Back in the '50's when Foster Dulles was scaring hell out of the world some of us called him the original misguided missile, not only because he looked and acted like one but because his policy of ""brinkmanship"" (as Life dubbed it) seemed as dangerous as a wayward nuke. In this major study of the Dulles diplomacy, Hoopes admirably dissects the legacy and in so doing buttresses the period wisdom that the hardline initiatives -- ""agonizing reappraisal,"" ""liberation,"" ""massive retaliation,"" SEATO, etc. -- were neither wise nor particularly effective; today these concepts ""all share the same sad connotation of emptiness, indeed of semifraud"" and in retrospect there is ""a curiously ad hoc quality to the whole record."" But Hoopes is not finished with this ""preacher-politician,"" this Secretary of State who wrapped his annihilation tactics in the sentiments of a righteous God: Dulles' foreign policy ""pervasively institutionalized"" the Cold War at home by drumming on the need to defeat atheistic Communism wherever it might occur and hence, Hoopes argues, the last bequest of Dulles' stewardship at State -- Vietnam. It is the Dulles inheritance more than any other thing -- more than the policies of Johnson, Kennedy, or Truman (the latter attempted ""to avoid setting in motion the runaway locomotive of a global ideological crusade"") -- which pushed us into the rice paddies, which led America to the ""extremes that increasingly failed to meet the tests of interest or reason, proportion or morality."" This is the book Michael Guhin (John Foster Dulles: A Statesman and His Times, KR, 1972, p. 992) did not write; and while Hoopes will be criticized in some quarters for oversimplification (as was his The Limits of Intervention, 1969), the analysis stands as the most persuasive we have had or are likely to have for a long time to come.