“The Brothers” tells the story of the brothers Dulles, John Foster and Allen, who drove American foreign policy through much of the 1950s. Grandsons of Secretary of State John Foster and nephews of Secretary of State Robert Lansing, the two grew up in an atmosphere mixing high diplomacy with the spirit of Christian Crusaders. Their path to power was linear. At the law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell they represented companies with interests around the world and came to see their clients’ interests united with America’s. As Foster moved into politics and government service he often brought Allen with him.
Although expected to be Secretary of State in a Dewey Administration, Foster came in with Dwight Eisenhower in 1953. With Allen as Director of Central Intelligence, they formed a team that searched the world for dragons to slay. Guided by a world view of us, American Christian capitalists, against them, Socialist Evil Doers, they identified their foes and went after them. Among their successes were Guatemalan President Árbenz, Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh and Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba. TYhose who got away included Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro. This book is a study of American covert operations in Guatemala, Iran, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Congo and Cuba. Allen’s Bay of Pigs operation is a case study of disaster.
Author Stephen Kinzer explores the unique situation in which the intelligence gathering agency is also an actor. Throughout he illustrates how the relationship of their leaders enabled two agencies that would normally question and check each other, to work in seamless harmony to carry out the covert operations that both saw as primary instruments of American power. Behind them was President Eisenhower who had used covert operations during World War II and who approved their actions. In the end the author posits that the policies were the President’s and the brothers were more his servants than his masters. Kinzer portrays the Brothers as men with rigid, narrow outlooks that saw enemies in independent nationalists and conspiracies in disorganized movements. He presents them as two sides of the coin, the molders and reflectors of public opinion. The book is not flattering. It depicts the Dulles brothers as men whose flawed expectations caused many problems for the U.S. and the world by destroying men who America need not have fought. Ultimately he concludes that they were representatives of the people they served and their successes, and failures, are our own. “The Brothers” forces the reader to confront a portion of America’s past with its triumphs and shames. Although Kinzer gives his opinions, he provides the facts to permit the reader to form his own. Any serious student of history would do well to delve beneath the surface of our history and appreciate its deep currents and lasting effects.