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

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  2,402 ratings  ·  385 reviews
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
Paperback, 416 pages
Published October 7th 2014 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published October 1st 2013)
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Ian Divertie I worked for our "National Security State" for around thirty years and as time has gone by I become more and more disillusioned as to what we thought…moreI worked for our "National Security State" for around thirty years and as time has gone by I become more and more disillusioned as to what we thought we were doing. The lies we've told everyone and ourselves is unconscionable.(less)
Pearl The better question is why did JFK keep Allen Dulles as CIA Director.
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Mar 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book! Makes you question the notion that competence in managing American foreign policy has declined in recent years. As bad as the George W and chief henchman Dick Cheney legacy is, Eisenhower’s and the Dulles brothers’ is arguably worse…at least as bad. My notes below.

John Foster and Allen Dulles looked at the world through the same prism. Both had a strict Presbyterian upbringing. Both saw corporate interests, American interests and Christian morality as deeply intertwined. Both saw a
Nancy Oakes
My thanks to the people at LT early reviewers and to Henry Holt for my copy of this book. Simply put, it's amazing.

If you've ever just sat for a moment and wondered about why so much of the world hates us here in the US, this book will provide a few of the answers. It examines, among other things, how the brothers Dulles, Allen and John Foster (Foster), through their incredible political power and family/corporate/foreign connections, helped to shape our current world, paving the way for
Steven Z.
Nov 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having written or co-authored books on the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh, ALL THE SHAH’S MEN, Jacobo Arbenz, BITTER FRUIT, and a general compendium of American coups in OVERTHROW it seems inevitable that Stephen Kinzer, an award winning foreign correspondent for the New York Times would proceed to publish a work on the two men whose goal centered on maintaining American corporate interests abroad and were obsessed with the concept that indigenous nationalism was another term for communism. ...more
Tom LA
Nov 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Fascinating fresco of the early Cold War era as seen through the lives of the extraordinarily powerful Dulles brothers.

The author has an agenda: he is pushing the message that the Dulles brothers and Eisenhower made only terrible foreign policy mistakes that America is still paying for.

This position embraced by the author left me perplexed. YES, in those years the United States helped some coups that ended up in regime changes in Iran, Guatemala, Congo, and other countries, YES, from the “
Kyle  Federo
Oct 31, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a weak oversimplification of the early Cold War period. The author would have us believe that two brothers because they went to church and were lawyers for oil and fruit companies almost single handedly determined the foreign policy of the United States for not only the decade that they were government officials, but for the 4-5 decades that they have been dead! He tries to make us believe that it is because of the actions of these two brothers that much of the Muslim world wishes ...more
Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stephen Kinzer shows how instrumental these brothers were in the design of US foreign policy in the post war years. He shows how their attitudes and personalities were formed, developed, and grew to influence the course of history.

The brothers’ learned statecraft at their grandfather’s side. John W. Foster, US ambassador to three countries, later served as President Harrison’s trouble shooter and Secretary of State. He helped in the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani in Hawaii and later used his
First of all let me say that I've never had the experience of having people tell me just how much they've heard about a book or that they want to read it when they see me carrying around with me. I must've talked to almost 10 people who told me that. I received this book as a gift for Christmas last year and I just began it about a week and a half ago. Frankly I don't know what took me that long to read it. But now that I've read it all I can say is 'wow this book was amazing' an d everyone ...more
Oct 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stephen Kinzer's new biography of the Cold Warriors John Foster Dulles and his brother Allen (JFD was Secretary of State and AD was the head of the CIA during the Eisenhower years) is superb. Having grown up during the Cold War, I have a very strong sense of the mentality or paradigm that drove U.S. foreign and domestic policy during that period. Kinzer does a brilliant job of sketching what that paradigm was and why it persisted despite evidence that was frequently brought forward to discredit ...more
Frank Kelly
The Dulles brothers are two of the more fascinating figures in 20th century US foreign policy. One helped create the CIA and the other became the influential Secretary of State during the Eisenhower Administration. But their reach and impact reached back to World War l and the creation of the post-war world that directly created the world crisis that fomented World War ll.

