This book is not what you’d call a scholarly work, but it has the virtue of retrieving a mood from the recent past. Through the Sixties and early Seventies there was a tendency among some who contributed to this and kindred periodicals to hark back tenderly to the Eisenhower administration. If only we’d known what was coming next, these writers seemed to say, we would never have made such harsh judgments. What was experienced as the torpor of the Fifties looked to them ten years later as a haven of stability and content. What was perceived as Eisenhower’s indolence, and derided as “passive” and “female,” and after his heart attack simply as a case of arteriosclerotic decay, now was considered keen judgment. Ike had had all his marbles after all. He knew what he was doing: he got us out of a “no-win” war in Korea that had been Truman’s fault anyway and kept us out of Vietnam, which was more than Kennedy did.
Ike had heavies on his team. That was because he needed people like Nixon who could get on with Robert Taft’s right-wing Republicans. Ike knew how to manipulate his subordinates and he chose them for abilities he knew he did not have. Ike was intuitive but no deep thinker; he had neither the capacity nor the bent to ponder “broad matters of policy,” as they were wearily called. So he chose John Foster Dulles, an eminent Presbyterian who had waited fifty years for the occasion, to be his secretary of state.
So goes a current theory, which this gossipy biography of the Dulles family ignores. Maybe Mr. Mosley hasn’t heard of it, maybe he found it not worth considering. His views on Eisenhower and Dulles (the president was a dolt who did what the secretary told him) are well within the vein of 1950s liberal chit-chat. But this book performs a service in bringing back to us the cold war and its statesmen as we knew them then, before the historians went to work. The book dispels some of the nostalgia for a tawdry decade which has enchanted certain intellectuals the way the sound of Eddie Fisher singing “Oh My Papa” (did that mean Ike?) affects members of the high-school class of ’56, now pushing forty. This is healthy: it restores a semblance of how it really felt to be trapped in the wintry time when the general took the helm:
Ice, ice. Our wheels no longer move.
Look. The fixed stars, all just alike
as lack-land atoms, split apart,
and the Republic summons Ike,
the mausoleum in her heart.
—Robert Lowell, “Inauguration Day, 1953”
Leonard Mosley is an English journalist who lives in the south of France, where almost everything turns out for the best. He knew Churchill personally and interviewed Hitler and Haile Selassie, he was chief war correspondent of the London Sunday Times, he has been all over the world and still “logs 50,000 miles of travel every year,” according to his publisher. Novels, biographies, a partial autobiography, and a prodigious amount about Japan, the Mideast, Europe, and the US have rolled from his typewriter. There seems no stopping this man; he has an OBE and several book club subsidies to his credit, of which this big BOMC selection is the latest. Doing so he invites the scorn of academic historians and the wrath of those people (dismayed friends and relatives of a dead biographee) whose honest recollections the author has thwarted, distorted, and if necessary aborted in his ardor to produce a good read.
With a subject as interesting yet as wearisome as the Dulleses the pop biographer is hard-pressed to liven up his pages, to expose the reader to challenging material without obliging him actually to think about it. To simplify the task a bibliography is omitted, and instead of pedantic reference notes casual paragraphs identify the sources of each chapter. Depth is absent; complexity is reduced to capsule form. Sleazy prose makes do for insight—and most egregiously so in the case of Allen Dulles with his epic philandering, the psychic suffering of his mismated wife who became a patient of Carl Jung, the grim estrangement from his father of Allen Dulles, Jr., which began well before he caught a North Korean bullet in his head while a fighting Marine at the Chosen Reservoir.
In-jokes and verbatim anecdotes abound, enclosed in quotation marks that may run on for paragraphs and say little more than that Mosley has interviewed this or that consequential person. And there are journalistic lapses which are usually caught by copyreaders when they are not already bleary-eyed from a profusion of lapses. That Herbert Hoover, Jr., the diplomat, was the president’s son does not mean that a diplomat named Douglas MacArthur, Jr., is the general’s son, since he is the general’s nephew. There are so many of these petty errors that the reader gets leery and that is too bad since Mosley makes an honest effort to tell us much we did not know.
Eleanor Dulles, eighty-two, is Mosley’s heroine and principal source; he couldn’t have written this book without her. The family history and childhood reminiscence, the “revealing” details of growing up with two problematical brothers, the glimpses of the joyless domestic lives they led as public men come straight from Eleanor. Still there is nothing vindictive in the testimony of a derided, chubby little sister who wore thick eyeglasses and outlived her famous brothers. She describes Allen and Foster, in their weakest moments, with unflagging affection and an ingenuous, trusting manner which Mosley makes the most of. One fairly sees him charming reel after indiscreet reel of recording tape from this sympathetic lady, as though nobody had ever paid her so much deference before. So it must have dismayed Mosley when, very recently, Eleanor Dulles engaged a public relations firm to proclaim her extreme displeasure with this book and its author. In a statement and newspaper interviews she declared that it contains “at least 900 errors of fact” and is “fiction masquerading as history.” She regrets having cooperated with Mosley.
