Academic journal article Military Review

BEFORE THE QUAGMIRE: American Intervention in Laos 1954-1961

Academic journal article Military Review

BEFORE THE QUAGMIRE: American Intervention in Laos 1954-1961

Article excerpt

BEFORE THE QUAGMIRE: American Intervention in Laos 1954-1961 William J. Rust, University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, 2012, 323 pages, $40.00.

If you want a new idea, read an old book. Similarly, if you seek new ideas on current and future foreign policy issues, take a moment to review a book on a previous foreign policy. Though not the author's stated intent, it's hard not to make parallels between many of today's current foreign policy issues and American policy in Laos in the 1950s. In Before the Quagmire, journalist and author William Rust takes a historical look at American involvement in Laos and examines how a small foreign policy issue was trans- formed into a much larger conflagration. He does so by seeing Laos in the greater context of the Cold War, and examining the internal American and Laotian deci- sions that ultimately set the U.S. on a course of greater military involvement in both Laos and Vietnam.

Rust focuses this detailed history of American policy in Laos on the years of the Eisenhower admin- istration. He saves Kennedy's role for his upcoming book on the Kennedy administration and Laos. Rust points out that contemporary fear of communism often limited what the key players considered as viable policy alternatives: accept communism or try military intervention. In this case, the Eisenhower administra- tion clearly ruled out any role for the communists in any Lao government. Eisenhower in particular found it difficult to reconcile nationalism with communism, and focused on combating what appeared a monolithic and aggressive communist threat. Rust paints a portrait of an Eisenhower who, despite keeping the U.S. out of the French war in Vietnam, was determined not to let Laos fall to the communists on his watch.

Brothers John Foster Dulles at State Department and Allen Dulles at the newly established CIA were central characters in forming American policy towards Laos. …

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