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Wise Men Paperback – January 15, 1988


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 864 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (January 15, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671657127
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671657123
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,459,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This extensive group-portrait by two Time news editors trumpets the role of six policymakersDean Acheson, Averell Harriman, George Kennan, John McCloy Jr., Charles Bohlen, Robert Lovettin taking postWW II America from isolationism to a recognition that the U.S. "would have to assume the burden of a global role." The irony is that, as elder statesmen, they sometimes warned against the interventionist momentum they had helped create, as this behind-the-scenes account makes clear. The authors' portrayal of the six as the hidden architects behind the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan and Cold War containment will certainly provoke debate. Based on prodigious research, including interviews with four of the six, the tome often sounds like an official biography ("Kennan had tortuously conflicted feelings about being tapped to be part of the American elite") and the prose echoes Time's style (Dean Rusk, "the round-faced Georgian"). History buffs will follow with interest the minor revelations that spill forth as the six advise presidents from F. D. R. to L. B. J. Major ad/promo.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The authors, Time editors, chronicle the activities of six gifted friendsDean Acheson, Charles E. Bohlen, W. Averell Harriman, George Kennan, Robert Lovett, and John J. McCloywho were instrumental in developing U.S. diplomacy from the 1930s to the Vietnam War. Nurtured in the innocent internationalism of Woodrow Wilson, they applied their Ivy League educations to a variety of crises. Their successes outweighed their failures, and their service promoted the values of free trade, democratic capitalism, international cooperation, and pragmatism. Their lives provide a history of America's policy-making elite. But elitism breeds insularity, and the shift away from great wars between industrialized nations and toward small unit actions in wars of national liberation was not recognized by these men. Though superbly written, this book's primary value is anecdotal. James L . Jablonowski, History Dept., Marquette Univ., Milwaukee
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I'd highly recommend this book to those who are interested in our prior history.
B.O.B.
Their outsized personalities, and forceful actions, brought order to the post-war chaos and left a legacy that dominates the way the world works to this very day.
Daniel J. McGarigle
This is an excellent book by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas, two very good authors.
J. J. Charles

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

81 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Mark S. Kucinic on January 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
In a 1996 interview with David Gergen on NPR, one of this book's central characters makes a case for, what I will hazard to suggest, is one of the authors' central views;

DAVID GERGEN: Let me ask you this in terms of thinking back over then of that period of American foreign policy in the last forty or fifty years, one of the ironies here is that in an age of information you suggest we have too little wisdom.
GEORGE KENNAN: Yes, I do, and one of the things that bothers me about the computer culture of the present age is that one of the things of which it seems to me we have the least need is further information. What we really need is intelligent guidance in what to do with the information we've got.

Thus The Wise Men becomes a paean to, as the authors' admit at the outset, "the twentieth-century tradition of an informal brain trust of internationalists who first served Woodrow Wilson at Versailles and returned home to found the Council on Foreign Relations, " establishing along the way, "a distinguished network connecting Wall Street, Washington, worthy foundations, and proper clubs." The polemics about where one finds wisdom aside, The Wise Men provides a fascinating and uncompromising study of the evolution of U.S. foreign policy vis-à-vis the Soviet Union from the establishment of formal relations during the Roosevelt administration to Vietnam from the perspective of six of it's most significant players; Dean Acheson, Charles "Chip" Bohlen, Averell Harriman, George Kennan, Robert Lovett and John McCloy with side trips into electoral politics and the Middle East.
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39 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on July 10, 2008
Format: Paperback
... of a ten-year-old book that shouldn't be forgotten, the "biography" of American foreign policy from the Truman years to the apotheosis of Reagan. Like most biographies, this one concentrates on the childhood of the Cold War containment/exhaustion strategy, the DNA so to speak of neo-conservatism, born of a Democratic mother and a Republican father. Any reader of my other reviews, who doubts my assertion that Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Bush were mere inheritors of a foreign policy as rigidly sustained as if by primogeniture, should take on this book as ferociously as you dare.

The six Wise Men -- McCloy, Bohlen, Acheson, Lovett, Harriman, and Kennan -- would be the last to blush at being identified as "The Greatest Generation" or "The Best and the Brightest." Their egos and their sense of elite entitlement to lead are central to their story. This is a deeper portrait of their intellectual mode than either of those two just-mentioned best-sellers. Authors Isaacson and Thomas are clearly of the same "old school" as their subjects. Their admiration is in a sense self-adulation; even when the Wise Men acknowledged errors, the very nature of their errors turned out to reflect wisdom. My own admiration for the six is considerably more limited, but it's hard to deny the authors' thesis that these Yale and Harvard whiz-kids and their colleagues were the movers-and-shakers of administration after administration. Even as some of them lost a portion of their self-assurance in light of the massive failure in Vietnam, they continued to limn the hegemonist, exceptionalist conception of America which has continued to fail up to the current massive failure in Iraq. Given that all six were perceived as "liberals" aligned with Democratic administrations, some partisans of the other party may come to this book with an established antipathy toward its subjects. All I can say to that is "read it and learn!"
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56 of 69 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is fantastically interesting. The detail and the descriptions of personalities involved make the subject matter more than palatable, even to the less scholarly among us. The book is, however, very, very long and would have perhaps been better broken up into several volumes. I would characterize it as very well written, exhaustively researched, slightly fawning and uncritical at times, and, in general, well worth lugging around.
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47 of 60 people found the following review helpful By R. Hallberg on March 17, 2006
Format: Paperback
A very interesting book, but you have to be able to read between

the lines. Isaacson paints a picture of six powerful men who did

everything they could for US and mankind in general.

Another reviewer used the words fawning and uncritical to

describe the book. Well, there is a good reason for that.

Walter Isaacson, head of Aspen Institute, is himself a member

of the same "Insider Establishment" as the six men in

the book.

For kissing up, he has also been made a member of the

powerful Council on Foreign Relations.

This book should be combined with other more critical or

even negative writings on the subject to help build a more

realistic view.

For example I recommend books by the late Anthony Sutton.

Averell Harriman was a particularly unsavoury character, a

notorious Bilderberger, whose nefarious machinations are

becoming more and more known to the public, even

though still much is suppressed by the media.

Some people I have talked to think that the book should be called "the Wise Guys" instead of "the Wise Men" , but personally I wouldn't go that far.

The world isn't just black and white after all. These guys

looked after their own like everybody else on the planet and maybe, just maybe, in the meantime something good came out of it.
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