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A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of the Military CIA by Joshua Kurlantzick (review)

A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of the Military CIA by Joshua... Contemporary Southeast Asia Vol. 39, No. 2 (2017), pp. 406–8 DOI: 10.1355/cs39-2j © 2017 ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute ISSN 0129-797X print / ISSN 1793-284X electronic A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of the Military CIA. By Joshua Kurlantzick. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2017. Hardcover: 323pp. This aptly, but ironically, titled book tells the story of US involvement in Laos from the early 1950s through the secret war of the 1960s and beyond. Like many journalistic accounts, the book relies substantially on interviews with the American participants and the Hmong military leader Vang Pao, but it is also informed by recent scholarship and some documentary sources. Its focus is on events and actions in Laos, though it does not ignore policy in Washington. Joshua Kurlantzick argues that, despite the enormous damage and huge casualties inflicted in Laos and the ultimate triumph of communist forces, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) counted Laos, the first war that the agency directed, among its great successes. Laos provided the template for the militarization of the CIA and its future wars. The author, however, does not think the results were positive for Laos, the CIA http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs Institute of Southeast Asian Studies

A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of the Military CIA by Joshua Kurlantzick (review)

A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of the Military CIA by Joshua Kurlantzick (review)


Contemporary Southeast Asia Vol. 39, No. 2 (2017), pp. 406–8 DOI: 10.1355/cs39-2j © 2017 ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute ISSN 0129-797X print / ISSN 1793-284X electronic A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of the Military CIA. By Joshua Kurlantzick. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2017. Hardcover: 323pp. This aptly, but ironically, titled book tells the story of US involvement in Laos from the early 1950s through the secret war of the 1960s and beyond. Like many journalistic accounts, the book relies substantially on interviews with the American participants and the Hmong military leader Vang Pao, but it is also informed by recent scholarship and some documentary sources. Its focus is on events and actions in Laos, though it does not ignore policy in Washington. Joshua Kurlantzick argues that, despite the enormous damage and huge casualties inflicted in Laos and the ultimate triumph of communist forces, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) counted Laos, the first war that the agency directed, among its great successes. Laos provided the template for the militarization of the CIA and its future wars. The author, however, does not think the results were positive for Laos, the CIA or the United States. Although the book provides a more or less comprehensive account, throughout there is particular attention on four individuals: Vang Pao; Bill Lair, a CIA operative who was there in the beginning and became close to Vang Pao; Tony Poe, another CIA operative who attempted to raise an indigenous army from people not connected with the Hmong; and Bill Sullivan, the diplomat who ran the secret war in its more expansive phase beginning in 1965. Among these, Lair is clearly Kurlantzick’s favourite. A World War II veteran, Lair had spent the 1950s in Southeast Asia, mostly in Thailand and, after the Geneva Conference settlement in 1954, in Laos as well, as a covert CIA agent. He knew the...
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Publisher
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
Copyright
Copyright © The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
ISSN
1793-284X
Publisher site
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Abstract

Contemporary Southeast Asia Vol. 39, No. 2 (2017), pp. 406–8 DOI: 10.1355/cs39-2j © 2017 ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute ISSN 0129-797X print / ISSN 1793-284X electronic A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of the Military CIA. By Joshua Kurlantzick. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2017. Hardcover: 323pp. This aptly, but ironically, titled book tells the story of US involvement in Laos from the early 1950s through the secret war of the 1960s and beyond. Like many journalistic accounts, the book relies substantially on interviews with the American participants and the Hmong military leader Vang Pao, but it is also informed by recent scholarship and some documentary sources. Its focus is on events and actions in Laos, though it does not ignore policy in Washington. Joshua Kurlantzick argues that, despite the enormous damage and huge casualties inflicted in Laos and the ultimate triumph of communist forces, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) counted Laos, the first war that the agency directed, among its great successes. Laos provided the template for the militarization of the CIA and its future wars. The author, however, does not think the results were positive for Laos, the CIA

Journal

Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic AffairsInstitute of Southeast Asian Studies

Published: Aug 23, 2017

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