The Dulleses grew up in Watertown, New York, on the shore of Lake Ontario. Their father was a minister of the First Presbyterian Church. At the start of this century the Rev. Allen Macy Dulles was of a valiant minority in the presbytery who did not condemn Darwinism, demand literal acceptance of the virgin birth, or forbid remarriage of divorced persons. Eleanor inherited his dedication to principle. Foster and Allen were influenced by their mother, whose sophisticated family spread beyond upstate New York to Washington. Her father, John W. Foster, was Benjamin Harrison’s secretary of state. Her sister Eleanor—Eleanor’s aunt Eleanor—married Robert M. Lansing, a hustling young lawyer whom the children knew as Uncle Bert. Shortly before he expired, Grandfather Foster, through white and copious Franz-Josephian side whiskers, imbued his namesake: “I expect great things of you, Foster.” But it was for Uncle Bert Lansing, soon to become Woodrow Wilson’s secretary of state, to impart to Foster a taste for the law and an appetite for power. Foster was a wise and imperious lad and the alpha among his siblings. Allen, who was romantic and mercurial, deferred to him.
As for Eleanor, Foster chivied and hectored her as he later did to sovereign nations. He fashioned a wooden sign, “Eleanor has a——ache” and placed in the center of the blank space a hook. To hang on the hook he provided his ever-forgiving, never-forgetting sister with a model leg, arm, foot, head, whichever part of her might be paining next. That way there would be no excuse for her to bother others with her complaints. When a disappointment reduced Eleanor to tears, he addressed her as he later might some dissident faction of a Balkan state: “You are not crying because you are sad. You are sad because you are crying.” This rigorous phase of her development ended in 1904 when Foster entered Princeton, aged sixteen. Allen followed him there, and Eleanor went to Bryn Mawr.
She worked very hard. As a student of Professor Susan Kingsbury, she early became a feminist; an account of Eleanor Dulles’s battle against male supremacy in and out of government would make an excellent ERA brochure. She endured pain, humiliation, and private tragedy with an unflinching stoicism that even John Foster admired.
Foster and Allen were a long time in comprehending what a powerhouse their eccentric sister had grown to be. When America entered the First World War she asked Uncle Bert what she could do to help. He laughed at her, “Go home and sew socks.” So, in a fury, three days after graduating from Bryn Mawr, she sailed for France. As a volunteer, armed endearingly with a whistle and a rubber truncheon to repel molesters, she took care of refugees in Paris during the worst of the German bombardment. She served through the Battle of Marne, while Foster, with his bad eyesight, worked for Bernard Baruch in Washington at the War Industries Board and Allen was in Berne trying all by himself to emulate the British Intelligence Service.
Just before the Versailles peace conference Uncle Bert Lansing fell from grace. The kind of maneuvering that had made him secretary of state after driving William Jennings Bryan from office was about to bring him down. Uncle Bert supposed that he was the only American smart enough to negotiate with a couple of horse thieves like Clemenceau and Lloyd George; he wanted to do the bargaining and to keep the woolly-minded Wilson out of it. Sensing this, the president’s vigilant aide Colonel House most emphatically advised Wilson not to listen to his secretary. Uncle Bert stayed on glumly at the conference, keeping his cool and trying to look busy. Eleanor observed him: “Uncle Bert was a very controlled man…. I don’t think he ever expressed what he was feeling.”
Eleanor was living in a refugee camp near Château-Thierry in the spring of 1919; she made visits to Paris, and stayed with the American delegation at the Hotel Crillon. The peace conference was collapsing; one by one the Fourteen Points were going down the toilet. As Uncle Bert had foreseen, the British and French and Italians were making a monkey of the president. Aunt Eleanor Lansing made a family party of it in the secretarial suite. John Foster Dulles was there; he’d wangled a job with his new benefactor Bernard Baruch on the Reparations Commission. Allen Dulles got himself on the Boundary Commission and carved new states from the map of Central Europe. “I don’t know that I deserve…credit for the shape of the country I produced in Czechoslovakia,” he reminisced in one of the jocular orientation lectures he used to give to CIA recruits. “It looks something like a banana….”
Meanwhile his eager sister, who’d seen a lot of what French peasants suffered from the Germans, was arguing with Foster for a sternly vengeful reparations policy against the Hun. No, said Foster, that would never work; it would only impoverish the Germans; transferring wealth is not the same as gaining wealth. To back him in his argument, Foster introduced Eleanor to his English colleague in Reparations, John Maynard Keynes, who was about to resign and write The Economic Consequences of the Peace.
