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A 100-year review of America’s foreign affairs


‘“That little Kennedy…he thought he was a god,” and then the storm passed and the genial old gentleman was himself again’.

So begins our introduction to Allen Dulles, the primary figure in David Talbot’s The Devil’s Chessboard, a 100-year review of America’s foreign affairs. And this is not the most damning quote. Dulles is revealed to have been not just a nasty man, but also a dangerous one.

This is a book for those who want to understand how we have come so far since the pre-WWI days when Woodrow Wilson won on a campaign promising to keep us out of foreign wars. It is a big book, packed with footnotes and references ranging from Dulles’ papers and daily calendars to hundreds of interviews and private letters. These include those of Dulles’ wife, mistress and children. It has also greatly benefitted from the continuing release of government documents based on legislation requiring that all information relating to the JFK assassination be released by October 2017.

And yet, it is a page-turner. Don’t let the book’s heft discourage you. If you like foreign intrigue, this book will grab you from the first page. Just try the first chapter and I’ll bet you will continue on. You might ask, “If this book is so great why haven’t I read raves about it?” Unless you are a regular web crawler or YouTube enthusiast, you will not have found reviews because there are practically none. I have found just two newspaper reviews (a short negative one, in the San Francisco Chronicle and a light-weight one in the San Jose Mercury) while there are many, many positive ones on the Internet. The best and most extensive one appeared in the Huffington Post of January 11, 2016, by a young historian.

For a quick sense of the book’s value, look up the comments on Amazon and our public library staff recommendations. This is the book to read to fully understand how the world has come to be run during the past century, the American Century. To my mind, a salient clue that the book touches some very sensitive nerves within Washington circles of power is that there is clearly a concerted refusal in the major print press to review it, though Talbot’s two recent earlier works were enthusiastically received. Talbot has said that his publisher was informed by the Washington Post and New York Times that they would not be reviewing the book.

If your curiosity is teased by this and you want to quickly learn more, you might look up the YouTube Devil’s Chessboard interviews with David Talbot. There are many, but if you try this, I’ll bet you will find you’ll want to listen to the longer ones. What he has uncovered you will find fascinating. That is, if you are willing to face this jarring description of how the world works.

~Jim Snell

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