The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War

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A joint biography of John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles, who led the United States into an unseen war that decisively shaped today’s world

During the 1950s, when the Cold War was at its peak, two immensely powerful brothers led the United States into a series of foreign adventures whose effects are still shaking the world.

John Foster Dulles was secretary of state while his brother, Allen Dulles, was director of the Central Intelligence ...

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The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War

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A joint biography of John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles, who led the United States into an unseen war that decisively shaped today’s world

During the 1950s, when the Cold War was at its peak, two immensely powerful brothers led the United States into a series of foreign adventures whose effects are still shaking the world.

John Foster Dulles was secretary of state while his brother, Allen Dulles, was director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In this book, Stephen Kinzer places their extraordinary lives against the background of American culture and history. He uses the framework of biography to ask: Why does the United States behave as it does in the world?

The Brothers explores hidden forces that shape the national psyche, from religious piety to Western movies—many of which are about a noble gunman who cleans up a lawless town by killing bad guys. This is how the Dulles brothers saw themselves, and how many Americans still see their country’s role in the world.

Propelled by a quintessentially American set of fears and delusions, the Dulles brothers launched violent campaigns against foreign leaders they saw as threats to the United States. These campaigns helped push countries from Guatemala to the Congo into long spirals of violence, led the United States into the Vietnam War, and laid the foundation for decades of hostility between the United States and countries from Cuba to Iran.

The story of the Dulles brothers is the story of America. It illuminates and helps explain the modern history of the United States and the world.

A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of 2013

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Adam LeBor
Anyone wanting to know why the United States is hated across much of the world need look no farther than this book. The Brothers is a riveting chronicle of government-sanctioned murder, casual elimination of "inconvenient" regimes, relentless prioritization of American corporate interests and cynical arrogance on the part of two men who were once among the most powerful in the world…In his detailed, well-constructed and highly readable book, Stephen Kinzer…shows how the brothers drove America's interventionist foreign policy.
Publishers Weekly
Born into Eastern establishment privilege, these two men strode into the uppermost strata of the U.S. government with a virulent anti-communist bent that infused US foreign policy during the Cold War. The siblings were temperamental opposites. Foster was a social misfit and one-woman man who memorized biblical passages, while his younger brother, Allen, was a libertine with a taste for servants and prone to fits of debauchery. But brotherly camaraderie is tangential here as Kinzer (Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future), an award-winning journalist, focuses squarely on how the men became architects of the emerging superpower. Restrained from their most ambitious foreign adventures under the Truman administration, their fortunes changed when the next president, Dwight Eisenhower, appointed Foster to lead the State Department and Allen the CIA. Consumed by their quest to avert Soviet domination across the globe, their fingerprints were all over some of the most sordid episodes of the Cold War: bringing down duly elected governments in Guatemala and Iran; sowing the seeds of the Vietnam War; assassinating Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba; and attempting to overthrow Fidel Castro. This approachable history is a candid appraisal of how the Dulles's grandiose geopolitical calculations set in motion events that continue to reverberate in American foreign policy today. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
Named a Best Book of the Year by and Kirkus Reviews

"[A] fluently written, ingeniously researched, thrillerish work of popular history… Mr. Kinzer has brightened his dark tale with an abundance of racy stories. Gossip nips at the heels of history on nearly every page." – The Wall Street Journal

"Anyone wanting to know why the United States is hated across much of the world need look no farther than this book... A riveting chronicle." – The New York Times Book Review

"[The Brothers] is a bracing, disturbing and serious study of the exercise of American global power… Kinzer, a former foreign correspondent for the New York Times, displays a commanding grasp of the vast documentary record, taking the reader deep inside the first decades of the Cold War. He brings a veteran journalist’s sense of character, moment and detail. And he writes with a cool and frequently elegant style."—The Washington Post

"[A] fast-paced and often gripping dual biography."—The Boston Globe

"Stephen Kinzer's sparkling new biography...suggests that the story of the Dulles brothers is the story of America."—Washington Monthly