Economics became a fascination in her life. She studied industrial management, worked in factories; she wanted a career in heavy industry and she found that without power or influence there was no room for a woman in industry. She taught economics at Bryn Mawr, she studied at the London School of Economics, she aspired to write an epic poem about the Russian Revolution. Unlike her brothers, Eleanor lost her savings on the stock market as well as her legacy from grandfather Foster. Indulging for a spell a mildly rebellious nostalgie de la boue, she wandered through Europe with bobbed hair, smoked in public, wore boots and plus fours; near Berchtesgaden some outraged villagers shouted “whore.” She got a Radcliffe grant and returned to Paris to write a thesis for her doctorate: a study of European inflation as observed in the crisis of a major country’s currency. “It will be called The French Franc,” she told Foster. He said she’d never make it: “It’s like trying to cross the Atlantic in a rowing boat.” Two years after Eleanor published her thesis she received a note from Keynes—“Yours is the best book on monetary inflation that I know.”
When she was in Paris, Eleanor fell in love. It lasted nine years in spite of heavy problems and ended in a calamity that would have crushed a softer soul. David Blondheim was a philologist and a Talmudic scholar studying in Paris, a gifted linguist and a Jew with a tortured conscience. Eleanor had surely caught herself a man in contrast to John Foster Dulles, who was at forty senior partner of Sullivan & Cromwell and a lay elder of the Brick Presbyterian Church on upper Park Avenue. Blondheim’s father had emigrated from Germany and worked in Baltimore in the garment trade; he brought up his children in strictest Orthodoxy and demanded obedience to all religious laws. The father had found a suitable Orthodox bride for David at a tender age, and a son was born from this prefabricated union. David divorced his wife and then he stunned the Blondheim family by declaring he no longer believed in their codes or in their Jahveh. His people, Mosley says, wailed and wore sack cloth and ashes when he went, but pride, sorrow, and the forfeiture of his son seem to have fortified his Jewishness.
Mosley’s account of the courtship is sad and familiar. Eleanor introducing her fiancé to the Reverend and Mrs. Dulles at dinner in the Trianon Palace Hotel, David wearing a tuxedo. Eleanor not having the heart to marry while her infirm father was still alive. Allen blithely congratulating her on her “independence” yet never asking to meet the chap. Foster pronouncing Blondheim “a very fine man” yet not a bit disconcerted that, rather than marry, his sister had settled for living in sin. Eleanor married David anyway, finally, and then she got pregnant.
The “human interest” aspect gets well beyond the author’s depth when he comes to Blondheim’s suicide one month before their child was born. Blondheim asphyxiated himself by putting his head in the oven of a stove, but Mosley writes “gas oven.” Blondheim, he writes, “could not bear being a father to a baby in whose body Gentile blood would be mingled with his own, a constant living reminder of how he had turned his back on his people.” This occurred in 1934. As if we’d forgotten what happened in Germany ten years later to millions of Jews, Mr. Mosley is here to remind us of the symbolism and “ironic precurse” of this death. At the same time he passes over a devastating postscript on the extinction of David Blondheim’s very identity. David’s brother, upon this marriage to a Gentile, removed David’s name from the Blondheim slate. John Foster Dulles while he sought to comfort Eleanor firmly told her as head of his family that the entire story should be hushed up. He persuaded her to strike “Blondheim” from the Dulles family record a well as from her infant son, who be came simply David Dulles.
Eleanor adopted a daughter, Ann Dulles, to grow up with her little boy. She never remarried, she worked very hard. She supported and educated her children on what she earned chiefly as a middle-level employee of the State Department, without assistance from her solvent brothers. What professional help they may have given her is a matter of conjecture. Eleanor seemed as smart and ambitious as her brothers, much more open-minded and less pompous than Foster, a much better administrator than Allen. Her performance in the US delegation to Austria in 1945, when she “pulled and pushed, and…put Austria on her feet,” didn’t help her career. She was a sharp economist, up to any job in the Department of Commerce, but there was no advancement there. Her boss said, “I don’t believe in women getting too high up. It bothers me.” Back again in State she rose to being in charge of the Berlin desk, but never higher. This frustration could have been less to do with her sex than with the rectitude of Foster, who as secretary chose not to appear to be favoring his sister.
Eleanor’s rectitude went deeper than Foster’s. During the presidential campaign of 1952 she warned him to his face that if the Republicans did not repudiate McCarthy, she would vote Democratic. Foster sipped his martini and looked amused, and he kept his own counsel. Then after the election and he’d been sworn in as secretary he told her, “I don’t think you can stay in the State Department.” He tried to foist her off into a nothing job with Harold Stassen. Eleanor would not budge. She hung onto the Berlin desk and never resigned from the Department until 1962, after the Bay of Pigs when Allen got the sack from CIA, and Bobby Kennedy came prowling through Foggy Bottom looking for leftover Dulleses.
