A New York Times Editor’s Choice
An Atlantic Best Book of 2013
One of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2013
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 backdrop 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 such as Cuba and 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.
© 2013 by Stephen Kinzer
“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, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“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, New York Times bestselling author of Washington Rules
“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, New York Times bestselling 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, New York Times bestselling author of Ike’s Bluff
“Kinzer tells the fascinating story of the Dulles brothers, central figures in US foreign policy and intelligence activities for over four decades. He describes US 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
“[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.”
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.”
New York Times
“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, formerly a foreign correspondent for the New York Times and now a columnist for the Guardian, shows how the brothers drove America’s interventionist foreign policy.”
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.”
“[A] fast-paced and often gripping dual biography.”
“Stephen Kinzer’s sparkling new biography…suggests that the story of the Dulles brothers is the story of America.”
“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.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“An author tending toward criticism of American foreign affairs, Kinzer casts a jaundiced eye on siblings who conducted them in the 1950s…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.”
“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 institutional 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.”
“No one shaped US Cold War foreign policy more than the Dulles brothers—John Foster Dulles in public as secretary of state and Allen Dulles in secret as head of the CIA. This joint biography paints a portrait of the pair, showing how their upbringing and early professional experiences shaped their careers. David Cochran Heath offers a capable narration that carries the listener along. He’s careful not to get in the way of the action in the fast-paced portions of Allen’s spy life, and he doesn’t let some of Foster’s diplomatic efforts bog down into wonkiness.”
David Cochran Heath is a professional actor with more than 30 years of experience on the stage in over 130 productions. He is also a lifelong fan of radio theater and has done a variety of narration and character work. He lives in San Diego with his wife, Beth.
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- Publisher: Blackstone Audio
- Genre: Nonfiction/Biography & Autobiography
- ISBN-13: 978-1-5046-2893-8