A reframing of our understanding of the Vietnam War told through a chronicle of the adventurous life of legendary CIA operative Edward Lansdale, the man said to be the fictional model for Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, whose "hearts and minds" approach could have dramatically altered the war, had it been taken on board by the US government.
The Road Not Taken is an impressive work, an epic and elegant biography based on voluminous archival sources. It belongs to a genre of books that takes a seemingly obscure hero and uses his story as a vehicle to capture a whole era ... Mr. Boot’s full-bodied biography does not ignore Lansdale’s failures and shortcomings—not least his difficult relations with his family—but it properly concentrates on his ideas and his attempts to apply them in Southeast Asia. In Mr. Boot’s judgment, the American war there 'would have been more humane and less costly' if McNamara, Westmoreland and other American officials had taken his advice. The Road Not Taken gives a vivid portrait of a remarkable man and intelligently challenges the lazy assumption that failed wars are destined to fail or that failure, if it comes, cannot be saved from the worst possible outcome.
There are several outstanding books combined into one here ... Boot has provided the first thorough biography of Edward Lansdale. Secondarily, this is a superb history of the Vietnam conflict and includes fascinating military detail and a firm grasp of both American and Vietnamese politics ... This important book—substantially enhanced by excerpts from Lansdale’s own writing and augmented by outstanding maps—deserves to be read alongside Neil Sheehan’s award-winning A Bright Shining Lie (1988).
...judicious and absorbing, if not fully convincing ... There is power in Boot’s conclusion that Lansdale 'never wanted to see half a million American troops thrashing around Vietnam, suffering and inflicting heavy casualties. His approach, successful or not, would have been more humane and less costly.' In this sense, the Lansdale way was indeed 'the road not taken.' Whether that road would have led to the destination he so wanted to reach, however, is doubtful. As much as this irrepressible Cold Warrior might have thought otherwise, Vietnam for the United States was destined to be what it had always been: a riddle beyond American solution.