The silliest utterance ever made by a secretary of state has to be Henry L. Stimson’s “Gentlemen, don’t read each other’s mail.” There are few greater delights to the well-bred mind than with impunity to deceive and betray, to indulge the dark instincts—all for God and Country. There’s hardly anything a gentleman won’t do in the name of higher morality.
Espionage and counterespionage are gentlemen’s words; spying is not. A spy is “fundamentally a peon,” an OSS instructor explained to the recruits back in 1944. If he were bright he wouldn’t be a spy; he’d be a gentleman who “handled agents” and double agents too; he’d be a Case Officer, someone of consequence and authority. If he made it to the highest levels, he could be called a “spymaster.” Only very rarely—as in the case of Kim Philby—is a gentleman actually a spy. Snobbism is rife in the intelligence services of the English-speaking nations.
In 1915, the year the Lusitania sank, Captain Alex Gaunt was a British agent assigned to Washington to subvert the United States’ neutrality laws. Uncle Bert Lansing knew him well and had no illusions or, apparently, objections to what he was doing. Gaunt was charming and he spoke in an Oxford accent that Uncle Bert tried to imitate. Allen had finished Princeton and taken a young man’s wanderjahr round the world. He’d always had expensive tastes but now he had no job and was living on a small allowance from the Reverend Dulles. Uncle Bert suggested the Foreign Service. Allen was posted to Berne, the capital of neutral Switzerland. There was nothing much for the young man to do at the American Legation. So, with the comic insouciance of an Evelyn Waugh hero, Allen was put in charge of Intelligence. Allen remembered Captain Gaunt, the dashing English agent and man of the world, and he made up his mind to follow in the captain’s footsteps.
Switzerland, he’d heard, was crawling with spies, and among the first clandestine people Allen ever spoke to—on the telephone, April 11, 1917, six days before he detrained at the Finland Station—was Vladimir Ilich Lenin. The Father of the Russian Revolution was anxious to call at the Legation—obviously in order to tell the Americans of his imminent return to Russia—but that afternoon Allen had a tennis date with a girlfriend; so he told Lenin the Legation was closed. “Tomorrow will be too late,” Lenin said. Years afterward Allen would include this anecdote in the welcoming remarks he gave to CIA recruits. He had by then perfected a mannerism of acknowledging anything even faintly comic by tossing back his whitened head and emitting a hearty ho-ho-ho.
Simple merriment was a big factor in Allen’s success. As the expression was in the late 1940s, when he was starting up the Central Intelligence Agency, Allen led “the rich, full life.” He was fortunate in that when he was at loose ends he could count on his relatives and their friends. Just as Uncle Bert had opened doors to him in the Foreign Service, so did Foster take him into Sullivan & Cromwell. More brilliant applicants (William O. Douglas, for one) had been found unsuitable for the job Foster gave his kid brother, who had no more than a night school degree in law. Allen’s jolly and gregarious nature, his good squash and tennis, his knowingness with Moselles and clarets and Havana cigars made him a first-rate customers’ man who attracted new clients. This was in the Twenties and Thirties when Wall Street and Oyster Bay were a lot more fun and remunerative than the Foreign Service.
Allen disagreed with Foster about American intervention in Europe’s war. There was a spot of bother in Sullivan & Cromwell when Allen agreed to support a newspaper ad calling for the lending of US destroyers to Britain. In no circumstances was Allen to sign the ad and that was that, said Foster. Allen withdrew his signature; it behooved him to defer now and then to Foster, who considered himself, and with some reason, to be Allen’s superior, intellectually and morally. In 1953 as secretary of state Foster saw to it that Allen became director of CIA. In the mid-Fifties, CIA’s heyday, Foster was so powerful that Allen could infiltrate embassies and consulates and the United States Information Agency and eventually every branch of government with his agents. The National Security Council had statutory authority over CIA but no real control over Allen Dulles while his brother was covering for him. Allen enjoyed himself thoroughly in a world of wonder echoing with his famous ho-ho-ho laugh.
Eleanor Dulles has charged Mosley with taking “a schoolboy approach” and schoolboy is the word for Mosley’s treatment of Allen Dulles, which has a special verve—as if the biographer had sighted Allen’s shade in the playground of some vanished adolescence and joined it in a romp through the never-never land of espionage. Mosley has tracked down Allen’s old playmates there. His star informant is no less than Kim Philby himself, who sent him from Moscow long, chatty reminiscences written with skill and insight superior to Mosley’s. Philby’s assessment of Allen is on the mark: “I find recurring with inexorable insistence the adjective ‘lazy’…did he ever apply his mind hard to a problem?… Dulles enjoyed what he did and did what he enjoyed, no less, no more.” Spymastering was fun for Allen, the acting out of schoolboy fantasies, playing pranks in the service of a higher morality.
