Six close friends shaped the role their country would play
in the dangerous years following World War II. They were the original best and
brightest, whose towering intellects, immense personalities, and dramatic
actions would bring order to the postwar chaos, and whose strong response to
Soviet expansionism would leave a legacy that dominates American policy to this
In April 1945, they converged to advise an untutored new
president, Harry Truman. They were Averell Harriman, the freewheeling diplomat
and Roosevelt’s special envoy to Churchill and Stalin; Dean Acheson, the
secretary of state who was more responsible for the Truman Doctrine than Truman
and for the Marshall Plan than General Marshall; George Kennan, self-cast
outsider and intellectual darling of the Washington elite; Robert Lovett,
assistant secretary of war, undersecretary of state, and secretary of defense
throughout the formative years of the Cold War; John McCloy, one of the
nation’s most influential private citizens; and Charles Bohlen, adroit diplomat
and ambassador to the Soviet Union.
Together they formulated a doctrine of Communist containment
that was to be the foundation of American policy, and years later, when much of
what they stood for appeared to be sinking in the mire of Vietnam, they were
summoned for their steady counsel. It was then that they were dubbed “the Wise
Men.” Working in an atmosphere of trust that in today’s Washington would seem
quaint, they shaped a new world order that committed a once-reticent nation to
defending freedom wherever it sought to flourish.
Download and start listening now!