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Book by Kurlantzick Joshua
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How the West's greatest spy in Asia tried to stop the new American way of war—and the steep price he paid for failing
Jim Thompson landed in Thailand at the end of World War II, a former American society dilettante who became an Asian legend as a spy and silk magnate with access to Thai worlds outsiders never saw. As the Cold War reached Thailand, America had a choice: Should it, as Thompson believed, help other nations build democracies from their traditional cultures or, as his ex-OSS friend Willis Bird argued, remake the world through deception and self-serving alliances? In a story rich with insights and intrigue, this book explores a key Cold War episode that is still playing out today.
Praise for The Ideal Man
"Joshua Kurlantzick has written a sad, evocative tale of an American voyager who conquers a strange land only to be lost in it, caught between cultures and his own demons. The Ideal Man will appeal to readers of Graham Greene and The Ugly American, but it's also a timeless story of innocence and knowing too much."
—Evan Thomas, author of Sea of Thunder and The War Lovers
"Here is a more troubled and troubling Jim Thompson than we have previously encountered: the silk king enters the heart of darkness. After narrating the ultimate Asia hand's unrequited love affair with Thailand, this remarkable book makes Thompson's legendary and still unsolved disappearance at the height of the Cold War seem almost inevitable."
—Duncan McCargo, author of Tearing Apart the Land
"Woven throughout Kurlantzick's biography of Our Man in Thailand is an essential question for our times: When Washington goes on ideological rampages overseas, running wars that trample on the aspirations of the local people, no matter how hard those aspirations may be for outsiders to discern, don't these wars tend to boomerang? Doesn't cultural clumsiness undercut military power every time? Kurlantzick's glamorous protagonist, the 'silk king' Jim Thompson, saw American anticommunism wreak such havoc in Southeast Asia that it helped give rise to a later communist victory. This fascinating book will leave you wondering how often this pattern is going to be repeated, on large and small scales, in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and beyond."
—Roger Warner, author of Shooting at the Moon: The Story of America's Clandestine War in Laos
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