By 1942 Allen was a senior corporation lawyer, he smoked a pipe. General William J. Donovan was a corporation lawyer too, a romantic figure on Wall Street: the leader of the 69th “Fighting Irish” Division, a World War I hero, and a Republican millionaire who went on secret missions for Roosevelt. The president asked him to organize an intelligence agency to be called The Office of Strategic Services. Buoyant, savvy, manipulative, “one colorful character,” Donovan was Allen’s kind of guy. He gave Allen a supply of codes and ciphers and other equipment, including more than a million dollars in spending money, and sent Allen back to his old ground in the neutral Swiss capital of Berne. Allen was back there just two days when the Germans occupied Vichy France and closed the Swiss frontier. Allen was literally sealed off from the world.
I don’t recall a merrier time than that I spent in my youth as a lowly member of the same service as Allen Dulles, an Army enlisted man assigned to the X-2 or counterespionage branch of OSS. (“Oh, So Secret” they called us, “Oh, So Social.”) In France and then in Germany we belonged to small “Special Counter-Intelligence” Units whose purpose was to find German spies and turn them into double agents who would deceive the enemy about the strategy of the Allied armies. Our mission was so eccentric and improbable that the Army headquarters to which we were attached for administrative purposes only felt for us much the same distrust and resentment that J. Edgar Hoover felt for General Donovan.
Somewhere in their well-traveled, upper-middle-class backgrounds our officers had learned Italian, French, or German, yet nothing in their civilian lives had matched the excitement of being in OSS. Years before we ever heard of James Bond or John Foster Dulles our units were cavorting through Europe, knocking back Cognac, liaising with the ladies, “requisitioning” automobiles and châteaux, and spending freely our “Operational Funds.” Allen Dulles, though, we all had heard of: he was a legendary figure, busy above us in the Swiss Alps with his networks of spies who were penetrating Abwehr and the German General staff. We’d also heard the name of James Jesus Angleton, of our own X-2 branch, who was busy in Italy. Angleton eventually became Allen’s counterespionage chief in the CIA; it was he who is alleged to have given the world the text of Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin. In addition to these facts, Mosley reveals that because of his easy access to Allen’s office James Angleton earned the sobriquet of “No Knock” Angleton.
Allen’s chief mission in Berne was to reach the anti-Nazi underground in Germany and coordinate its activities. To this end he controlled two of the most efficient spies in Germany. Despite many frustrations, the hostility of Stalin, and the stubbornness of Truman, Allen negotiated with SS General Karl Wolff, Heinrich Himmler’s representative, to surrender the German armies in Italy. Like many OSS men, he was having the time of his life. If his achievements had not been Top Secret. Allen would have been hailed as the hero in the clandestine war.
When the war ended, Harry Truman abolished OSS. The Democrats were reluctant to replace it with a peacetime agency for fear of Republican charges of a “New Deal Gestapo.” Allen was very much a Republican, like the other big shots in OSS, and he went back to Sullivan & Cromwell, but he was at loose ends. How are you going to keep them down on Wall Street after they’ve worked with spies? Let Mosley describe him:
Those who remember Allen Dulles in the fall of 1949 have a picture in their minds of an amiable, pipe-smoking, gray-haired bon viveur who always seemed to be at the best New York and many George-town parties and who, from his hearty laugh and the kindly twinkle in his eye, gave the impression of being the easiest and most relaxed man in the room…. In fact, inside that complacent-seeming exterior was a man who was often as jumpy as a Mexican bean.
Part of the problem was that Dewey had yet again let the Dulleses down by losing to Truman in 1948. If he wanted to resume his career, Allen, like Foster, would be obliged to kowtow a bit to the New Dealers. The National Security Act of 1947 had provided for a Central Intelligence Agency and Allen had helped make recommendations for an organization which would be directly responsible to the president. It would be an entity unto itself, like the State Department. It would have its own rights, its own character, and, best of all, its own funds. On the strength of these ideas General Walter Bedell Smith, who became CIA director after the Korean War began, invited Allen to come aboard as deputy director of Plans. In two years Smith resigned and, with considerable prodding from Foster, President Eisenhower made Allen head of the Agency.
Frank G. Wisner was Allen’s covert operations czar. Often in his dark deeds Wisner seemed to be a secret sharer of Foster’s gracious dream of “liberating the captive peoples” behind the Iron Curtain. A young Mississippi lawyer in charge of OSS in Bucharest when Allen chose him to be his assistant in Germany in 1945, Wisner strides through Mosley’s pages like a schoolboy gone berserk. Liberating Captive Peoples—or intending to do so—was this spyman’s mission on earth. When he wasn’t bribing trade union leaders or buying elections and stacking parliaments in Europe, Wisner was subsidizing General Reinhard Gehlen, an unreconstructed Nazi who controlled an espionage ring in East Germany and Russia. In Mosley’s account he is like some comic-book hero of the Fifties, a Captain Cold War who kept at his bidding around the globe mini-armies of dissident Rumanians, Ukrainians, Hungarians, Bulgars, Laotians, and Annamites trained and equipped from an uncountable, unauditable stash of Operational Funds to do such propaganda, espionage, sabotage, and guerrilla warfare as might befit the let’s-roll-back-the-Iron-Curtain-and-set-the-enslaved-peoples-free policy which the Dulles brothers were using as a Republican appeal to the ethnic vote in the 1952 elections. Only the Dulleses never gave him his big chance.
