Academic journal article Military Review

Blowtorch: Robert Komer, Vietnam, and American Cold War Strategy

Academic journal article Military Review

Blowtorch: Robert Komer, Vietnam, and American Cold War Strategy

Article excerpt

BLOWTORCH: Robert Komer, Vietnam, and American Cold War Strategy

Frank Leith Jones, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 2013, 416 pages, $52.95

Only rare individuals can effectively balance ends, ways, means, and risk into a coherent design and have the personality and experience to drive its implementation--Robert "Blowtorch" Komer was one such individual. Author Frank Jones provides a discerning and worthwhile biography of Komer. Although a "second echelon" security professional, Komer was a master of strategic art.

Blowtorch is broken into three distinct parts. The first part examines Komer's early life, from growing up in Missouri to becoming a trusted assistant of President Kennedy. He attended Harvard and was a U.S. Army intelligence officer and historian during World War II. After his wartime service and completion of a master's degree, Komer climbed the corporate ladder within the new Central Intelligence Agency and then within Kennedy's White House staff, exerting great influence on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and South Asia. More importantly, he earned Kennedy's trust, along with recognition from the broader foreign policy community.

The second part focuses on Komer's efforts during the Vietnam War. Working alongside Vice President Johnson during a goodwill tour of the Middle East and later as an interim national security advisor, Komer earned Johnson's respect. Komer's reward proved a challenge, as he served as the head of pacification in Vietnam. Jones describes Komer's pacification efforts, which included starting the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support organization (CORDS). …

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