Stephen Kinzer has done a lot of research on both brothers and presents a clear, crisp accounting of their lives -
I know, I know this isn't a real review— but isn't a Malory Archer gif almost as good?
Malory Archer Creepy Dulles Brothers OC
If not, then just take my word for it and read the book anyway. Seriously! Allen Dulles had a Jungian analysis done of Hitler (by a woman who was involved in his bizarre open marriage to Clover), and Foster (that's what all the cool kids called JFD) was so taken with the likes of Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie that he launched a Jazz Diplomacy initiative as Secretary of State. At the very least, the
James Murphy
Oct 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
I had to warm up to this book. I had to get used to the way the prose runs because rather than purring like a Cadillac it kind of clunks like an old farm tractor, an engine that misses and misfires, though it does slowly move along, planting the seeds of information and analysis. Maybe the reason the engine of this biography doesn't run more smoothly is because it's clogged with venom and spite. It's a near-assassination. It's a negative slant. Kinzer seems to want to paint a negative portrait ...more
Feb 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stephen Kinzer makes the point in "The Brothers: .." that most Americans do not recollect the names of the two brothers who shaped the foreign policy of the United States in the mid-century Cold War period. This is somewhat remarkable because John Foster Dulles' death in 1959 was a nationally-recognized period of mourning, only eclipsed by the public grief surrounding the death of President John Kennedy four years later. During that short interim, Kennedy fired Allen Dulles in the wake of the ...more
David Bird
The story that Stephen Kinzer tells is an important one, tracing the sometimes tragic meaning of "American Freedom," in real terms, for other parts of the world. The role of US corporations in developing countries has formed a lasting part of the image of the United States in those countries, yet most Americans remain ignorant of it, and of the degree to which US foreign policy has been shaped to fit corporate interests. His choice of the Dulles brothers at first seems an ideal vehicle for this ...more
Jul 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought I knew at least a bit about the Eisenhower administration - how wrong I was! I think the general impression of Dwight Eisenhower is of a noble warrior who became a rather benign grandfather-type presidential figure during his administration in the booming 1950's. Author Stephen Kinzer will dispel that myth in this book. The secret wars, foreign campaigns of disruption and violence, and even political assassinations orchestrated by the Dulles brothers under Eisenhower are appalling and ...more
Mal Warwick
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
One of them was the most powerful US Secretary of State in modern times. The other built the CIA into a fearsome engine of covert war. Together, they shaped US foreign policy in the 1950s, with tragic consequences that came to light in the decades that followed. These were the Dulles brothers, Foster and Allen, born and reared in privilege, nephews of one Secretary of State and grandsons of another.

What they did in office
Allen Dulles masterminded the coup that turned Iranian prime minister
Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fairly good dual biography of the Dulles brothers and their impact on the early Cold War. They were behind several questionable foreign policy ventures, mainly “regime change” attempts. Kinzer explores the lives of the Dulles brothers and the various factors that led them to view a complex world in stark black-and-white terms.

In retrospect, they made several dubious decisions that resulted in unsatisfactory or disastrous outcomes. But the issues that provided the context for those decisions
Sep 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must-read for anyone interested in U.S. foreign policy, political history, and international relations. Author Stephen Kinzer sets his journalist background to biography and analysis of the dynastic influence the brothers Dulles wielded in shaping U.S. Cold War ideology and two major state bureaucracies with international reach for generations. Together, the two men swung their self-righteous swords around the globe in an effort to behead the perceived Soviet hydra in its desire for world ...more
I found this book most interesting. I knew some of the information contained in the book but this is the first time I had seen in presented in this manner. I was aware of the Dulles brothers but it did not register with me that they were both in power at the same time. The Dulles family has served the government through many generations. John W. Foster was Secretary of State (1892-93) for President Benjamin Harrison. Eleanor Foster married Robert Lansing who served as Secretary of State under ...more
Barely three stars, for its wealth of information about geopolitics and spookery in the 50s. But this book has serious flaws, lacking balance and nuance and indulging far too much in facile psychoanalysis.
Blaine DeSantis
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderful book about the Dulles brothers. The book is divided into 3 sections with the first being a fascinating look that the Brothers and their families, families that included 2 US Secretaries of State and then the Brothers involvement in high stakes legal and diplomatic efforts. The second section outlines 6 of the covert actions the brothers were involved in from Iran and Guatemala to Cuba and the Bay of Pigs. A fascinating look at US Foreign policy from the late 1940's through the ...more
Louis Phillips
One of these days I will read this. It's important, something in my water tells me.
Robert Glustrom
Dec 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you like history ala Halberstam, this is an excellent read. The Dulles brothers were the two major forces of the Cold War and set the stage for the disaster in Viet Nam. Their simplistic world view of good vs evil, combined with blatant fear mongering spurred on by sorts like McCarthy and of course by the long leash provided by Eisenhower, still reverberates through our lives today in the form of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Cuba, NSA spying, etc..

