A Great Place To Have A War America In Laos And The Birth Of A Military CIA

A Great Place to Have a War

America In Laos And The Birth Of A Military CIA

Author: Joshua Kurlantzick, Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia
A Great Place to Have a War - joshua-kurlantzick-a-great-place-to-have-a-war

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PublisherA CFR Book. Simon & Schuster
Release DateJanuary 2017
Price$28.00 hardcover / $14.99 ebook
ISBN 978-1-451-66786-8


January 1961: Laos, a tiny nation few Americans have heard of, is at risk of falling to communism and triggering a domino effect throughout Southeast Asia.

This is what President Eisenhower believed when he approved Operation Momentum, a plan for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to create an army of primarily Hmong to fight communist forces in Laos on the United States’ behalf. Largely hidden from the American public-and most of Congress-Momentum became the largest CIA paramilitary operation in the history of the United States, a war that lasted into two decades, left the ground littered with thousands of unexploded bombs, and changed U.S. foreign policy forever.

In A Great Place to Have a War, Joshua Kurlantzick provides the definitive account of the Laos war, focusing on the four people who led the operation: the CIA operative whose idea it was, the Hmong general who led the proxy army in the field, the paramilitary specialist who trained the Hmong forces, and the State Department careerist who took control of the war as it grew.

Using recently declassified records and extensive interviews, Kurlantzick shows for the first time how the CIA’s clandestine adventures in one small, Southeast Asian country became the template for how the United States has conducted war ever since.

More About This Publication

“As powerful as it had become, could the U.S. really ‘create stability where there is chaos’? As Kurlantzick reveals, the goal of the CIA in Laos was precisely the reverse: to create chaos where stability might have prevailed, if given the chance. In that sense, the effort was a success.”
Washington Monthly
“In this excellent historical analysis, Kurlantzick . . . relates how the U.S. got involved with Laos, seeing it as a vital piece in the strategy of containing communism in Southeast Asia. . . . An instructive tale without a happy ending for any of the main players, and it continues to have relevance in the 21st century.”
Publishers Weekly
“Riveting . . . Highly recommended for those wanting insight into the Hmong people and Cold War thinking.”
Library Journal
“In his well-researched argument, the author relies on extensive materials prepared by other historians as well as first-person interviews with relevant characters (including Vang Pao) and recently declassified documents . . . an important demonstration of the U.S.’s ongoing, not-so-secret hand in world affairs. Kurlantzick’s comprehensive account provides new insights into the CIA’s objectives in the Laos war and the way that they were incorporated into its broader mission.”
“Superb! Joshua Kurlantzick joins the ranks of preeminent Southeast Asia chroniclers like David Halberstam, Neil Sheehan, and Stanley Karnow with what will become the benchmark book for an important part of America’s quagmire in that region-the CIA’s secret war in Laos. A Great Place to Have a War is rich and jarring in its historical insight, fast in its pacing, and gripping in its read. You won’t want to put it down.”
-Douglas Waller, author of Disciples: The World War II Missions of the CIA Directors Who Fought for Wild Bill Donovan
“Gripping. Of all the CIA’s strange adventures during the Cold War, the secret war in Laos may have been the most bizarre. Joshua Kurlantzick has crafted a true drama with an improbable and colorful cast. An eye-opening, carefully researched, and wrenching yarn of what can go wrong when East meets West.”
-Evan Thomas, author of The Very Best Men: The Daring Early Years of the CIA
“Joshua Kurlantzick’s story of the CIA’s secret war in Laos brilliantly illuminates one of the most obscure yet harrowing chapters of the Vietnam conflict. With sure pacing and a gallery of rich characters, Kurlantzick shows how a modest operation to harass Communist forces escalated into a military onslaught that killed and displaced tens of thousands and wrecked a country. This is a cautionary tale of arrogance, recklessness, and unrestrained power that, tragically, finds echoes in many of today’s battlefields.”
-Joshua Hammer, author of The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu


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