"Two exceptionally important stories take up the bulk of Kinzer’s book, and both are told with considerable insight and disciplined prose."—Bookforum

"The errors of the Dulles brothers are vividly described in this highly entertaining book…A thoroughly informative book."— Revista: The Harvard Review of Latin America

"A historical critique sure to spark debate."—Booklist

"The culmination of an oeuvre (All the Shah’s Men, Overthrow and others) featuring the Dulles brothers in supporting roles, The Brothers draws them from the shadows, provoking a reevaluation of their influence and its effects."—

"A secret history, enriched and calmly retold; a shocking account of the misuse of American corporate, political and media power; a shaming reflection on the moral manners of post imperial Europe; and an essential allegory for our own times."—John le Carré

"Kinzer tells the fascinating story of the Dulles brothers, central figures in U.S. foreign policy and intelligence activities for over four decades. He describes U.S. efforts to change governments during this period in Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Cuba, and other countries in exciting detail."—John Deutch, former director, Central Intelligence Agency

"As someone who reported from the Communist prison yard of Eastern Europe, I knew that the Cold War really was a struggle between Good and Evil. But Stephen Kinzer, in this compressed, richly-detailed polemic, demonstrates how at least in the 1950s it might have been waged with more subtlety than it was."—Robert D. Kaplan, author of The Revenge of Geography

"A disturbing, provocative, important book. Stephen Kinzer vividly brings the Dulles brothers, once paragons of American Cold War supremacy, to life and makes a strong case against the dangers of American exceptionalism."—Evan Thomas, author of Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World

"The Dulles brothers, one a self-righteous prude, the other a charming libertine, shared a common vision: a world run from Washington by people like themselves. With ruthless determination, they pursued, acquired, and wielded power, heedless of the consequences for others. They left behind a legacy of mischief. Theirs is a whale of a story and Stephen Kinzer tells it with verve, insight, and just the right amount of indignation."—Andrew J. Bacevich, author of Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War

Library Journal
Award-winning foreign correspondent Kinzer uses Wild West mythology—with the good guys gunning down the bad guys in a lawless town—to explain the policies of Cold War Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother, CIA director Allen Dulles.
Kirkus Reviews
Longtime foreign correspondent Kinzer (International Relations/Boston Univ.; Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future, 2010, etc.) portrays the dark side of Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration through the activities of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother Allen, the director of the CIA. The author reveals the pair's responsibility for the wave of assassinations, coups and irregular wars during Eisenhower's administrations as the outcome of three generations of their family's involvement in America's increasingly active foreign policy, and he documents the way the brothers created the political shape of the Cold War in the 1950s, with John Foster providing the arrogant and pompous public face for the covert operations organized by brother Allen. Kinzer also shows how Eisenhower's knowledge of the costs of open war between states led him to support their covert operations to "strike back…to fight, but in a different way." The author discusses John Foster's assimilation of the undeclared war against Soviet communism into a Manichaean framework of the eternal struggle of good vs. evil. He also examines how, during the 1930s, he was seen by some as "the chief agent for the banking circles which rescued Hitler from the financial depths." Later, Allen recruited Nazi leaders to help shape postwar Europe against the Soviets during the war's final stages. For Kinzer, the brothers epitomized the presumption that America has the right to "guide the course of history" because it is "more moral and farther-seeing than other countries." In addition to providing illuminating biographical information, the author clearly presents the Dulles family's contributions to the development of a legal and political structure for American corporations' international politics. A well-documented and shocking reappraisal of two of the shapers of the American century.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781482928334
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/1/2013
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Sales rank: 142,983
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Kinzer is the author of Reset, Overthrow, All the Shah's Men, and numerous other books. An award-winning foreign correspondent, he served as the New York Times's bureau chief in Turkey, Germany, and Nicaragua and as the Boston Globe's Latin America correspondent. He is a visiting fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, contributes to The New York Review of Books, and writes a column on world affairs for The Guardian. He lives in Boston.

