Sunday, November 10, 2013

New Book on the Dulles Brothers

Book Review: 'The Brothers' by Stephen Kinzer - CHARLES MCCARRY, Wall Street Journal

Even before becoming secretary of state and CIA director, Allen and John Foster Dulles were familiar with intrigue.

While making my way through this fluently written, ingeniously researched, thrillerish work of popular history, I wondered how the late Richard Condon, author of "The Manchurian Candidate" and aficionado of conspiracy theories, might have handled its central theme: A couple of well-born American brothers, the older one a dour Calvinist and the younger one a devilish libertine, get very rich as Wall Street lawyers, then simultaneously become secretary of state and CIA director and invent the Cold War, which they regard as a means of enriching the capitalists whose errand boys they have always been.

In author Stephen Kinzer's view, vanity, greed, religious zeal and the baleful concept of American exceptionalism were bred into the bones of John Foster Dulles and Allen Welsh Dulles. The sons of a smart, ambitious mother and a stern Presbyterian minister, they made it their business, literally, to validate their father's belief that "America's destiny was to . . . raise up the world's benighted masses." Their maternal grandfather, John Watson Foster, was "the first American secretary of state to participate in the overthrow of a foreign government" (Hawaii's, in 1893). At grandfather Foster's Washington mansion, the teenage boys "dined with ambassadors, senators, cabinet secretaries . . . and . . . William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Andrew Carnegie, and Woodrow Wilson." "It is a great thing to have had illustrious relatives," wrote Allen years later.

The Brothers

By Stephen Kinzer
Times Books, 402 pages, $30
Allen and John Foster Dulles in 1948. © Bettmann/CORBIS
"After leaving office," Mr. Kinzer writes, Grandfather Foster would "invent a new profession: broker for corporations seeking favors in Washington and chances to expand abroad," thus arguably becoming the first lobbyist. The boys attended private schools and graduated from Princeton, where they sat at the feet of professor Woodrow Wilson and absorbed his vision of America as moral exemplar to the world. All this opening of doors takes the breath away, as Mr. Kinzer no doubt intends, but it was mere prelude to the outcome it produced when the Dulles brothers went forth into the world.
Mr. Kinzer has brightened his dark tale with an abundance of racy stories. Gossip nips at the heels of history on nearly every page. For example, in 1917, when Allen was running U.S. intelligence, such as it then was, from the embassy in Bern, Switzerland, he declined, because, he said, he had a tennis date, to meet with an obscure Russian revolutionary. This turned out to be Lenin, on his way to the Finland Station. Mr. Kinzer tells us that in fact Allen "was meeting 'two blonde and spectacularly buxom Swiss twin sisters . . . at a country inn.' "
While Allen dallied and spied, Foster prospered as a lawyer at Sullivan & Cromwell, where he insinuated American money and influence into foreign corporations and governments. Early experiences in Costa Rica and Cuba, Mr. Kinzer writes, "taught him how easy it can be, for a rich and powerful country, guided by the wishes of its wealthiest corporations, to impose its will on a poor and weak one." Foster attended the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 as assistant to Bernard Baruch, the American delegate to the Reparations Commission. Allen was there, too, serving on the Boundary Commission, drawing new borders. "They gained Wilson's confidence and met many of the titans who would shape world politics over the next half century."
After passing the bar examination on the third try, Allen joined his brother at Sullivan and Cromwell. While he roamed the world, radiating charm, Foster became the firm's managing partner at age 38, earning about $5 million a year in today's money. Foster, who regarded Germany as a bulwark against Bolshevism, was old friends with Hjalmar Schacht, Reich economics minister (Allen had introduced them). "Foster helped the National Socialist state find rich sources of financing in the United States," Mr. Kinzer writes, and gave up Sullivan and Cromwell's many connections to the Nazi government only when all firm members except himself voted to do so.
During World War II, Allen returned to the Bern embassy, putting his mistress's psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, to work for the Allied cause, recruiting a senior official of the German foreign office, tapping into the ill-fated conspiracy to kill Hitler, and playing a part in the surrender of the Nazi armies in Italy. Foster had a quieter war, helping to write the United Nations Charter and serving as an adviser at the U.N. founding conference in San Francisco. He had been Thomas E. Dewey's foreign-policy adviser when the latter ran against FDR in the 1944 election.
The fateful culmination, in Mr. Kinzer's view, came when, "with the Dulles brothers as his right and left arms, [Dwight D. Eisenhower] led the United States into a secret global conflict that raged throughout his presidency." By bringing us such memorable acts as the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran and Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán in Guatemala, Mr. Kinzer implies, the brothers gave us in the end the allegedly warlike, unjust, hated America we live in now.
"The Brothers" is a long book pieced together largely from secondary sources. Mr. Kinzer's compilation of clandestine capitalist mischief rolls inexorably onward from first page to last, seldom pausing to speak good of the dead. This approach is one-sided and somewhat monotonous, at times even obsessive, but not exactly unfair. After all, the positive side of the story has often been told, and those who see merit in the brothers' work are unlikely to be swayed by Mr. Kinzer's fervent rebuttal.
So the question is, what to believe, what to excuse, what to conclude? Mr. Kinzer's parting guidance to the reader comes as something of a surprise: "The Dulles brothers' approach to the world did not work out well for the United States," he writes "[But] rather than forget or vilify them, Americans should embrace them. Their stories are full of deep meaning for the United States. They are us. We are them."
We are become Dullesland? Grandfather Foster might have thought that had a certain ring to it.
Mr. McCarry's latest novel is
"The Shanghai Factor." He served
in the CIA from 1958 until 1967

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