The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War. BY STEPHEN KINZER. Times Books, 2013, 402 pp. $30.00.
The Color of Truth: McGeorge Bundy and William Bundy: Brothers in Arms. BY KAI BIRD. Simon and Schuster, 1998, 496 pp. $27.50.
Who caused the Cold War? In War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy downplayed the role of human agency in shaping events, writing that “a king is history’s slave,” and ever since Thucydides chronicled the Peloponnesian War, historians have recognized how the international system constrains choices in a bipolar world. But just because world-historical forces made some type of cold war highly likely does not mean that one was inevitable. Nor does it mean that individual decision-makers bear no responsibility for the depth or nature of the conflict that did occur.
Indeed, some choices that U.S. presidents made during the Cold War had huge impacts on history. Had President Dwight Eisenhower accepted the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to use tactical nuclear weapons against China during the 1954 crisis over the Taiwan Strait, there would have been no 70-year nuclear taboo. And had President John F. Kennedy, whose measured handling of the Cuban missile crisis averted nuclear war in 1962, been replaced by the more impulsive Lyndon Johnson that year instead of the next, then the episode might have turned out disastrously (as the Vietnam War did).
What about presidential advisers? How much did they matter? During the early Cold War, two pairs of brothers played critical roles in shaping U.S. foreign policy: the Dulleses and the Bundys. John Foster Dulles (who went by Foster) was appointed Eisenhower’s secretary of state in 1953, and his younger brother, Allen, became director of the CIA that same year, staying on until 1961, when Kennedy fired him after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Despite their personality differences -- Foster was a priggish lawyer, whereas Allen was a womanizing spymaster -- they held essentially identical ideologies. McGeorge “Mac” Bundy served as national security adviser under Kennedy and for
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