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A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos…
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A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military… (2017 original; edició 2017)

de Joshua Kurlantzick

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743274,856 (3.4)3
The untold story of how America's secret war in Laos in the 1960s transformed the CIA from a loose collection of spies into a military operation and a key player in American foreign policy. In 1960, President Eisenhower was focused on Laos, a tiny Southeast Asian nation few Americans had ever heard of. Washington feared the country would fall to communism, triggering a domino effect in the rest of Southeast Asia. So in January 1961, Eisenhower approved the CIA's Operation Momentum, a plan to create a proxy army of ethnic Hmong to fight communist forces in Laos. While remaining largely hidden from the American public and most of Congress, Momentum became the largest CIA paramilitary operation in the history of the United States. The brutal war, which continued under Presidents Kennedy and Nixon, lasted nearly two decades, killed one-tenth of Laos's total population, left thousands of unexploded bombs in the ground, and changed the nature of the CIA forever. Joshua Kurlantzick gives us the definitive account of the Laos war and its central characters, including the four key people who led the operation--the CIA operative who came up with the idea, the Hmong general who led the proxy army in the field, the paramilitary specialist who trained the Hmong, and the State Department careerist who took control over the war as it grew. The Laos war created a CIA that fights with real soldiers and weapons as much as it gathers secrets. Laos became a template for CIA proxy wars all over the world, from Central America in the 1980s to today's war on terrorism, where the CIA has taken control with little oversight. Based on extensive interviews and CIA records only recently declassified, A Great Place to Have a War is a riveting, thought-provoking look at how Operation Momentum changed American foreign policy forever.… (més)
Membre:WilliamW72
Títol:A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIA
Autors:Joshua Kurlantzick
Informació:Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
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A great place to have a war: America in Laos and the birth of a military CIA de Joshua Kurlantzick (Author) (2017)

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This history of the United States' involvement in the "Secret War" in Laos is not quite so bad as its critics make it out to be. But it is still filled with so many errors and apparent outright invention of facts as to make it highly suspect.

Without going too much into the details of Hmong culture and personal history of such figures as Bill Lair, Vang Pao, and Tony Poe, suffice it to say that the author, Joshua Kurlantzick, is on shaky ground. Just how shaky is apparent in Roger Warner's review, "Lost in History's Quagmire," of A Great Place to Have a War in the March 10, 2017 edition of the Bangkok Post. Warner's own book is considered the best of the efforts to tell the American and Hmong side of the story through the lives of the principle architects of the war--Lair, Sullivan, and Vang Pao.

But there are more doubts raised because . . . it doesn't seem that Kurlantzick has actually ever spent time in Laos or northern Thailand, for that matter. He does exhibit some familiarity with Bangkok. But he gets matters of geography and even climate wrong when he gets anywhere north of Pathum Thani. And that is vital, especially when understanding just much these factors played in the war. Just one example, Kurlantzick seems to misplace Long Tieng south rather than east of Luang Prabang and rather too close to Vientiane, which he also moves near the Vietnamese border. All of which put together is a geographical impossibility. Those sorts of howlers make it difficult to take this book too seriously.

Another problem is that the book is far too sourced with telephone interviews, which Kurlantzick seems to have embellished. He has also proved himself too gullible for some of Tony Poe's more "evocative" tales. And there is the simple fact that Kurlantzick interviewed most of these people while they were aged and ill, making their memories perhaps not so reliable as they would have been in earlier years.

Additionally, the author is dismissive of the efforts of Air America and the Ravens in Laos. He hardly even refers to Air America, writing its pilots and staff off as mere "contractors," although they were part of a highly proficient and experienced organization with roots in World War II. Instead, Kurlantzick is busy creating his hero, Bill Lair, in constant battle against the forces of evil, the US ambassador, William Sullivan. Thrown in for good measure are a couple of psychopaths, according to Kurlantzick, Poe and Vang Pao.

Where does Kurlantzick get it right? I think he does a good job of describing the policy angles for Laos in Washington, D.C. and how they shifted over the course of the fifteen years the US was in Laos. In fact, that is Kurlantzick's thesis: Laos provided the template for the shifting of the CIA from an information gathering service to a paramilitary force operating at the discretion of the US president. Those arguments are credible. His stories about Laos are not. ( )
1 vota PaulCornelius | Apr 12, 2020 |
5482. A Great Place to Have a War America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIA, by Joshua Kurlantzick (read 3 Jul 2017) This 2017 book tells of a not much publicied war which the CIA ran in Laos while the Vietnam War was going on. The CIA supplied money and air support but the ground forces were Laotian--largely Hmong. So since Americans were not dying in Laos there was not much publicity about the fighting there--in fact the CIA lied about the involvment of the CIA. Even when it became known it did not cause the firestorm which for instance the extension of the war to Cambodia did. The war was being lost in Laos and when the Vietnam peace accord was reached the CIA gave up on Laos as well. It is a sad story, and one has to feel sorry for the Laotians who fought and died so profusely for the the cause of non-communism in Laos. Now Laos is communist as is Vietnam but one cannot help but feel the people are better off than they were during the long years of war. The book is well-written and tells its sad story ably, though I could not get overly engrossed in the account. ( )
  Schmerguls | Jul 3, 2017 |
This book definitely kept my interest and gave the chronology of the war in Laos and the US involvement. But, I wanted more in the way of analysis and insight. In particular, I didn't walk away with a good sense of "why".

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
  Well-ReadNeck | Nov 29, 2016 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Kurlantzick, JoshuaAutorautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Nagin, MichaelDissenyador de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat

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The untold story of how America's secret war in Laos in the 1960s transformed the CIA from a loose collection of spies into a military operation and a key player in American foreign policy. In 1960, President Eisenhower was focused on Laos, a tiny Southeast Asian nation few Americans had ever heard of. Washington feared the country would fall to communism, triggering a domino effect in the rest of Southeast Asia. So in January 1961, Eisenhower approved the CIA's Operation Momentum, a plan to create a proxy army of ethnic Hmong to fight communist forces in Laos. While remaining largely hidden from the American public and most of Congress, Momentum became the largest CIA paramilitary operation in the history of the United States. The brutal war, which continued under Presidents Kennedy and Nixon, lasted nearly two decades, killed one-tenth of Laos's total population, left thousands of unexploded bombs in the ground, and changed the nature of the CIA forever. Joshua Kurlantzick gives us the definitive account of the Laos war and its central characters, including the four key people who led the operation--the CIA operative who came up with the idea, the Hmong general who led the proxy army in the field, the paramilitary specialist who trained the Hmong, and the State Department careerist who took control over the war as it grew. The Laos war created a CIA that fights with real soldiers and weapons as much as it gathers secrets. Laos became a template for CIA proxy wars all over the world, from Central America in the 1980s to today's war on terrorism, where the CIA has taken control with little oversight. Based on extensive interviews and CIA records only recently declassified, A Great Place to Have a War is a riveting, thought-provoking look at how Operation Momentum changed American foreign policy forever.

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