When the Soviets invaded Hungary, Wisner had Radio Free Europe step up its messages to the rebels in Budapest: “Your friends in the West are coming.” Wisner needed only the go-ahead signal from Allen to send in his armed groups, but none came. Patiently, gently, Allen explained that 1956 was an election year, that the US had enough problems with its own allies invading Egypt; so Foster was not going to tell President Eisenhower to do anything about Hungary except talk. For Wisner, it was the start of a five-year decline that ended in suicide.
Allen developed a strong stomach for the disgusting and his leathered old conscience gave him no trouble at all. He was getting older, he hadn’t much of a home life, he went to lots of parties to keep merry, and to keep young he worked in the Agency. CIA was the only branch of government beyond the prying of Treasury Department investigators, and the House Appropriations Committee was always friendly when the annual budget was up for review. Allen answered their questions cheerfully for hours on end and embellished his testimony “with fascinating little espionage anecdotes” for the congressmen. The chairman would ask one question, “Mr. Dulles, are you sure you have enough money?”
The U-2 reconnaissance plane had cost plenty, but it was already outmoded before Gary Powers was shot down in it in 1960. The Agency’s new electronic hardware and eavesdropping equipment were growing beyond Allen’s grasp. In the double twilight of his more and more compartmentalized administration, and of Eisenhower’s, Allen let his deputies do more of the work and stuck with the things he liked best.
He liked to lay on top-level “no spit” briefings for VIPs on top-level subjects like the Chicom threat to the Formosa Straights. He liked public relations gestures: New Year’s Day parties at the Alibi Club for Bill Paley, Eric Sevareid, and the gang from CBS. He liked to hang around the Training Farm and sit in on the lie detector tests. New gadgets intrigued him: flashless pistols, exploding candles; the mind-bending drugs and traceless poison. It tickled him to learn that the name of a new research unit was the Health Alteration Committee. He had a round face, fuller and more jovial than Foster’s, and a thin mustache. When he walked pipe in hand down the corridors of his new, dream-come-true CIA headquarters at Langley, he rather resembled the actor Jean Hersholt who played the kindly Dr. Dafoe in the movie about the Dionne Quintuplets.
When it came to plotting the Bay of Pigs invasion Allen was not really on top of the work. Allen let Richard Bissell do most of the worrying over this attempt to eliminate Castro. Kennedy’s inquiry blamed Allen, severely, and he was expected to resign, but Allen would not budge; so Jack Kennedy had to wait a few months before he awarded Allen the Agency’s Distinguished Service Medal and nominated John A. McCone to take his place. Seven years later (six after Jack Kennedy’s murder, one after Bobby’s) Allen died of pneumonia. His eulogy, given by the minister of Georgetown Presbyterian Church, turned out to be a CIA text supplied by James “No Knock” Angleton.
Inevitably among the Dulleses it is John Foster whose shadow falls across most of the events and personalities in this book. Among the small number of associates he could not dominate two were generals. George C. Marshall, in whose presence Foster felt strangely uneasy, though he privately believed that in negotiating with the Russians a corporation lawyer had it all over a man with a military background. And Walter Bedell Smith, the toughest assistant secretary of state that Foster had—although Beetle Smith had good cause to complain he’d been “emasculated” when he took the job. Foster offered it to him so that his rival Allen Dulles, whom Smith derided as “The Great White Case Officer,” would have no more competition at CIA. Foster’s only civilian rival was George Humphrey, secretary of the Treasury and the president’s golfing chum.
Foster didn’t like to lose an argument, but when the opposition was too much he could adroitly avoid a showdown. Foster believed that Sullivan & Cromwell, which had a large number of German clients, should continue to keep open its German office on the grounds that what Nazis did to other Germans, Jewish or not, in their own country was no affair of an American law firm. Foster maintained that Hitler was part of the price owed to Germany for the monstrously unjust Treaty of Versailles. In the late Thirties the brothers were in a rare state of disagreement about the coming war: Allen strongly interventionalist, like Eleanor, and Foster insisting, like the Lindberghs, that Nazism had “vitality” and was only a passing phase. Yet once he saw the entire boardroom of Sullivan & Cromwell arrayed against him and understood he could lose control of the firm, Foster promptly switched his vote to make the decision to close the German office unanimous.
