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Beginning in 1954, Phillips spent almost 10 years doing undercover and pacification work for the CIA and the U.S. Agency for International Development in South Vietnam. In the high-level power struggle over America's Vietnam policy. Phillips, then a government adviser, was a strong proponent of helping build a stable democratic government that the South Vietnamese would willingly fight to preserve from the Communist North-and a vocal opponent of sending in American combat troops. In this sober and informed memoir, Phillips provides a fascinating look at the Kennedy and Johnson administrations' refusal to give more than lip service to pacification, with revealing portraits of such figures as the "singular" Maj. Gen. Edward Lansdale, South Vietnamese Premier Ngo Dinh Diem, President Kennedy and Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara and other prominent officials. Phillips states firmly that those "best and brightest," especially McNamara, exhibited "poor judgment, bureaucratic prejudice, and personal hubris" as they steered Vietnam War policy on a disastrous course. Phillips's short chapter on lessons the U.S. should have learned from the Vietnam War should be mandatory reading in Washington, D.C. Maps. (Oct. 15)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.