"Engrossing. . . . [Kurlantzick's] book shows how critical it is for American leaders to be cleareyed about their purposes and honest with their public before embarking on a war that will inevitably take on a gruesome momentum of its own."
—New York Times
"The war's entire compelling tale can be found in the lucid prose and revelatory reporting of Joshua Kurlantzick’s new book. . . . A vivid picture of protagonists like Vang Pao."
"Informative and well-researched. . . . It’s a harrowing story, and Kurlantzick tells it well."
"A vivid portrait of America's decade-and-a-half war in Laos."
"A Great Place to Have a War is pacy and its discussions of US intra-governmental conflict and the intricacies of Laos politics are leavened with vivid portraits of the main personalities. . . . A reminder of how much US history in this conflict-scarred region still bubbles beneath the surface—and awaits a proper reckoning."
"The story of this highly unconventional war has been told before, but Kurlantzick provides a more complete picture using declassified CIA histories. He also analyzes how the conflict heralded the agency’s support of clandestine, paramilitary operations around the world as a virtual arm of the U.S. armed forces, still characteristic of its role today."
"Thorough and affecting"
—New York Times
"As powerful as it had become, could the U.S. really 'create stability where there is chaos'? As Kurlantzick reveals, the goal of the CIA in Laos was precisely the reverse: to create chaos where stability might have prevailed, if given the chance. In that sense, the effort was a success."
"The book traces one of the CIA's first transformations from intelligence-gatherers to war-runners and the crackup of US efforts in Southeast Asia."
—New York Post
"A Great Place to Have a War adds illuminating details to the historical record and gives useful insights on the CIA’s militarization and its meaning for today’s world."
—War on the Rocks
"A Great Place to Have a War chronicles in stark detail the initial successes, the long, drawn-out and bloody end, and everything in between."
—South China Morning Post
"This new history is one of a kind, containing original research and an astounding purview of primary sources, many previously unexamined. . . . Kurlantzick is able to recount what could be an otherwise murky and long-winded historical account with a narrative voice and attention to detail that grip the reader from cover to cover."
"Kurlantzick weaves this complex yarn together beautifully."
"In this important book, Kurlantzick writes in excruciating detail how the decisions by Eisenhower and Kennedy would turn the CIA from a spy organization to one whose primary role was covert warfare, involving the agency in ever-more controversial actions across the world."
"Kurlantzick grippingly describes the war’s key battles on the Plain of Jars, Skyline Ridge near Long Cheng, and Sala Phou Khoun. His literary portrait of [Hmong leader] Vang Pao is one of the highlights of the book."
"In this well-written, and clearly critical, book centred on Laos, Joshua Kurlantzick not only tells the fascinating story of the American-backed Hmong guerrillas who fought against the North Vietnamese forces in the 'Land of a Million Elephants.' He also links the long-ago conflict to the manner in which the Central Intelligence Agency has become an essential military element in U.S. foreign policy. In doing so, the CIA, Kurlantzick argues, moved far beyond its role as a collector of information."
"There is a need . . . for a clearly written, popular account of CIA involvement in Laos, if only to put the record straight; and this is what A Great Place to Have a War sets out to provide. But the book does more, for it mounts an argument that running an entire clandestine war in Laos redefined the CIA as an organisation. . . . Kurlantzick tells the story well."
"In this excellent historical analysis, Kurlantzick . . . relates how the U.S. got involved with Laos, seeing it as a vital piece in the strategy of containing communism in Southeast Asia. . . . An instructive tale without a happy ending for any of the main players, and it continues to have relevance in the 21st century."
"Riveting . . . Highly recommended for those wanting insight into the Hmong people and Cold War thinking."
"In his well-researched argument, the author relies on extensive materials prepared by other historians as well as first-person interviews with relevant characters (including Vang Pao) and recently declassified documents . . . 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."
"Superb! Joshua Kurlantzick joins the ranks of preeminent Southeast Asia chroniclers like David Halberstam, Neil Sheehan, and Stanley Karnow with what will become the benchmark book for an important part of America's quagmire in that region—the CIA's secret war in Laos. 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 story of the CIA's secret war in Laos brilliantly illuminates one of the most obscure yet harrowing chapters of the Vietnam conflict. With sure pacing and a gallery of rich characters, Kurlantzick shows how a modest operation to harass Communist forces escalated into a military onslaught that killed and displaced tens of thousands and wrecked a country. This is a cautionary tale of arrogance, recklessness, and unrestrained power that, tragically, finds echoes in many of today's battlefields."
—Joshua Hammer, author of The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu