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This is a very enjoyable history of the origins of the cold war and national security policy making into the 70s. It's much better at covering the period between 1944 to the mid 50s than it is for the later stuff, partly because the protagonists had a more central role earlier and then found themselves on the periphery. Discussing Vietnam policy making through the experiences of the six leaves a lot undiscussed, but it isn't bad. The early chapters are not particularly interesting, except from the fact that they provide a vivid and surprising insight into the world of the east-coast aristocracy (1st half 20C), which is probably necessary for a full appreciation of what follows.
Apart from the less informative later chapters, the only other grievance that I can cite is the fact one does get the impression that the authors have been a little less critical of their subjects (and JFK) than is reasonable. It is also perhaps too harsh on LBJ.
This is not a history book, it is a piece of third rate hack journalism. There is some interesting information but the more astute reader is forced to read between the lines of what little that there is provided. The book is too long - the quotes ring false, like a cliched old Hollywood script rather than real people talking. The style is that of a panegyric. The fact is that these unelected men dominated US policy for far too long, all were closet socialists, all despised democracy and elected politicians who they saw as a nuisance at best. They oversaw every post war US foreign policy catastrophe from Korea to Vietnam and instead of being vilified as they deserve they are praised as flawed geniuses. The leftist bias of the authors is so obvious as to render any claim of pretended objectivity as a joke. This book is worth a read if you have read a vast number of books related to the subject. Some of the few real facts are important - but the beginner will be swamped with nonsense if he or she sees this book as being 99% anything other than the sum total of its authors shared delusions about history.
As happens frequently in biographies, the authors fell in love with their subjects; praise for the 6 main members of the Cold War "Establishment" far outweighs criticism. Averell Harriman and Dean Acheson get the most thorough attention among the 6 subjects, and rightfully so.
I took away one star because the authors largely see the foreign policies of Republican presidents Ike, Nixon and Reagan through the eyes of the Wise Men, instead of objectively. Only when Nixon "comes to his senses" and asks Acheson and Harriman for advice does he receive some praise. Ike's foreign policy era is portrayed as one to be endured until the Wise Men are allowed back in the inner circle under JFK. Their total disdain for Reagan is clear; no mention of the reasons for end of the Cold War and Reagan's active part in it.
However, the 5-star section of the book is clearly the LBJ-Vietnam era. Wow, they really can't stand LBJ as a human being and politician, but his (and the Wise Men's) agony over the Vietnam war is written about almost lyrically. The authors convey the complicated global factors of the war in an admirable, even-handed, almost sympathetic way.