So upright, so resolute he seemed, it is almost an impertinence to call him “Foster.” Was this forbidding nature a product of long self-discipline? Of a solid grounding in the Scriptures? Of obedience to the Almighty? Why, on the other hand, did his righteousness turn to jelly in the face of the McCarthyites and Senators Taft and Knowland of the old isolationist Republican right? Mosley has no answers. He is only recording what has already been tape recorded as “oral history” and stored away among Princeton’s fathomless Dulles Papers. Or he is quoting Eleanor: “[Foster] knew that if he wasn’t right in his opinions on life he was as right as he could be. He had few doubts. He was sure of himself and everything he did.” Or he is quoting Foster’s aide, William Macomber, who is in turn quoting Foster, who by now is beginning to sound like Richard Nixon: “As Secretary of State I could have conducted myself…in [such] a way that people would have liked me. But unfortunately the times that I have dealt with were times when sternness, firmness, resoluteness were the qualities that were required.”
Sometimes Foster addressed cabinet meetings with so much resoluteness that the president was groggy. Ike was weary and it was hard to know what Foster was driving at as he droned on and on. Ike didn’t like to interrupt or ask questions or in any way offend his secretary of state. Indeed he likened Foster to an “Old Testament prophet.” The truth was that Ike was in awe of Foster but didn’t like him much; he was more at home with old Army buddies and businessmen who shared his concern to keep the dollar sound.
Time magazine was a deal keener on Foster than the president was. The old Time, that is, the genuine article we used to read in Henry Luce’s day, the magazine that called Foster “Master Chessman Dulles” after he reneged on his promise to Nasser to build the Aswan Dam. Finding George Humphrey and powerful senators against him, Foster backed off and, as usual, managed to appear perfectly righteous in doing so. That move so enraged Nasser that he seized the Suez Canal, which in turn so enraged Anthony Eden (Foster had previously persuaded him to withdraw the British troops stationed there) that, with the French and Israelis, he tried to seize back the canal. Foster had given the British reason to believe that the United States government, which knew about the Suez invasion in advance, would make no protest. But it was 1956, an election year, and President Eisenhower couldn’t afford to be exposed in such chicanery. Ike went on television in a high dudgeon and said the British had deceived him.
Foster with some Calvinist indignation of his own initiated a strong United Nations resolution ordering the invaders to evacuate Suez. If this weren’t humiliation enough for Britain, the US Treasury put a financial squeeze on her to strike her colors. Foster was in the hospital when Eden, his career a shambles after the Suez fiasco, placed a plaintive call to Ike and asked if he might fly to Washington and “consult.” Ike said, “Sure, Anthony,” but when Foster heard of this gesture to a loser, the invitation was withdrawn.
If Mosley doesn’t tell much about what went on inside John Foster Dulles, his examination of Foster’s deeds is sparser still. This book is not comparable to Townsend Hoopes’s substantial biography The Devil and John Foster Dulles, which Mosley mentions only once but which addresses the sticky questions and discrepancies he himself avoids. What did Foster’s anticommunism derive from? The generation now in its middle age remembers him as a pontificator of Freedom, as Henry Luce’s hero, and the source of slogans—“agonizing reappraisal,” “massive retaliation,” and “to the brink”—which discomforted the public, frightened our allies, and made the Russians nastier than ever. Some of the new historians hold that with all his threats and bluster Foster served as an unwitting foil to Ike’s peaceful intentions. Little did Foster realize that by playing the ogre he made Ike seem so sincere that the Russians were actually soothed by benign proposals like “Atoms for Peace” or “Open Skies” which were a soft contrast to the rugged intransigence of his secretary of state. Certainly this book does not ascribe to poor Eisenhower any such subtle powers, and when Mosley declares Foster was “faithful to his principles to the end,” he does not define what those principles were to begin with.
At the end of his career John Foster Dulles appeared to stand for things quite different from those at its beginning when Woodrow Wilson was his idol. At Versailles in 1919, Foster’s opposition to the Allies’ reparations policy was dissident and enlightened. His prediction that Germany could never pay its debt was past all disputing in 1924, when Foster’s advice was sought in drawing up the Dawes Plan, a stopgap measure and yet the best Foster could then negotiate for the relief of Germany.
Progress—Foster was still all for it in 1939. Progress and change: it all depended on how we dealt with the Europeans as men and nations, and on whether we were to rise above the passions of prejudice and self-interest and seek “constructive solutions” rather than simplistic invective about the shortcomings of somebody else—e.g., Adolf Hitler. Foster began publicly to preach these churchmen’s thoughts on the right conduct of international affairs, which meant not getting involved in a European quarrel that was largely the result of Franco-British greed of twenty years before. Foster sought an audience among his fellow Christians in the World Council of Churches. He quoted, with no slight casuistry, New Testament texts, like “seek first the kingdom of God” from the Sermon on the Mount. The kingdom of God was not to be achieved through mere expediency, like putting down the Nazis whose regime he found, for all its flaws, to be “dynamic,” but instead by striving for “a moral vision and a faith.” (Mosley has trouble—as who would not?—with the doctrinal or perhaps the metaphysical underpinnings for these arguments. He relies on the benevolent interpretation of them by Avery Dulles.) Foster also found time to consider some vaguely Wilsonian ideas for an international organization which might realize his vision of a happier world, and these he put in a book. The title was abstract: War, Peace and Change.
