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3.7 out of 5 stars6
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 7 January 1999
If for no other reason than Kai Bird's chapter on the Cuban Missile Crisis, this book is a very valuable contribution to the history of America's Cold War relations with the Soviet Union. The standard myth that has JFK as a master statesman whose strength and unbending resolve forced Khrushchev to blink is emphatically and persuasively debunked by Bird, who argues that the introduction of offensive missiles into Cuba was in fact the ultimate domestic political problem---not a military one. Using both actual ExComm transcripts, plus several documents just recently made public, Bird makes a very powerful case that Kennedy's fear of appearing weak and indecisive before the Republican right drove him to ratchet the matter into a nuclear confrontation that very easily could have set off World War III. And when one learns on top of this that men like Mac Bundy and Ted Sorenson worked to conceal for all time that Khrushchev withdrew his missiles as a quid pro quo for our Jupiter missiles in Turkey---a fact that JFK could not have revealed in 1962 for it would have meant political death---it is hard not to find Bird's conclusions compelling. That our president, as much as he was and is to be admired, actually brought the prospect of nuclear annihilation into order to avoid political annihilation. All in all, a very absorbing read; and I have not even touched upon the Bundy strains that connect the Lowells, Stimsons, Harvards, Yales, Oppenheimers, Kissingers, McNamaras...and of course Vietnam. So for anyone who is interested in how America's patrician and ruling classes acquitted themselves in the crucible of the Cold War, this is a worthy and important book.
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on 12 January 1999
Bird guides his reader through Ameican history with a masterful hand, using the the fascinating biographries of the Bundy bothers as his prism. The writing is elegant, the history is first-rate and the portraiture illuminating. I know of no better book to discover the unhappy story of US behavior in the Cold War than Kai Bird's The Color of Truth
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on 9 December 1998
Mr. Bird does not like much of anything that the American government has done since 1945. He goes out of his way in this book to drag in a lot of Cold War issues that are only peripherally relevant to the Bundy brothers -- including a long and rather tedious digression on how one of them edited a book on the decision to bomb Hiroshima that the author, having written his own book on the subject, disagrees with. The fact that the author does not like the tough decisions made by various Cold Warriors does not excuse the one-sided, highly partisan and biased nature of this book. Its credibility is not enhanced by such elementary mistakes such as thinking that First Lieutenant is a lower rank than Second Lieutenant, or identifying someone as a lieutenant in a photo caption when his captain's bars are clearly visible on his uniform. Pass on this one and you will not regret it.
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on 1 April 1999
This book is very readible, and full of information, reflecting the seven years or so of its preparation. And the Bundy brothers come through in this book as I knew them. There is a lot of useful information about the Vietnam and Strategic Weapons scene. The book reveals, to those unfamiliar with Government, the existential reality of high officials caught up in group-think with very little time to think themselves and unable to do more to dissent than provide waffling papers for their superiors.
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on 7 January 1999
This is a terrific biography. It's lucid, deeply researched and well-written. Bird has many important insights into American history and tells a fascinating--sometimes tragic story--of loyalty and hubris. I wholeheartedly recommend it.
Eric Alterman, New York, New York
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on 19 February 1999
There is no doubt that this is a good biography of the Bundy brothers' life and times. However, a biography is more than the mere reporting of the subject's life. A good biography makes some moral decisions and conclusions regarding the subject's life decisions, as this book has done. Unfortunately, Mr. Bird's overall conclusion seems to be that the decisions made by the Bundy brothers during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, that is to support US imperialism in the third world in Vietnam, Cuba, etc. is undrestandable due to the fact that they wanted to appear to be "tough on the communists".
In the Vietnam arena, for example, Bird makes the same old doves/hawks argument that was perpetuated by the establishment left and right in the US throughout the sixties. The right constantly hollering "we don't want to lose another China" and the establishment left saying "yes that is true but the price (in American lives and Dollars cost) is not worth the effort. Nowhere did it occur to the Bundy brothers, consummate liberal establishment types that they were, that ther was a bigger question to ask, namely, what the hell made Vietnam "ours" to win or lose. Don't the Vietnamese (and, for that matter, the Chinese, the Guatemalans, the Iranians, the Cubans, ... ad nauseum) have the sovereign right to handle their own affairs, especially through popular means without our murderous "assistance"?
Questions like this would not occur to aristocratic liberals such as the Bundy brothers. Unfortunately, these questions also didn't seem to occur to Mr. Bird. As a contributing writer for The Nation, that paragon of the establishment left, this revelation comes as no surprise.
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