View Full Version : The Brothers: Foster and Allen Dulles

Bill Moore
01-20-2014, 06:28 PM

For the SWJ audience I can't think of a more informative book of our Post WWII history in covert operations and how the majority of the major ones during the Cold War that focused on overthrowing popular foreign leaders that were not anti-communist enough resulted in long term instability in these countries that plagues us to this day. It is a book that describes the detrimental impact of a fear based foreign policy (similar to GWOT) to our national interests and humanity as a whole. Well worth reading and discussing.

Kinzer in my opinion overly downplayed the threat from the USSR until the last chapter, so I would give it 4.5 out of 5 stars, but still a mandatory read for those who want a deeper understanding of that era that continues to some degree to shape our foreign policy today. Foster Dulles the Secretary of State identified neutralism as an emerging enemy of freedom, which reminds me of President Bush's speech that "you are either with us or against us."

A quote from the book is telling, Foster recognized the gap between his rhetoric and the reality of U.S. foreign policy, but he believed portraying the USSR as unrelentingly evil was a way of sharpening people's fear, thereby promoting readiness and national unity.

Throughout the book Kinzer illustrates how Foster and Allen Dulles (Director of the CIA) promoted this fear, and of course President Eisenhower's encouragement of covert operations to replace undesirable governments in Iran, Indonesia, Congo, etc. Ike was a major advocate of covert operations because he believed they were a success tool that enabled him to pursue foreign policy objectives without having thousands of American boys killed in combat. I tend to agree that covert operations have their place, but if the policy is bad, and that is really the issue, it doesn't matter if we pursue it via covert or overt operations. It will cause more harm than good to our interests.

I only highlight one of six historical examples that Kinzer addressed in his book which is our attempted overthrow of Sukarno in Indonesia. Sukarno loved the U.S. and had a wildly successful visit to the U.S., but he was also friendly to the USSR and China which Ike, Foster, and Allen saw as a threat and they decided to conduct a major covert operation to remove him. When the U.S. Ambassador opposed the operation, stating that he was neutral and did not desire to become part of the Communist orbit, Allen talked the President into removing the Ambassador. This has happened through history, which is why I think any program to develop soldier/diplomats who are regional experts while valuable, will not result in the ability to influence high level policy decisions based on political whims versus reality on the ground.

Sukarno said,
To me both the Declaration of Independence and the Communist Manifesto contain underlying truths, but the West doesn't permit a middle road. The West keeps threatening. Do you want to be dominated by the Communists? We answer, "No, but neither do we want to be dominated by you." At least Russia and China didn't call us names when we smiled sweetly at America.

Foster told the inbound Ambassador to Indonesia, "Don't tie yourself to the unity of Indonesia. As between a territorially unified Indonesia which leaning towards Communism and break up of the country into racial and geographical units, I prefer the later." Indonesia was never leaning towards the Communists, they desired to be neutral.

The CIA sponsored a war in Indonesia that tore the country apart (very detailed explanations in the book, to include the U.S. pilot Lt. Pope whose bomber was shot down and then he was captured with over 30 incriminating documents. The CIA sponsored war failed, but resulted in thousands of deaths, and I suspect a good case can be made that much of the ethnic tension in Indonesia today can be traced back to this war.

Sukarno still wanted to be friends after the war, and said he may have even started the name calling as an apology, but accused the Americans of constantly living in fear and making decisions upon that fear that had little to do with reality. It still changed his leadership style from a popular leader who was integrating the archipelago to a dictator to maintain control.

In the end Kinzer stated Foster and Allen represented who America was at the time, but I question that. While I believe in the intelligent use of covert operations, these operations probably would have been opposed by many if they were exposed sooner. Though some were, and the media in most cases cheered them on as patriotic acts of necessity. Foster and Allen also had considerable influence over our media, to include at the time Time Magazine.

Overall it is fascinating history with numerous lessons for all of us.

01-20-2014, 07:30 PM
This will probably go in my eldest's stack of reading gifts this year, as she's trying to execute a Int. Relations track in university. The professors tend to do a fair job of describing what the Dulles brothers did, but rarely have time to go deep enough to get to the unsettling "hows" and "whys".

Bill Moore
01-21-2014, 02:58 AM
This will probably go in my eldest's stack of reading gifts this year, as she's trying to execute a Int. Relations track in university. The professors tend to do a fair job of describing what the Dulles brothers did, but rarely have time to go deep enough to get to the unsettling "hows" and "whys".

If I understand your statement I have to disagree, while this obviously wasn't a how to book :D, it went in sufficient detail for me to understand their strategies for destabilizing and replacing the targeted regimes. As to the why, the book focused on the why at length.

01-21-2014, 09:21 AM
I was using professors in the larger sense of academics who are usually found teaching 200 level US foreign policy courses. Not the author(s).