In this epic biography of Edward Lansdale (1908–87), the man said to be the fictional model for Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, bestselling historian Max Boot demonstrates how Lansdale pioneered a “hearts and mind” diplomacy, first in the Philippines, then in Vietnam. It was a visionary policy that, as Boot reveals, was ultimately crushed by America’s giant military bureaucracy, steered by elitist generals and blue-blood diplomats who favored troop buildups and napalm bombs over winning the trust of the people. Through dozens of interviews and access to never-before-seen documents—including long-hidden love letters—Boot recasts this cautionary American story, tracing the bold rise and the crashing fall of the roguish “T. E. Lawrence of Asia” from the battle of Dien Bien Phu to the humiliating American evacuation in 1975. Bringing a tragic complexity to this “Ugly American,” Boot rescues Lansdale from historical ignominy and suggests that Vietnam could have been different had we only listened. With reverberations that continue to resonate in Iraq and Afghanistan, The Road Not Taken is a biography of profound historical consequence.
A Council on Foreign Relations Book