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

Stephen Kinzer

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

416 Pages



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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 background 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 from Cuba to 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.


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

"[A] fast-paced and often gripping dual biography."-The Boston Globe

"Stephen Kinzer's sparkling new biography . . . suggests that the story of the Dulles brothers is the story of America."-Washington Monthly

"The errors of the Dulles brothers are vividly described in this highly entertaining book...A thoroughly informative book."- Revista: The Harvard Review of Latin America

"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

"Kinzer tells the fascinating story of the Dulles brothers, central figures in U.S. foreign policy and intelligence activities for over four decades. He describes U.S. 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

"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, 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, author of Ike's Bluff: President Eisenhower's Secret Battle to Save the World

"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, author of Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War

"A historical critique sure to spark debate."-Booklist

"The culmination of an oeuvre (All the Shah's Men, Overthrow and others) featuring the Dulles brothers in supporting roles, The Brothers draws them from the shadows, provoking a reevaluation of their influence and its effects."-Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt


When John Foster Dulles died on May 24, 1959, a bereft nation mourned more intensely than it had since the death of Franklin Roosevelt fourteen years before. Thousands lined up outside the National Cathedral in Washington...

Read the full excerpt



  • Stephen Kinzer at Politics and Prose Bookstore

    Stephen Kinzer discusses 'The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War' at Politics and Prose Bookstore.

  • Stephen Kinzer interviewed on Lou Dobbs Tonight

    Stephen Kinzer discusses 'The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War' on Lou Dobbs Tonight.

  • Stephen Kinzer on C-SPAN's Q&A

    Stephen Kinzer discusses 'The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War' on C-SPAN's Q&A.



  • Stephen Kinzer

  • Stephen Kinzer is the author of Reset, Overthrow, All the Shah's Men, and numerous other books. An award-winning foreign correspondent, he served as the New York Times's bureau chief in Turkey, Germany, and Nicaragua and as the Boston Globe's Latin America correspondent. He is a visiting fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, contributes to The New York Review of Books, and writes a column on world affairs for The Guardian. He lives in Boston.

  • Stephen Kinzer
    Stephen Kinzer