“Jones delivers more than an excellent biography of an exceptional civil servant, strategist, and statesman. Blowtorch is a particularly important book because, read critically, it sheds light on how to develop and implement strategies to ensure national security and protect vital interests. Geopolitical dynamics of the period appear comparable to today’s; the problems of national security seem analogous; and Komer’s manner of thinking about those problems is relevant and instructive.” —H. R. MCMASTER, author of Dereliction of Duty: Robert McNamara, Lyndon Johnson, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam “In this splendid biography, Jones provides a comprehensive, deft, and nuanced portrait of an often complicated and misunderstood figure. Wonderfully written and impressively researched, Blowtorch not only sheds new light on Komer and Vietnam, it is an incisive and original history of America’s grand strategy in the Cold War.” —ANDREW PRESTON, author of The War Council: McGeorge Bundy, the NSC, and Vietnam “The product of impressive research and insight into top-level policymaking, Blowtorch analyzes the crusade of a senior government professional to cause our leaders to think and act strategically. It is compelling reading for those who want to move beyond problem solving and crisis management to designing purposeful change.” —HAROLD H. SAUNDERS, president of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue

“Blowtorch provides a revealing look into the hitherto unexamined role played for three decades by cold war strategist Komer. Those looking to understand counterinsurgency theory will be especially drawn to Jones’ illuminating discussion in Komer’s leadership of CORDS.” —LARRY BERMAN, author of Zumwalt: The Life and Times of Admiral Elmo Russell “Bud” Zumwalt, Jr.


“Jones’ superb study of Komer performs an invaluable service, assessing the career of an influential Cold War strategist who was more than an innovative thinker. Highly recommended.”—RICHARD A. HUNT, author of Pacification: The American Struggle for Vietnam’s Hearts and Minds
istory has not been kind to Robert Komer. As a Cold War national security policy and strategy adviser to three presidents, Komer was one of the most influential national security professionals of the era. However, he has been a casualty of bad historical analysis and inaccurate information. His influence as a National Security Council staff member during the Kennedy administrations shaped aggressive American foreign policies. This, in turn, defined U.S. relations with then–Third World countries that served as frequent battlegrounds between communism and capitalism. Upon Kennedy’s death, Lyndon Johnson named Komer his “point man” for Vietnam pacification policy, becoming the architect of the military’s Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) program, and later, General Westmoreland’s operational deputy for this effort in Vietnam. This book, the first biography ever written about Komer, highlights his activities during the three years he strove to fulfill the president’s vision that communism could be repelled from Southeast Asia by economic and social development, along with military force. Known as “Blowtorch” for his abrasive personality and disdain for bureaucratic foot dragging, Komer came to be seen as the right person for managing that effort, and in 1968 he was rewarded with an ambassadorship to Turkey. The book analyzes Komer’s work during the Carter administration as special adviser to Secretary of Defense Harold Brown and as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and credits him with reenergizing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s conventional capability and forging the military instrument that implemented the Carter Doctrine in the Persian Gulf—the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force. It also explores his final role as a defense intellectual and critic of the Reagan administration’s defense policies. The book concludes with a useful summary of Komer’s impact on American policy and strategy and his contributions to counterinsurgency practices, a legacy now recognized for its importance in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
FRANK LEITH JONES is professor of security studies at the U.S. Army War College, where he holds the General Dwight D. Eisenhower Chair of National Security. A retired member of the Senior Executive Service, he served in several high-level policy and strategy positions in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and is the recipient of several civilian awards. He lives in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.


By Frank Leith Jones Publication date: 15 March 2013 416 pp., notes, bibliography, index. Hardcover list price: $52.95 / ISBN: 978-1-61251-228-0 eBook edition also available. │ Biography • Vietnam War
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