A sizable omission in the historical literature has been rectified. In Blowtorch: Robert Komer, Vietnam, and American Cold War Strategy, Frank Leith Jones offers a well-researched, incisive, compelling interpretation of a critical yet often-overlooked Cold War policymaker.

Robert William Komer has a peculiar standing within the historical literature on Washington's Cold War. He emerges forcefully in histories of U.S. regional policy in the postcolonial world or of Lyndon Johnson's war in Vietnam as a dynamic, tireless, often abrasive policymaker (he earned the nickname “Blowtorch” from Henry Cabot Lodge). Yet, until now, he has almost always been relegated to the supporting cast. With few exceptions, his peers in government wrote scarcely anything about him in their own memoirs.

Komer, for his part, did little to help would-be biographers. He left behind no major collection of letters, no diaries, and only a “lifeless” unpublished memoir of his time in government service....

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