peteg's blog - noise - books - 2012 07 29 Burdick Lederer TheUglyAmerican

E. Burdick and W. J. Lederer: The Ugly American. (1958)

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Well before Apocalypse Now (redux) had Frenchmen explain the politics of Indochina to Americans, Burdick and Lederer sketched the diplomatic failures of the U.S. in South-East Asia up to the mid-1950s. Clearly their efforts were in vain as this was merely the start of one of the boggier parts of U.S. history. This series of linked vignettes tends to the didactic, though this is forgivable as these are lessons still to be learnt. Strangely the Soviets did not fare much better though this text portrays them as superior in preparation and education, and perhaps more clear-eyed about their objectives. I guess all that has evaporated now, though I wonder what the Chinese do these days. The book's wry humour dates it to the pre-irony era.

I found this classic via the movie of the same name starring Marlon Brando, which I have yet to see.