America's Rasputin Walt Rostow and the Vietnam War

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 3/17/2009
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang

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Walt Rostow's meteoric rise to powerfrom Flatbush, Brooklyn, to the West Wing of the White Houseseemed to capture the promise of the American dream. Hailing from humble origins, Rostow became an intellectual powerhouse: a professor of economic history at MIT and an influential foreign policy adviser to John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Too influential, according to some. While Rostow inspired respect and affection, he also made some powerful enemies. Averell Harriman, one of America's most celebrated diplomats, described Rostow as "America's Rasputin" for the unsavory influence he exerted on presidential decision-making. Rostow was the first to advise Kennedy to send U.S. combat troops to South Vietnam and the first to recommend the bombing of North Vietnam. He framed a policy of military escalation, championed recklessly optimistic reporting, and then advised LBJ against pursuing a compromise peace with North Vietnam. David Milne examines one man's impact on the United States' worst-ever military defeat. It is a portrait of good intentions and fatal misjudgments. A true ideologue, Rostow believed that it is beholden upon the United States to democratize other nations and do "good," no matter what the cost.America's Rasputinexplores the consequences of this idealistic but unyielding dogma.

Author Biography

David Milne is a lecturer in American politics at the University of East Anglia. This is his first book.

Table of Contents

“In his comprehensive examination of Walt Rostow’s role in Vietnam decision making, David Milne adds a valuable and nuanced perspective on the questions of how and why Vietnam became an American war and what went wrong there. America’s Rasputin is a well researched and critical yet sensitive treatment of an exceptional man who wielded significant influence in the Lyndon Johnson Administration during a critical phase of the Vietnam War.”   —H.R. McMaster, author of Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam

“America’s Rasputin is a splendid book, beautifully written, persuasively argued, and deeply researched. Milne’s cautionary tale of ideas and idealism taken to their extremes is as historically important as it is currently relevant. Our understanding of the Vietnam War—and of American foreign policy in general—is greatly enhanced by this book.”   —Andrew Preston, author of The War Council

“David Milne has given us an absorbing history of the rise to power of Walt Rostow and his disastrous impact on US foreign policy. The first civilian to advise Kennedy to deploy combat troops to South Vietnam and the first to urge bombing the North, Rostow was a true ideologue who believed an American version of democracy could be exported to other countries—if necessary by force. An American Rasputin—as Averrell Harriman described him—who refused to admit the limits of American power, Rostow helped bring about the worst military defeat in American history. The parallels with the present time—when America faces an even worse disaster in Iraq—are clear. A book that vividly illuminates the dangers of ideology in foreign policy, America’s Rasputin could not be more timely.”      —John Gray, author of Black Mass

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