on four extraordinary figures and the causes that divided them." For Jay Freeman, writing in Booklist, 1912 was a "valuable look at how and why our current political culture has evolved." Similarly, a Kirkus Reviews critic found the same work "entertaining, insightful history about a defining moment in 20th-century politics," while a reviewer for Publishers Weekly concluded, "There won't soon be a better-told tale of one of the last century's major elections."

Chace died of a heart attack on October 8, 2004, in Paris, France.



Chace, James, What We Had: A Memoir, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1990.


Booklist, August, 1998, Vanessa Bush, review of Acheson: The Secretary of State Who Created the American World, p. 1954; April 1, 2004, Jay Freeman, review of 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft, & Debs—The Election That Changed the Country, p. 1334.

Business Week, May 31, 2004, Richard S. Dunham, "A Presidential Free-For-All," review of 1912, p. 22.

Christian Century, December 14, 2004, review of 1912, p. 20.

Commentary, June, 1981, Peter W. Rodman, review of Solvency: The Price of Survival; August, 1988, George Russell, review of America Invulnerable: The Quest for Absolute Security from 1812 to Star Wars.; September, 1998, Patrick Glynn, review of Acheson, p. 62.

Commonweal, October 23, 1998, James Finn, review of Acheson, p. 22.

Contemporary Review, July, 2000, Michael F. Hopkins, "Creating the American World," review of Acheson, p. 49.

Economist, September 10, 1988, review of America Invulnerable, p. 105; September 12, 1998, review of Acheson, p. S5.

Foreign Affairs, September-October, 1998, Roy Jenkins, review of Acheson, p. 136.

Historian, spring, 2000, Robert D. Ubriaco, Jr., review of Acheson, p. 651.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2004, review of 1912, p. 254.

Library Journal, June 1, 1998, Mark E. Ellis, review of Acheson, p. 118; April 15, 2004, William D. Pederson, review of 1912, p. 98.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 23, 1981, William J. Miller, review of Solvency; March 13, 1988, Jefferson Morley, review of America Invulnerable.

National Interest, winter, 1998, Robert Ellsworth, review of Acheson, p. 104.

National Review, October 12, 1998, Peter W. Rodman, review of Acheson, p. 58; July 26, 2004, Matthew Spalding, "Wrong Turn," review of 1912, p. 48.

New Leader, October 5, 1998, William L. O'Neill, review of Acheson, p. 17; May-June, 2004, Henry F. Graff, "A Clash of Titans," review of 1912, p. 24.

New Republic, June 6, 1981, David Fromkin, review of Solvency.

New Yorker, June 1, 1981, review of Solvency.

New York Times, May 21, 1981, John Leonard, review of Solvency.

New York Times Book Review, April 10, 1988, Gaddis Smith, review of America Invulnerable.

Publishers Weekly, April 13, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of What We Had: A Memoir, p. 53; July 6, 1998, review of Acheson, p. 40; March 1, 2004, review of 1912, p. 59.

School Library Journal, November, 2004, Pat Bender, review of 1912, p. 178.

Time, May 3, 2004, Richard Lacayo, "Four-Part Disharmony," review of 1912, p. 70.

Washington Monthly, June, 1998, Evan Thomas, review of Acheson, p. 40.

Washington Post Book World, May 31, 1981, Paul C. Warnke, review of Solvency; March 27, 1988, Richard Rhodes, review of America Invulnerable.



Los Angeles Times, October 14, 2004, p. B11.

New York Times, October 11, 2004, p. A27.

Times (London, England), October 18, 2004, p. 49.

Washington Post, October 10, 2004, Matt Schudel, "James Chace, 72; Wrote on Foreign Policy," p. C11.


American Prospect, (October 19, 2004), Sidney Blumenthal, Michael Tomasky, Jane Mayer, and Ted Widmer, "James Chace, 1931–2004."

New York Times Online, (October 11, 2004).

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Chace, James 1931–2004

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