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The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made
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The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made

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4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  1,223 ratings  ·  43 reviews
With a new introduction by the authors, this is the classic account of the American statesmen who rebuilt the world after the catastrophe of World War II.The Wise Men introduces the original brightest and best, leaders whose outsized personalities and actions brought order to postwar chaos: Averell Harriman, freewheeling diplomat and Roosevelt’s special envoy to Churchill ...more
Paperback, 864 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 15th 1988)
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John
I purchased this book at the Friends of the Library used book store at the Public Library in Laguna Beach, California. It is a formidable-looking book. I bought it mainly on the strength of one of its authors, Walter Isaacson. I have read some of his other biographies and found them very engagingly written. There is an inscription on the front flyleaf of my copy that reads, "To George & Julie Merry Xmas 1986 Hope this brings knowledge to your whole family Love Francie". The book had all the ...more
Eric_W
This is the story of what became known as the "American Establishment." "Establishment" was a term that originated in England to describe a circle of powerful men. Richard Rovere has proposed that the two parties in this country are really either populist or establishment, not conservative or liberal.

The American Establishment were "Atlanticists." Their similar schooling gave them an appreciation for Western European values and the perceived benefit of a traditional Europe. They were instrument
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Vivek
Dec 24, 2009 Vivek rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in American foreign policy
This book works on two levels. On one, it is an excellent biography of six men dedicated to public service who were involved in American diplomacy during a critical time in the nation's history (WWII & the early Cold War). On another it explains how the powerful ideas (containment, anti-communism) guiding American foreign policy during the Cold War were formed and the force that these ideas took on beyond the control of their creators.

This is the best book I've read about the Cold War. Othe
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Steven Peterson
This is a fascinating "collective biography" of six major, interrelated figures in the American establishment from the 1930s into the 1960s. Some might think of this as another "Best and Brightest," set earlier in time. But Halberstam's use of that term was ironic; here, the authors are not speaking ironically when they refer to the six as "the original brightest and best" (Page 19).

The beginning lays out what follows. Isaacson and Thomas observe that (Page 19): "Six friends. Their lives intert
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Jana
True statesmen who served in both Democratic and Republican administrations. We need people like this in government today.
Ted Hunt
I purchased this book when it was published in 1986, but never read it because I was unsure about reading a book about the Groton/Yale crowd who became the U.S. foreign policy establishment's "Wise Men." I was not interested in reading about the prep school/Ivy League world that these men emerged from, and, as expected. the book began with a thorough description of that world. However, if one gets through the first hundred pages, with its crew races and polo games, then the reader gets a superb ...more
K. Euler
These are six men who have, for the most part, been forgotten by history. But, luckily, this book does its part to resurrect them and reveal their power in the decades from WWII to Vietnam. They were responsible for rebuilding the world post-war and for constructing U.S. strategy during the Cold War. By the time Vietnam rolled around, they were known as WOM (Wise Old Men), and were drawn back in to advise Johnson.

It was an interesting biography in that it tackles six lives with relative ease. T
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Nicole Nathanson
I can't believe it's finally over. I feel like I've been reading this book my whole life. It is so. Darn. LONG. And I like long books! Yeesh.

While interesting and thorough, I felt like I couldn't see the forest because there were just too many flippin' trees. There was just way, way too much detail. This is the second Walter Isaacson book I've read, and his writing philosophy seems to be, "If a point is worth making, it's worth belaboring." Not only was the mind-numbingly comprehensive recitati
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Sarah
I read this book a long time ago, and it was interesting to see how my perspective on these men and their effect on foreign policy in particular has changed. This is still, in my opinion, a well researched and well written book, and while not perfectly balanced, Isaacson presents fairly balanced very of men who he clearly admired greatly.

The author does a very detailed job in explaining the webs that connect these men to each other, and to other people of power, and how those webs allowed them
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Kent
A portrait of The Establishment: the men--estrogen levels all but undetectable in this circle--responsible for defining the international role America was to play following the second world war. Very well written, and not an easy task, I imagine, intertwining the biographies of six men. It did take me a while to get a handle on the dramatis personae, though. At first, I was a bit dismayed that there was so little reference to the domestic situation of the times until I realized to what extent US ...more
Kenneth
Court History that shows that even at the height of democratic success in America (contrary to popular perception) relatively few individuals actually ruled the State in ways largely unbeknownst to the general public (who were mostly content not knowing having “authorized” those in office via elections).