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Read an Excerpt


When John Foster Dulles died on May 24, 1959, a bereft nation mourned more intensely than it had since the death of Franklin Roosevelt fourteen years before. Thousands lined up outside the National Cathedral in Washington to pass by his bier. Dignitaries from around the world, led by Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of West Germany and President Chiang Kai-shek of Taiwan, came to the funeral. It was broadcast live on the ABC and CBS television networks. Many who watched agreed that the world had lost, as President Eisenhower said in his eulogy, “one of the truly great men of our time.”

Two months later, Eisenhower signed an executive order decreeing that in tribute to this towering figure, the new super-airport being built at Chantilly, Virginia, would be named Dulles International.

Enthusiasm for this idea waned after Eisenhower left the White House in 1961. The new president, John F. Kennedy, did not want to name an ultra-modern piece of America’s future after a crusty Cold War militant. As the airport neared completion, the chairman of the Federal Aviation Authority announced that it would be named Chantilly International. He left open the possibility that a terminal might be named for Dulles.

That sent partisans into action. One of them was Dulles’s brother, Allen, who had run the Central Intelligence Agency for nearly a decade. Pressure on Kennedy grew, and he finally relented. On November 17, 1962, with both Eisenhower and Allen Dulles watching, he presided over the official opening of Dulles International Airport.

“How appropriate it is that this should be named after Secretary Dulles,” Kennedy said in his speech. “He was a member of an extraordinary family: his brother, Allen Dulles, who served in a great many administrations, stretching back, I believe, to President Hoover, all the way to this one; John Foster Dulles, who at the age of 19 was, rather strangely, the secretary to the Chinese delegation to The Hague, and who served nearly every Presidential administration from that time forward to his death in 1959; their uncle, who was secretary of state, Mr. Lansing; their grandfather, who was secretary of state, Mr. Foster. I know of few families and certainly few contemporaries who rendered more distinguished and dedicated service to their country.”

Then, in what became a newsreel clip seen around the world, Kennedy pulled back a curtain and unveiled the airport’s symbolic centerpiece: a larger-than-life bust of John Foster Dulles. It was on a pedestal overlooking an evocative reflecting pool at the center of the airport that the architect, Eero Saarinen, hoped would calm travelers’ turbulent spirits.

Half a century after Dulles’s death stunned Americans, few remember him. Many associate his name with an airport and nothing more. Even his bust has disappeared.

During renovations in the 1990s, the reflecting pool at Dulles International Airport was filled. The bust was removed. When the renovation was complete, it did not reappear. No one seemed to notice.

After several fruitless inquiries, I finally tracked down the bust. A woman who works for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority arranged for me to view it. It stands in a private conference room opposite Baggage Claim Carousel #3. Beside it are plaques thanking the Airports Authority for sponsoring local golf tournaments. Dulles looks big-eyed and oddly diffident, anything but heroic.

Dedicated by the president of the United States while the world watched, now shunted into a little-used room opposite baggage claim, this bust reflects what history has done to the Dulles brothers.

A biography published three years after John Foster Dulles died asserted that “he provoked an extraordinary mixture of veneration and hatred during his lifetime, and since his death, in spite of a surge of emotion in his favor towards the end, his memory has remained contentious and intriguing.” That memory faded quickly. In 1971 a journalist wrote that although the Dulles name had not been completely forgotten, “certainly most of the éclat had gone out of it.”

John Foster Dulles was, as one biographer wrote, “a secretary of state so powerful and implacable that no government in what was then fervently referred to as the Free World would have dared to make a decision of international importance without first getting his nod of approval.” Another biographer called his brother, Allen, “the greatest intelligence officer who ever lived.”

“Do you realize my responsibilities?” Allen asked his sister when he was at the peak of his power. “I have to send people out to get killed. Who else in this country in peacetime has the right to do that?”

These uniquely powerful brothers set in motion many of the processes that shape today’s world. Understanding who they were, and what they did, is a key to uncovering the obscured roots of upheaval in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

A book tracing these roots could not have been written in an earlier era. Only long after the Dulles brothers died did the full consequences of their actions become clear. They may have believed that the countries in which they intervened would quickly become stable, prosperous, and free. More often, the opposite happened. Some of the countries they targeted have never recovered. Nor has the world.

