The Wise Men (book)

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The Wise Men
Cover
Author Walter Isaacson
Evan Thomas
Genre Non-fiction
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Publication date
1986
Pages 816 pp.
ISBN ISBN 978-0-671-50465-6
Dewey Decimal 327.2/092/2
LC Class E747.I77 1986

The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made is a 1986 book by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas. It describes the actions of a group of United States government officials and members of the East Coast foreign policy establishment who, beginning in the 1940s, developed the containment policy of dealing with the Communist bloc, and crafted institutions and initiatives such as NATO, the World Bank, and the Marshall Plan. An updated edition of the book was released in 2012,[1] as well as a "Quicklet" summary of the book.[2]

The "Wise Men"[edit]

The six "wise men" of the title are

These six friends — two lawyers, two bankers, and two diplomats, five of whom were from the Georgetown Set — were important foreign policy advisors to U.S. presidents from Roosevelt to Lyndon B. Johnson. Acheson, Harriman and Lovett had known each other since their days at prep school or college and on Wall Street. Bohlen, Kennan and McCloy were younger and did not know the others well until their public lives brought them into close contact.[3]

They coalesced as a group when Harry Truman became President of the United States in 1945 and needed foreign policy advice. They helped create a bipartisan foreign policy based on resistance to the expansion of Soviet power. The authors describe them as the hidden architects behind the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan and Cold War containment. Kennan in particular is regarded as "the father of containment".[4] The book portrays them as personifying an ideal of statesmanship marked by non-partisanship, pragmatic internationalism, and aversion to ideological fervor. They tended to be practical, realistic, and non-ideological.

After the six had retired from public life, they and other like-minded establishment elders were dubbed The Wise Men.

In 1967 and 1968, President Johnson summoned them and a few others (including General Omar Bradley) to advise him on foreign policy, particularly the Vietnam War. In November 1967 they unanimously recommended staying in Vietnam but in a pivotal second meeting in March 1968, a majority expressed the conviction that the war could not be won and American troops should be withdrawn.

Legacy[edit]

Later public figures, such as Clark Clifford, James A. Baker III, are sometimes evaluated by comparing them to these "wise men".[5][6][7]

Reviews[edit]

  • "A sober and straightforward account of what actually happened and why... In this context the book does a great service. It restores balance to our recent history, and some sheen to its heroes. It may generate a much-needed movement to correct revisionist history. It should be read." —Foreign Affairs[3]
  • "In their first major book, Isaacson and Thomas have written an engrossing work of popular history that will live well beyond the 1980s." —Los Angeles Times[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Isaacson, Walter; Thomas, Evan (May 8, 2012). The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made (2nd ed.). Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1451683226. 
  2. ^ Taglieri, Joe (April 19, 2012). Quicklet - Walter Isaacson's The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made. Hyperlink. ISBN 978-1614642329. 
  3. ^ a b Forrestal, Michael V. (Winter 1986/87). "Review: The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 8 June 2012. 
  4. ^ Carroll, James (March 22, 2005). "If Kennan had prevailed". Boston Globe. Retrieved 8 June 2012. 
  5. ^ Isaacson, Walter (December 3, 2006). "Is Baker a 'Wise Man' or a wannabe?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 June 2012. 
  6. ^ Broder, David (May 24, 1989). "Can the new wise men keep the peace?". Observer-Reporter. Retrieved 8 June 2012. 
  7. ^ Thompson, Robert E. (September 12, 2003). "It's time for our own 'Wise Men'". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 8 June 2012. 
  8. ^ Nelson, Bryce (November 30, 1986). "Review: The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 June 2012.