Joshua Kurlantzick, A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIA: Book Review
Publisher: Insurgent Notes
Date Written: 21/02/2017
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX21681
Review of A Great Plaave a War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIA, by Joshua Kurlantzick.
The real-life "Kurtz" in this book, Tony Poe (he had Americanized his name from Anthony Poshepny) had been involved in US military operations since 1942, when he joined the Marines. His life's work, so to speak, was, from that point on, fighting and guns, having been wounded in battle six times before he arrived in Laos. Despite his "bravado and sometimes recklessness ... even his harshest critics admitted that he possessed enormous talent for fighting and for teaching men to fight." Poe evokes the men described by Hannah Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism, those Western figures drifting back from various colonial wars who, starting in the 1880s, unfit for civilian life of any kind, introduced a proto-fascist character type into late nineteenth-century bourgeois society.
Bill Sullivan was US ambassador to Laos, a country generally regarded as a backwater for ambitious State Department officials. In contrast to Bill Lair, the war in Laos was, for Sullivan, just another war, of interest only as a front in the Cold War. In spite of the remoteness of Laos, Sullivan was anything but the typical cocktail party ambassador. A graduate of Brown with a patrician manner, he quickly became "the most powerful US ambassador in the world -- in charge of a war."