Van Galbraith’s credentials were pretty impressive. We were classmates at Yale and then he went to Harvard Law School. After that came service as a naval officer, in the folds of the CIA. Then a top law firm in New York City, and on to London, where he represented his firm and did private business. But his interest in public affairs was irresistible, and when Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president, Galbraith was sworn in as ambassador to France, abandoning even his post as chairman of the board of trustees of National Review. After Paris, back to the law and to business, but soon he was in Europe again, this time in Brussels as defense adviser to the U.S. mission at NATO. He pulled away from that in November, and died January 21 in New York of problems that traced to a cancer discovered, but not arrested, years ago.
A deskbound life? Hardly. He made four transoceanic passages with me on sailboats, performing duties at sea without ever learning, quite, how to sail. We skied together every winter and his proficiency there was that of an expert. He wrote and published two books and loved to give advice, oracular in tone, shrewd in conception — underestimated only by those of invincible ignorance who set his advice aside. They included an illustrious if wrongheaded company of presidents and kings and commissars.
In one enterprise he was unfailing. Everyone he knew came up upon his brightness of spirit. The acuity of his wit was always inflected through his personal generosity. When you add the hours at sea and the snows traversed together to the classroom work taken jointly, I must have spent more time with Evan Galbraith than with any other human being outside my family. The loss to his own family is awful to contemplate, while the pleasures he gave, in his seven decades, to all he brushed up against are as incalculable as the depths of his laughter and the joy he gave to the world.