Stephen Kinzer

Kinzer, Stephen. All the Shah's Men: The Hidden Story of the CIA's Coup in Iran. New York: Wiley, 2003. All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. With new Preface. New York: Wiley, 2008. [pb]

Clark comment: In his new Preface, "The Folly of Attacking Iran," the author pushes his argument and his research to the breaking point. To assume that absent the 1953 coup, "Iran would probably have continued along its path toward full democracy," is little more than seeing what you want to see when you look into a crystal ball. It is also too much to argue direct cause and effect between the events of 1953 and 1978 and beyond, given the 25-year gap between the two. That said, the generally positive reaction of reviewers to the original work remains valid.

Goedeken, Library Journal, 15 Jun. 2003, says that the author "tells his captivating tale with style and verve." The reviewer for Publishers Weekly, 12 May 2003, refers to Kinzer's "breezy storytelling and diligent research.... At its best this work reads like a spy novel." Although Brown, FA 82.6 (Nov.-Dec. 2003), notes that the main story has been known for some time, he adds that this retelling presents "a crisp, readable narrative." Robarge, Studies 48.2 (2004), sees All the Shah's Men as a "breezily written, well-researched popular history."


Kinzer, Stephen. Blood of Brothers: Life and War in Nicaragua. New York: Putnam, 1991.

Clark comment: Kinzer was Managua bureau chief of the New York Times from 1983 to 1988. Leiken, WPNWE, 1-7 Jul. 1991, finds that Kinzer's "reporting sometimes appeared an exercise in constituency balancing: a little criticism, a little praise and a glut of phrases such as 'there was wide difference of opinion of whether....' In the book the balancing act creates incoherence."


Kinzer, Stephen. The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War. New York: Times Books, 2013.

Goldstein, Washington Post, 14 Nov. 2013, sees this as "a bracing, disturbing and serious study of the exercise of American global power." The author "displays a commanding grasp of the vast documentary record." He provides a "devastating critique" of the Dulles brothers, "who are depicted as jointly responsible for acts of extreme geopolitical myopia, grave operational incompetence and misguided adherence to a creed of corporate globalism." For Peake, Studies 58.2 (Jun. 2014), and Intelligencer 20.3 (Spring-Summer), Kinzer's narrative "calls attention" both to the brothers' similarities and "their sharp differences."

[CIA/DCIs/Dulles; GenPostwar/50s/Gen]

Kinzer, Stephen. Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq. New York: Times Books, 2006. 2007. [pb]

Clark comment: The author is a journalist who has previously writtem on the U.S.-supported coups in Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954). Here, he begins in the late 19th century, sweeps across the 20th century, and covers the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in the beginning of the 21st century. Kinzer's speculation, following each case he presents, about what might have been without U.S. "intervention" eventually gets quite tiresome.

According to Sweig, Washington Post, 16 Apr. 2006, the author's "narrative abounds with unusual anecdotes, vivid description and fine detail." However, the book "stumbles when its tone shifts from lively storytelling to World Book Encyclopedia entry." Nor does Overthrow "tell us enough about the domestic environments that shaped the perspectives of those leaders whom the United States was busy overthrowing, isolating or provoking."

Ikenberry, FA 86.2 (Mar.-Apr. 2007), finds the author's account to be "fascinating history ... recounted in lively and colorful detail." Kinzer "offers a useful portrait of the presidents who have influenced the exercise of U.S. power and the interesting judgment that interventions have often succeeded in their immediate goals but failed to advance U.S. interests in the long term." Lieven, NYT Book Review, 16 Apr. 2006, who clearly supports the argument that U.S. interventions have fueled anti-Americanism around the world, refers to this work as a "fine book," "detailed, passionate and convincing," and "meticulously reported."

On the other hand, Peake, Studies 50.4 (2006) and Intelligencer 15.2 (Fall-Winter 2006-2007), finds that while "[n]o one can argue that the events Kinzer cites did not take place," the book has "a barely latent malevolence" to it. The author clearly "doesn't approve of covert action but despite his best efforts, he has not succeeded in justifying its demise."

[CA/00s; Overviews/U.S./00s]

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