Military Review English Edition July-August 2014 - Page 95

BOOK REVIEWS Blowtorch is broken into three distinct parts. The first part examines Komer’s early life, from growing up in Missouri to becoming a trusted assistant of President Kennedy. He attended Harvard and was a U.S. Army intelligence officer and historian during World War II. After his wartime service and completion of a master’s degree, Komer climbed the corporate ladder within the new Central Intelligence Agency and then within Kennedy’s White House staff, exerting great influence on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and South Asia. More importantly, he earned Kennedy’s trust, along with recognition from the broader foreign policy community. The second part focuses on Komer’s efforts during the Vietnam War. Working alongside Vice President Johnson during a goodwill tour of the Middle East and later as an interim national security advisor, Komer earned Johnson’s respect. Komer’s reward proved a challenge, as he served as the head of pacification in Vietnam. Jones describes Komer’s pacification efforts, which included starting the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support organization (CORDS). Finally, Jones examines Komer’s post-Vietnam efforts, which hold some of the best insights for readers interested in strategy and Cold War history. Komer’s career took on new life during the Carter administration. Rising again to a key advisor position, this time he focused on NATO and U.S.-Middle Eastern strategy. Komer’s criticisms of early Reagan maritime strategy helped shape Navy strategic thought and stoked debate on the 600-ship Navy. While Jones clearly admires Komer, the author treats him with fairness. On one hand, Jones demonstrated that Komer was a perceptive pragmatist who creatively integrated action and reflection. On the other, Jones reminds us that Komer was an ambitious and difficult man, often disliked as only bureaucratic iconoclasts can be. While one may view these as negative traits, they also embody hallmarks of other great strategists. Blowtorch is valuable for those interested in counterinsurgency, aspiring strategists, and Cold War historians. Given recent counterinsurgency operations and the prevalence of insurgencies today, Komer’s work in Vietnam, especially starting CORDS, is worth studying and debating. Jones’ book also provides an insider’s view into Komer’s efforts to make and implement MILITARY REVIEW  July-August 2014 strategy throughout the Cold War. Finally, Blowtorch contributes to the historical record of the Cold War by discussing Komer’s formative years and, more importantly, his efforts after Vietnam. Lt. Col. Jon