An emeritus professor of American diplomatic history and author of Brotherhood of the Bomb, Gregg Herken richly recreates the urbane, sometimes clandestine world of The Georgetown Set (Knopf, $30), the group of government officials which included George Kennan and the CIA’s Frank Wisner along with the odd spy, and journalists such as Joseph and Stewart Alsop, and Philip and Katharine Graham, who often behaved like government officials. Obsessed with Cold War strategy, this collection of exceptionally cultured but largely unaccountable policy-makers wielded huge influence on United States foreign policy from the Marshall Plan to the Vietnam War. Herken describes an informal, elitist think tank, whose credentials included a WASP background, an Ivy-League education, and an almost unlimited tolerance for martinis. Mental stability was not a requirement, and two of the members of this inner sanctum were institutionalized before taking their own lives. Others faded away, dying of old age and ending an extraordinary era in American history.
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