Before the Quagmire: American Intervention in Laos, 1954-1961

Before the Quagmire: American Intervention in Laos, 1954-1961

by William J. Rust


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In the decade preceding the first U.S. combat operations in Vietnam, the Eisenhower administration sought to defeat a communist-led insurgency in neighboring Laos. Although U.S. foreign policy in the 1950s focused primarily on threats posed by the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, the American engagement in Laos evolved from a small cold war skirmish into a superpower confrontation near the end of President Eisenhower's second term. Ultimately, the American experience in Laos foreshadowed many of the mistakes made by the United States in Vietnam in the 1960s.

In Before the Quagmire: American Intervention in Laos, 1954—1961, William J. Rust delves into key policy decisions made in Washington and their implementation in Laos, which became first steps on the path to the wider war in Southeast Asia. Drawing on previously untapped archival sources, Before the Quagmire documents how ineffective and sometimes self-defeating assistance to Laotian anticommunist elites reflected fundamental misunderstandings about the country's politics, history, and culture. The American goal of preventing a communist takeover in Laos was further hindered by divisions among Western allies and U.S. officials themselves, who at one point provided aid to both the Royal Lao Government and to a Laotian general who plotted to overthrow it. Before the Quagmire is a vivid analysis of a critical period of cold war history, filling a gap in our understanding of U.S. policy toward Southeast Asia and America's entry into the Vietnam War.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813135786
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Publication date: 05/22/2012
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

William J. Rust, a former journalist and communications consultant, is the author of Kennedy in Vietnam: American Vietnam Policy, 1960—1963.

Table of Contents

Maps vi

Abbreviations ix

Introduction: Interested Outside Powers 1

1 The Most Difficult Post in the Entire Foreign Service 14

2 A Frontier Country in the Cold War 43

3 Behind the Scenes 66

4 Dangerously Unstable 87

5 Drawing the Line 105

6 Dichotomy 132

7 Normal Dishonesty 158

8 Unacceptable Developments 175

9 Who the Hell Is Our Boy? 202

10 Virtually a Traitor 229

Epilogue: A Legacy of Strife and Confusion 256

Acknowledgments 271

Notes 273

Bibliography 297

Index 307

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Before the Quagmire: American Intervention in Laos, 1954-1961 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Lee44FL More than 1 year ago
Rust, like a good journalist, has captured the chaos that was US policy in Southeast Asia and left us asking more questions. He exposes the confusion (Who the Hell is Our Boy?) and the difficulties inherent in the area. The book calls out for more scholarship....what was behind the French position? What was Souvanna's motivation? Most importantly we see this from the US view. What was the thinking going on in Vietnam and China at the same time? Clearly our intelligence apparatus was Eurocentric and Laos while important to the White House was not well understood. It was also interesting to note the prevalence and faults of decision makers from Ivy League schools. Good epilogue. If this material is new to the reader it might we worthwhile to start reading there.