Joseph Taglieri

Quicklet on Walter Isaacson's The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made

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The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made chronicles the lives of America’s arguably most influential power brokers of the 20th century. Kennan, Acheson, Bohlen, Lovett, Harriman, and McCloy. While these currently may not be household names, the impact these men have had in shaping the present political and economic paradigms is indisputably gargantuan. The authors of The Wise Men have provided an extremely valuable volume that reports from a very human perspective the close relationships among these power brokers and presidential advisers from FDR to LBJ who were instrumental in shaping the post-World War II world.

The summary printed on the book’s back cover aptly sets the stage for what readers will find as a thorough presentation of personalities and personal relationships, and how this social dynamic affected very historically impactful political actions, military maneuvers and policy positioning.


Joe Taglieri is a professional journalist and musician (drum set and Latin percussion instruments) in Los Angeles. He has written on a range of subjects for a variety of publications since the 1990s. Taglieri's forte is writing about governmental and economic issues, and he has a keen interest in sports and the arts, most notably music, television and film. He holds a degree in print journalism from the University of Southern California and has studied, taught and performed via the drum set for nearly 25 years and has done the same with Latin percussion instruments such as conga and bongo drums, cajón and timbales for more than 15 years.


By no means a laudatory puff piece, the book also very vividly details instances when the Wise Men favored positions that in retrospect weren’t a credible portrayal of wisdom. Some examples include Kennan’s seeming advocacy at times for authoritarian systems including as a model for the U.S. domestic power structure, McCloy’s favorable view of Japanese internment camps during World War II, and Harriman’s decision to pressure journalists working at Newsweek, in which he owned a controlling interest, to alter their critical coverage of daytime bombing raids over Germany in 1943 (The Wise Men). The Wise Men’s Eurocentric focus with regard to world affairs and Soviet expansionism also ill-prepared them and their top aids to deal with the rise of Cold War struggles in East Asia, especially with regard to China, Korea, and Vietnam.

What especially makes this book valuable is that the authors based the bulk of their research on the papers each man left posthumously to his respective estate and on interviews with surviving Wise Men. Because each of the six preferred to operate relatively out of public view compared with later counterparts, definitive biographies on them weren’t available until Isaacson and Thomas’ work was published. Readers undoubtedly will gain keen insights on 20th century history as a result of this rigorous exploration of the lives and actions of men who so greatly influenced the political and economic future of subsequent generations…

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