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The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War Hardcover – October 1, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

An author tending toward criticism of American foreign affairs (Overthrow, 2006), Kinzer casts a jaundiced eye on siblings who conducted them in the 1950s. Framing his assessment as a dual biography of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and CIA director Allen Dulles, Kinzer roots their anti-Communist policies in their belief in American exceptionalism and its Wilsonian application to promote democracy in the world. Less abstractly, the Dulles brothers were politically connected Wall Street lawyers, servants of corporate power, according to Kinzer. Their personalities, however, were starkly different. John Foster was serious-minded and maritally faithful. Gregarious Allen was a serial cheater. With such character portraits as backdrop, Kinzer arraigns the Dulles brothers’ operations against several countries. Detailing American actions in Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, and Cuba, Kinzer crafts a negative perspective on the legacy of the Dulles brothers, whom he absolves slightly from blame because their compatriots widely approved of their providential sense of America’s role in world affairs. A historical critique sure to spark debate. --Gilbert Taylor

From Bookforum

Two exceptionally important stories take up the bulk of Kinzer's book, and both are told with considerable insight and disciplined prose.The first is the tale of the "secret world war" of American violence and political subversion in the early half of the Cold War, and this is the story Kinzer most clearly wishes to tell. The second, closely related, is an instiutional saga of the consequences that arose from the shared power of two brothers who simultaneously ran the CIA and the state department—the covert and public faces of American foreign policy. —Chris Bray
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; 1St Edition edition (October 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805094970
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805094978
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (393 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen Kinzer was Istanbul bureau chief for The New York Times and is now that paper's national cultural correspondent. He is the author of Blood of Brothers and co-author of Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala. He lives in Chicago.

Customer Reviews

Kinzer's book is engaging, and very well written and edited.
dbrick
You will know the Dulles brothers and understand much about the development of current US foreign policy having read this book.
William P. Brinnier
When you read this book, you come face to face for the real reasons THEY (most of the rest of the world) hate us.
Mike Feder/Sirius XM and PRN.FM Radio

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

217 of 247 people found the following review helpful By Mike Feder/Sirius XM and PRN.FM Radio on October 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
You know those reviews clips, headlines or ads that say "Must Read" or, "...if you only read one book this year..."
I have to say, with all the books I've read before and am reading currently, this one is absolutely the most eye-opening, informative and provocative one I've come across in many years.
And--after all I've read about American politics and culture--after all the experts I've interviewed on my radio show... I shouldn't be shocked any more. But the scope of insanity, corruption and hypocrisy revealed in this history of the Dulles brothers is, in fact, truly shocking.

Just when you thought you knew just how bad the United States has been in the world, you come across a history like this and you suddenly become aware of the real depths to which "our" government has sunk in subverting decency, freedom and democracy all over the world.

George W. Bush asked the question after 9/11-- "Why do they hate us?" The answer he came up with was, "Because of our Freedoms." When you read this book, you come face to face for the real reasons THEY (most of the rest of the world) hate us. It's because these Bush's "freedoms" are only for the United States, no other non-white, non-Christian, non-corporate cultures need apply.

The missionary Christian, Corporatism of the Dulles Brothers--John, the former head of the largest corporate law firm in the world, then Secretary of State, and his brother Allen, the head of the CIA all the way from Korea through Vietnam--constitutes the true behavioral DNA of America-in-the-world. It's enough to make you weep for the billions of people this country has deprived of freedom and security for the last sixty years.

I grew up practically in love with America and the Declaration of Independence.
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80 of 93 people found the following review helpful By Jacob G. Hornberger on October 8, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book is fascinating and gripping. I couldn't put it down. It goes a long way in explaining the plight in which the United States finds itself today.

The book's general focus is on the actions of the CIA and the State Department during the early period of the Cold War, specifically 1947 through the late 1960s and the role that the Dulles brothers played during that period of time. John Foster Dulles was serving as Secretary of State and Allen Dulles was serving as director of the CIA. The book specifically focuses on six regime-change operations during the Dulles brothers' tenure: Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cuba, and the Congo, including the first presidentially authorized assassinations of foreign leaders in American history.

We live in a time today when many Americans exalt the national-security state. They honestly believe that if it weren't for the big standing army, the overseas military empire, the CIA, and the NSA, the United States wouldn't exist for very long. Without the national-security state, these Americans honestly believe, America would quickly fall to the communists, the terrorists, the illegal aliens, the drug dealers, or some combination thereof.

They sing the praises of the troops and automatically assume that the more people they kill over there, they safer we are here at home. They glorify the CIA, even while not knowing exactly what it's doing--and, more important, not wanting to know. They like the fact that the NSA is spying on them but would prefer not knowing that it's spying on them. They simply cannot imagine living the life that our American ancestors lived for more than a century and a half before World War II --a life without a national security state.
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38 of 46 people found the following review helpful By RPP on May 19, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Kinzer's book is at its best when he lets the words and actions of the Dulles brothers speak for themselves. It is much weaker when he gets basic facts wrong -- starting in the first paragraph: Chiang Kai-Shek never set foot the United States, so he could hardly have been present at Foster Dulles' funeral -- and when he describes even a spectacularly corrupt dictator like Sukarno in heroic terms, because the brothers maneuvered to overthrow him. For a much better-written book on cabinet-level officials who helped shape US foreign policy following WW II and into the Cold War read "The Wise Men" by Isaacson and Thomas.
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77 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Chris on October 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The American people and the world at large still feel the reverberations from the policies and adventures of the Dulles' brothers. They are in part to blame for our difficult relations with both Cuba and Iran. This history helps answer the question, "Why do they hate us?" The answer isn't our freedom, it's because we try to topple their governments.
The Dulles brother grew up in a privileged, religious environment. They were taught to see the world in strictly black and white. Both were well-educated at Groton and the Ivy League schools. Both worked on and off in the government, but spent a significant amount of time at the immensely powerful law firm, Sullivan & Cromwell. They had virtually identical world views but nearly opposite personalities. (John) Foster was dour, awkward, and straight-laced. Allen was outgoing, talkative, and had loose morals.
There's no need for a blow-by-blow of their lives in this review. The core of the book revolves around Foster Dulles as the Secretary of State under Eisenhower and Allen as the Director of the CIA. The center of the book is divided into six parts, each one dealing with a specific foreign intervention: Mossaddegh of Iran, Arbenz of Guatemala, Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam, Lumumba of the Congo, Sukarno of Indonesia and Castro of Cuba.
The Dulles view was that you were either behind the US 110% or a communist, with no room for neutrals. Neutrals were to be targeted for regime change. The author lays out explicitly all the dirty tricks our government tried on other world leaders, from poison to pornography. This dark side of American foreign policy can help Americans better understand our relationships with other countries.
My difficulty with this book is the final chapter.
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The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War
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