This story is rich with lessons for the modern era. It is about exceptionalism, the view that the United States is inherently more moral and farther-seeing than other countries and therefore may behave in ways that others should not. It also addresses the belief that because of its immense power, the United States can not only topple governments but guide the course of history.

To these widely held convictions, the Dulles brothers added two others, both bred into them over many years. One was missionary Christianity, which tells believers that they understand eternal truths and have an obligation to convert the unenlightened. Alongside it was the presumption that protecting the right of large American corporations to operate freely in the world is good for everyone.

The story of the Dulles brothers is the story of America. It illuminates and helps explain the modern history of the United States and the world.

Copyright © 2013 by Stephen Kinzer

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Table of Contents

Introduction      1


      1. Unmentionable Happenings      7

      2. The Taint of My Environment      37

      3. Dull, Duller, Dulles      63

      4. That Fella from Wall Street      86


      5. A Whirling Dervish with a College Education      119

      6. The Most Forthright Pro-Communist      147

      7. A Matchless Interplay of Ruthlessness and Guile      175

      8. The Self-Intoxicated President      216

      9. The Tall, Goateed Radical      247

      10. The Bearded Strongman      284


      11. A Face of God      311

Notes      329

Bibliography      368

Acknowledgments      383

Index      385

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Customer Reviews

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( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2013

    A useful and informative addition to American foreign policy boo

    A useful and informative addition to American foreign policy books. Well-researched and generally well-written. See all the professional reviews above. Hardcover edition has extensive footnotes and lengthy bibliography. The same notes and bibliography are available in the Nook version, although one has to go through a few steps to access them, which is a problem.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 14, 2013

    Titallating, but unreferenced

    Aside from the fact that the book seems to jump around a bit, it is interesting; but there are no foot/end notes and the quoted material is often not attributed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 6, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Well all right. Finished this baby and found it stunningly infor

    Well all right. Finished this baby and found it stunningly informative. These two brothers epitomized the best and the worst of American foreign policy during the Cold War period. They both had long careers in the foreign service, corporate law and international business and a dash of espionage and spying during the Second World War. They worked their magic prior to the Cold War by associating with the rich and connected moving chess pieces around the world chess board in service to their business associates. They became very wealthy and single-minded in their hatred for Communism and the Soviet Union in particular. With both ends of American policy in their hands, they contrived along with their boss, President Eisenhower, to attack both diplomatically and physically any of the leaders and countries they viewed as threats to the "American Way of Life". This included the Soviet Union itself and its East European allies, freedom loving states like Iran under Mossadegh, Guatemala under Arbenz, and nationalist governments in Egypt, Laos and the Congo. They used tax monies to buy politicians and corrupt officials in these countries as well as arm insurgents and "dead enders" looking to overthrow legitimately elected governments. The older brother Foster, was a driven person whose policy focus and obsessive thinking has had a lasting influence on American policy to the present day. And sadly not for the best. The other character, Allen, was a smart but deadly man who played with men's lives and made his rationalizations of how much good he was doing for America while directing the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in its early years. Their record of mayhem, failure and murder in service to a clueless American public is legion. Or was the American public not clueless but onboard with the antics of its CIA. The book is wonderful in relating the history of these two men, their work in their respective government posts and the wreckage that they left. Definitely worth reading to get a better handle on what America has wrought in the world in the last century (and no doubt is doing similarly this century).”

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2014

    I like pie

    Pie is awsone

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 19, 2014

    I never recieved this book, and I have paid for it.

    B & N has not responded to any of my contacts (email, chat and phone calls)!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2013

    Poorly written, at least in Nook form. Fascinating subject, but

    Poorly written, at least in Nook form. Fascinating subject, but poorly delivered. Way too much money for what you get.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted January 19, 2014

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    Posted March 13, 2014

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