In the years after World War II, Georgetown’s leafy streets were home to an unlikely group of Cold Warriors who helped shape American strategy. This coterie of affluent, well-educated, and connected civilians guided the country, for better and worse, from the Marshall Plan through McCarthyism, Watergate, and Vietnam. The Georgetown set included Phil and Kay Graham, husband-and-wife publishers of The Washington Post; Joe and Stewart Alsop, odd-couple brothers who were among the country’s premier political pundits; Frank Wisner, a driven, manic-depressive lawyer in charge of CIA covert operations; and a host of other diplomats, spies, and scholars. Gregg Herken gives us intimate portraits of these dedicated and talented, if deeply flawed, individuals, who navigated the Cold War years (often over cocktails and dinner) with very real consequences reaching into the present day. Throughout, he illuminates the drama and fascination of that noble, congenial, curious old world,” in Joe Alsop’s words, bringing this remarkable roster of men and women not only out into the open but vividly to life.
Cold War America was largely shaped by a close-knit group of individuals known as the "WASP ascendancy": well-off, well-educated journalists, politicians, and socialites who lived in Washington, D.C.'s Georgetown neighborhood. Herken (Brotherhood of the Bomb), professor emeritus of American diplomatic history at the University of California, goes into exacting detail in this excellent account, which focuses on the players themselves their backgrounds, relationships, rivalries, scandals, and opinions on the policies and events that defined the era. Two principal players were the highborn brothers Joe and Stewart Alsop, whose newspaper column, "Matter of Fact," appeared in more than a hundred newspapers across the United States. Joe's dinners, dubbed "zoo parties," served as alcohol-fueled salons for a tribe which regularly included such figures as George Kennan, Phil and Katherine Graham, and the CIA's Frank Wisner. Herken covers, among a host of post-WWII milestones, the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, the founding of the CIA, McCarthyism, the Korean War, Vietnam, and Watergate. The skill with which he describes the players in Georgetown is not to be missed.