A Great Place to Have A War

A Great Place to Have A War

America in Laos and the Birth of A Military CIA

Book - 2017 | First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
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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.
Publisher: New York, NY : Simon & Schuster, 2017
Edition: First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9781451667868
Branch Call Number: 959.70438 KUR 2016
Characteristics: 323 pages ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: Council on Foreign Relations

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rick7white
Sep 01, 2017

It by far one of the best books on this subject.

Very good comments below also.

l
lukasevansherman
Apr 19, 2017

"We only had a minimal understanding of the history, culture, and politics of the people we wanted to aid."-CIA officer working in Laos
I have to take issue with the previous commentator's mis-characterization of this book as "revisionistic [sic] nonsense." The book has very little to do with the Kennedy administration, as the period the author is looking at is primarily 1964-1973. And his rant about Chomsky, MIT, and the Koch brothers it totally irrelevant. Regardless of your feelings about Kennedy or Chomsky, this is an important book about a neglected and shameful period in American foreign policy: our secret involvement in Laos. It was concurrent with Vietnam and also used the "domino theory" (If one southeast Asian country falls to Communism, they'll all fall.) as a justification. Arming and support the Hmong people, the U.S. fought a proxy war that involved over 580,000 bombing runs, which dropped more than 2 million tons of ordinance, much of which impacted the civilian population. As the subtitle indicates, Kurlantzick, a fellow at the Council for Foreign Relations, the book is also about the use of the CIA to fight unconventional wars. It helps if you have some familiarity with the Vietnam War. Other books on the same theme: "Legacy of Ashes" (a history of the C.I.A.) and "Ghost Wars."
"They (the CIA) thought that [Laos] was a great place to have a war."-Robert Amory Jr., former CIA deputy director

s
StarGladiator
Sep 08, 2016

More revisionistic nonsense from the CFR about the Kennedy Administration, for the real story, please read:
https://www.jfklibrary.org/JFK/JFK-in-History/Laos.aspx
[It began with Eisenhower, as usual, while JFK reined in the generals and his people, as usual!]
Whether the author is a CFR hack named Kurlantzick, or some former MIT phony named Chomsky, revisionistic lies about the Kennedy Administration have grown most tedious - - and are proof positive of your inability to tell the truth!
Did anyone ever hear Chomsky attack MIT trustee, Fred Koch [patriarch of the Koch family and financier behind the John Birch Society, Liberty Lobby and other such drivel groups]? Of course not! Yet Chomsky has repeatedly lied and attributed falsehoods to the Kennedy Administration, an avowed enemy of Fred Koch and his family!

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