...[an] engrossing book ... The Laos story has been told many times, in memoirs, academic and popular books, and even internal C.I.A. studies that are now public. Kurlantzick has drawn on these accounts, but he has also managed to get interviews with the memorable characters around whom he builds his story...Since Kurlantzick interviewed them, all four of his main characters have died, which makes his research over more than a decade even more valuable ... If Kurlantzick’s thorough and affecting account is missing anything, it is his own conclusion about exactly where and how the United States went wrong...Even if Kurlantzick doesn’t offer an explicit judgment, his book shows how critical it is for American leaders to be cleareyed about their purposes and honest with their public before embarking on a war that will inevitably take on a gruesome momentum of its own.
Kurlantzick brings out the chaos wrought by a previous era of great power proxy struggles, civil war in Vietnam and genocide in Cambodia ... A Great Place to Have a War challenges the idea, articulated across the US political spectrum, that the country enjoys a status as a force for good in the world ... A Great Place to Have a War is pacy and its discussions of US intra-governmental conflict and the intricacies of Laos politics are leavened with vivid portraits of the main personalities ... a reminder of how much US history in this conflict-scarred region still bubbles beneath the surface — and awaits a proper reckoning.
...an informative and well-researched overview of the covert war the United States waged in Laos between 1960 and 1975 ... A principal early player was Bill Lair, a clandestine operative who drew up a plan to train and arm the Hmong, one of the largest ethnic minority groups in Laos, to fight the Pathet Lao and the North Vietnamese. Kurlantzick gives us a compelling portrait of this soft-spoken man 'with the bristly buzz cut and the thick Clark Kent glasses who spoke fluent Lao with a Texas accent' — the quintessential quiet American ... It’s a harrowing story, and Kurlantzick tells it well, even if he’s occasionally shaky on the details ... The author’s loose approach to chronology leads on occasion to confusion and repetition. In the main, however, his choices about what to cover are sensible, his assessments persuasive. One puts the book down with a deeper, richer understanding of this sordid chapter in the history of American interventionism.