Walt Rostow's meteoric rise to power--from Flatbush, Brooklyn, to the West Wing of the White House--seemed 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. ...
Walt Rostow's meteoric rise to power--from Flatbush, Brooklyn, to the West Wing of the White House--seemed 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 Rasputin "explores the consequences of this idealistic but unyielding dogma.
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Publishers Weekly, 2007-12-10 British professor Milne borrows the title of his book from a comparison made by a critic of Rostow's influence on Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, but the Rostow presented here has none of the Russian monk's cynicism or pragmatism. Rostow began as an idealist who put his faith in the American Dream's exportability in both its political and economic contexts. Like President Kennedy, he believed in taking the Cold War to America's enemies-and extending it to those likely to fall under Communist influence. With the force of a powerful intellect and a persuasive personality, Rostow supported intervention in Vietnam, the war's successive Americanization and "staying the course." His idealism hardened into ideology in the Johnson years. Milne describes Rostow's principled refusal to concede that the war was un-winnable and his inability to recognize the consequences of a truncated Great Society and intensified Cold War. An unrepentant Rostow spent the remaining years of his career indicting others for their irresolution in waging what he still considered a necessary war. Milne's indictment of Rostow depends on his interpretation of Vietnam as "misguided" and its consequences as "uniformly bleak." Both interpretations are becoming debatable enough to make this book a polemic as well as a scholarly study. (Mar.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
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