A Series of Defeats

The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam , by Max Boot (Liveright, 768 pp., $35) In this fine portrait of Edward Lansdale, Max Boot adds to his well-deserved reputation as being among the most insightful and productive of contemporary historians. This is a superb book. Diligently researched and gracefully written, it builds on a comprehensive analysis of Lansdale’s triumphs in the post–World War II Philippines to provide much new material, and expose old myths, about one of the most fascinating, and in many ways ultimately saddest, members of the supporting cast in the later war in Vietnam. Lansdale began his career of public service as an Army officer, switched to the Air Force when that separate service was established, served for a number of years in the CIA, and was uncomfortably lodged in various other bureaucratic niches over the years, eventually retiring as a major general, but none of that really mattered. What he was, and wanted to be, was what Boot calls him: “a counterinsurgent par excellence.” Boot writes that it was in the Philippines after World War II that the “relentlessly entrepreneurial” Lansdale developed and implemented what came to be known as […]

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