Foster, Sec of State, came from a strict
Alan Tomkins-Raney
Overall, this is an engaging and highly interesting read about the Dulles brothers' role in shaping and driving America's Cold War foreign policy through their positions as Secretary of State and CIA Director. The effect was that America's diplomacy and covert adventurism were intertwined...with ultimately less than favorable long term results for America and the rest of the world. Read this book. It explains why America behaved the way it did during the post WWII years, and why we have been ...more
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stephen Kinzer has presented us with a superbly researched, fast paced and eminently readable history of the United States at mid-20th century. If you enjoy non-fiction this will likely be your best read of 2014. At 328 pages, “The Brothers” reveals a concise and compelling narrative of American foreign policy as devised and implemented by President Eisenhower and John Foster (Secretary of State) and Allen Dulles (Director of CIA).

Most Americans fail to understand how deeply hated and resented
Jack Laschenski
Feb 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very scary book!!!

As partners in Sullivan and Cromwell, the brothers handled large business with Nazi Germany in the early 1930s. Hitler could not have grown without the money. Other partners stopped the business in 1935.

Foster directed and Allen executed the following:

The overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddegh, Prime Minister of Iran in 1953.

The overthrow of Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán, President of Guatemala in 1954

They cooperated with and supported with arms and men, the assassination of Patrice Lumumba,
May 05, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was interesting, informative, but ultimately very disturbing. The author writes convincingly that the Dulles brothers held far too much power in post-WWII Washington, and that actions they took may have caused America more harm than good. However, he does convey to the reader (with the exception of portions of the final chapter) the pervasive fear of the Soviet Union held by Americans and that the Dulles brothers actions were a direct reflection of that feeling. It certainly does not ...more
Jay Hawke
Apr 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I always suspected the Dulles brothers were sociopaths. After reading Steven Kinzer’s, Brothers, apparently I underestimated them. They were sociopaths with lots of power. And they did unspeakable things in the name of spreading American democracy. Twin ideologies of God and elite capitalism combined to give these two brothers license to destroy fragile and nascent democracies. American leaders made zero attempts to understand the struggles and dreams of third world people’s attempting to take ...more
Jun 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A joint biography of John Foster Dulles who was Secretary of State under Eisenhower and Allen Dulles who was the director of the CIA at the same time. The Dulles brothers saw international relations within a religious and moral framework which led them to advocate policies that attempted to remove foreign leaders whom they perceived as threats to U.S. security and support friendly regimes regardless of the way those governments treated their populations. Kinzer argues that, as a result, ...more
Nov 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So far an interesting survey of 20th century history and two brothers whose names I heard frequently from the time I was old enough to hear the news.

Just finished...very, very disturbing recounting of the decades that shaped the world and the pair of brothers who by and large took matters into their own hands. The Dulleses were born into a world of power, prestige, and Princeton. They were committed to the belief that capitalism and Christianity were the only acceptable norms. Their zealotry led
John Hopkins
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Here's a darned good read, with chilling details about that dark era known as the Cold War. I doubt if anyone knows more about the Dulles brothers than the journalist Stephen Kinzer. Though the book is mostly based on secondary sources, Kinzer pulls it all together into a disturbing narrative that's surprisingly timely in this election year.
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Stephen Kinzer is an award-winning foreign correspondent who has covered more than 50 countries on five continents. His articles and books have led the Washington Post to place him "among the best in popular foreign policy storytelling." (source)
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