When America ignored his advice and entered World War II, Foster’s greatest concern was less with winning the war than with what he would do with the world after the war was over. He feared for the spiritual condition of his countrymen, lest they grow cynical and fail to develop “a faith so profound that we will feel we have a mission to spread it throughout the world.” That America might not repeat the mistakes of Versailles he presided over the Commission for a Just and Honorable Peace. Not at all satisfied with Roosevelt and Churchill or their joint declaration in the Atlantic Charter, Foster produced a manifesto of his own. It was adopted by the Federal Council of Churches as a sort of promotion pamphlet for the United Nations. Its title, The Six Pillars of Wisdom, owed something to T.E. Lawrence and may not have been a grabber, but the book was useful to the Republicans in the presidential campaign of 1944.
The United Nations Charter had been signed in August of that year at Dumbarton Oaks. Foster’s game, as the Republican’s foreign policy adviser, was to beat the Democrats by proposing a rival program that would give hegemony over the postwar world to not just four “Charter Members” but to all nations and in equal shares. So for a curious spell Dulles had Thomas E. Dewey, the same candidate who with the same foreign policy adviser had attacked Roosevelt as too internationalist in 1940, out one-worlding the one-worlders in the Democratic Party. Again Roosevelt was the unbeatable opponent, and the Democrats, Foster told his startled brother, were less to be trusted than Stalin and the Russians. He feared Roosevelt would be too lenient on the Germans. Mosley offers us here the astonishing disclosure—which Eleanor Dulles states is a dangerous distortion of the truth and among the most glaring of this book’s “900” errors—that for a time Foster, the staunch foe of revanchism at Versailles, had wanted to punish and dismember Germany to a degree that made Morgenthau’s “pastoralization” plan look gentle.
Despite his dislike of FDR and the wariness of Dean Acheson, Foster penetrated the Democrats’ foreign policy apparat. He was a delegate to the San Francisco Conference in 1945 and to the Moscow Conference in 1947. As the Republican representative there he quickly learned how to steal the delegation’s thunder by leaking his minority views to the press. He also learned how sadly and seriously he had misjudged the intentions of Stalin, whose “sense of mission” to build “a World Community” based on spiritual faith was not the same as Foster’s. He drastically revised his views and began to outline plans for saving Western civilization. As Truman’s ambassador at large, he traveled to the Orient. The result was the sophisticated and mild Japanese Peace Treaty, which has been rightly recognized as probably his finest accomplishment—it seems at any rate the one that recalled his old position after Versailles.
The attributes which served him best—a formidable intelligence, ingenuity, ambition, stamina, finely calculated opportunism—do not endear John Foster Dulles to posterity. He was more praiseworthy for his sheer endurance in adversity than for valor, and he was easily as devious as he was steadfast. His performance in Joe McCarthy’s time was as craven as that of most public men; but since Foster was one of the two or three most powerful and respected men in the Eisenhower administration, this deficiency was shocking. He’d waited most of his life to head the State Department, but when his turn came, rather than restore the morale of the Foreign Service, he took part in its humiliation. He served up the careers of John Paton Davies and John Carter Vincent as fodder for McCarthy; he accepted George Kennan’s resignation without an expression of thanks or regret; he would not be seen in the same limousine with Charles Bohlen, who was his ambassador-designate to Moscow. Foster demanded not loyalty from his subordinates but “positive loyalty,” and he engaged a bullying security officer, Scott McCleod, to police their private lives.
Mosley is most indebted to Eleanor Dulles, most drawn to Allen, most in awe of Foster. Stoicism, he tells us, was a family characteristic; they would not let pain govern their actions or influence their judgment. Foster’s eyesight had been very bad since boyhood. When he was under stress, as he was regularly, his gout, like Allen’s, could be excruciating. He had malaria, a slipped disk, thromboid phlebitis, diverticulitis, a hernia. It was a recurring cancer that killed him before he could go to the Geneva Conference of 1959. We didn’t know about this suffering. It goes far to explain the deadly oppressiveness of the image one formed of John Foster Dulles from the papers and the newsreels. He had steel-rimmed specs, sparse hair, bad teeth; he was about seventy and he looked older. He was always lumbering up and down the ramps of the airports of the Free World lugging his attaché case loaded with memoranda and calamity. When he shook hands with the leaders of the Free World, there was an unprepossessing heartiness to his smile which bespoke, one thought, some spiritual malaise or acidosis of the soul. Now we know, from this pedestrian biography, that it was probably an inflammation of the lower bowel.
May 4, 1978