From Joshua Kurlantzick, the untold story of how America's secret war in Laos in the 1960s and 1970s transformed the CIA from a loose collection of spies into a military operation and a key player in American foreign policy.
In 1960, President Eisenhower was focused on Laos, a tiny Southeast Asian nation few Americans had ever heard of. Washington feared the country would fall to communism, triggering a domino effect in the rest of Southeast Asia. So in January 1961, Eisenhower approved the CIA's Operation Momentum, a plan to create a proxy army of ethnic Hmong to fight communist forces in Laos. While remaining largely hidden from the American public and most of Congress, Momentum became the largest CIA paramilitary operation in the history of the United States. The brutal war, which continued under Presidents Kennedy and Nixon, lasted nearly two decades, killed one-tenth of Laos's total population, left thousands of unexploded bombs in the ground, and changed the nature of the CIA forever.
Joshua Kurlantzick gives us the definitive account of the Laos war and its central characters, including the four key people who led the operation—the CIA operative who came up with the idea, the Hmong general who led the proxy army in the field, the paramilitary specialist who trained the Hmong, and the State Department careerist who took control over the war as it grew.
"[An] excellent historical analysis . . . an effective combination of firsthand reporting and a thorough reading of the best primary and secondary sources . . . it continues to have relevance in the 21st century." ---Publishers Weekly
"An important demonstration of the U.S.’s ongoing, not-so-secret hand in world affairs. Kurlantzick’s comprehensive account provides new insights into the CIA’s objectives in the Laos war and the way that they were incorporated into its broader mission." ---Kirkus
“Superb! . . . A Great Place to Have a War is rich and jarring in its historical insight, fast in its pacing, and gripping in its read. You won’t want to put it down.” ---Douglas Waller, author of Disciples: The World War II Missions of the CIA Directors Who Fought for Wild Bill Donovan
“Gripping. Of all the CIA's strange adventures during the Cold War, the secret war in Laos may have been the most bizarre. Joshua Kurlantzick has crafted a true drama with an improbable and colorful cast. An eye-opening, carefully researched, and wrenching yarn of what can go wrong when East meets West.” ---Evan Thomas, author of The Very Best Men: The Daring Early Years of the CIA
"Joshua Kurlantzick’s engrossing book, A Great Place to Have a War . . . Is a sobering account of the American engagement in Laos and timely reading today." ---New York Times
“This riveting read belongs in the pantheon of works such as Jane Hamilton Merritt’s Tragic Mountain and William M. LeoGrande’s Our Own Backyard. Highly recommended for those wanting insight into the Hmong people and Cold War thinking.” ---Library Journal Starred Review