Fast read despite the length. Covers the full gamut of history in the 20th century. The first chapters, in particular, are of interest in explaining the rise to power of the six men discussed, es
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Ellis Katz
What a great book! The authors give us a sympathetic, yet frank study of the six men who dominated American foreign policy making from the 1930s through the 1950s. Dean Acheson, Chip Bphlen, Averell Harriman, George Kennan, Robert Lovett and John McCloy constituted a foreign policy elite that crossed institutional lines to shape our policy towards the Soviet Union during the Cold War Era. This is not to say that thy always agreed with each other. Indeed they they had some pretty nasty fights, bu ...more
Zach
Truly, a remarkable tour de force by Isaacson and Thomas about the six men that shaped the post-World War II world and the Pax Americana. If one wants to find out how the world got to where it was during the Cold War, read this book. For a Cold War enthusiast like myself and someone who wrote their master's thesis on NATO, this book really allowed me to see deeper into how these six men pushed America to become the indispensable nation that it is today. There are great thinkers in foreign policy ...more
Christopher
Apr 10, 2007 Christopher marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
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
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Washington Post
A study of the men who advised Harry Truman about how to rebuild Europe and contain communism in the years after World War II.

“Washington was filled with excitement that sunny Monday: Dwight Eisenhower, the returning hero, was greeted by the largest crowds in the city’s history as he paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue. Wedged into Truman’s afternoon schedule — between lunches and dinners and other ceremonies honoring Eisenhower — was the meeting on Japanese strategy.”
Chris Bartholomew
An exceptionally good book about a group of men in positions of power and influence from the close of WWII up until the Nixon years. It mostly revolves around Dean Achenson, George Kennan, John McCloy, Averell Harriman and Charles Bolhlen. All were instrumental in reshaping both U.S. policy and the future of Europe after the war. They remained over sized figures through both the Korean and Vietnam wars. The authors did a great job covering a lot of ground.
Tom Sakell
Maybe your high school history program was like mine: 3 1/2 years on the American Revolution, 6 months on the Sixties and and afternoon on World War II.

This book helps me understand who informed Truman of his choices and opportunities when he suddenly took office. Russia, Poland and two atomic bombs.

Sure, it's an immense book. Read the good parts if you're so inclined.
Cathy
I am fascinated by Isaacson's in-depth details of pre- and post- WWII government in the U.S. He takes six men who were highly instrumental in rebuilding post-war Europe and gives really good details of both their successes and failures as well as their personal background. You also get a glimpse into Turman's courage in some of his decisions.
Kevin Sheives
Fantastic, gripping portrayal of the key post Cold War foreign policy establishment. Love how Isaacson and Thomas weave friendship and policy together. Always nice to read a bio where Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower play secondary roles to underbelly of US foreign policy during those turbulent times.
Leah W
Aug 15, 2009 Leah W marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
1/17/09: I haven't finished anything to justify starting another (huge!) book, but I'm reading this in celebration of smart people being involved in government again (and for that matter, as a reminder that smart, well-meaning people in government can't always guarantee the outcome you'd like to see).
Susan
This fascinating collective biography of such establishment figures as Dean Achison and George Kennan teaches a LOT of history, from WW I through the early 1980s. I listened to this book, despite the rather annoying narrator.
Andrew
Given to me by Jenny Laws (she bought it at Truman's Little White House in Key West). Tale of six men that formulated foreign policy during the Cold War. Very insightful.
Prudy Gourguechon
Definitely worth reading. Authors take a rather unsympathetic view of the sensitive George Kennan but otherwise do a masterful job of history thru the lives of exceptional men.
Harold
I bought this because it is co-written by Walter Isaacson, who wrote the Jobs biography, and a wonderful book on Kissinger.

I got about half way through. It is the six biographies of men I vaguely remember as being aging luminaries when I was a child. Unfortunately the idea of a 6 person biography (instead of a diplomatic history of the period) doesn't work. None of them was important or interesting enough for me to want to read about their formative years (but I did). And as adults, I couldn't k
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Ian Divertie
Truly Great Men! These are the guys that saved us from our worst selves during WW II and the Cold War.
Richard
Outstanding history of the Cold War
Phil
Skip the first handful of chapters if you don't care about what grade schools they went to. I stopped reading in 1952 (in the book). The book is a defense of these men and that is apparent. not worth finishing.
Waukena Cuyjet
So far interesting lives
Grindy Stone
This might have rated five stars, but there are a dozen or so anecdotes about the protagonists that seem pat, contrived, or apocryphal. The great Walter Isaacson had a co-writer on this one - I'm going to guess that these lame jokes are the fault of the co-writer.
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Walter Isaacson, the CEO of the Aspen Institute, has been chairman of CNN and the managing editor of "Time" magazine. He is the author of "Steve Jobs"; "Einstein: His Life and Universe"; "Benjamin Franklin: An American Life"; and "Kissinger: A Biography," and the coauthor of "The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made." He lives in Washington, DC.
More about Walter Isaacson...
Steve Jobs Einstein: His Life and Universe Benjamin Franklin: An American Life The Innovators: How a Group of  Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution Kissinger

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