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Icture of how the United States was losing the struggle with Communism in Asia Combining gripping storytelling with an urgent call to action the book prompted President Eisenhower to launch a study of our military aid program that led the way to much needed reformPowerful and absorbing Should be reuired reading in Washington Kirkus Reviews Again and again while reading this book I found myself flipping to the copyright page to check the publication date 1958 How it is possible that something so pressing and relevant to contemporary America appeared over 50 years agoFrom 1958 to 2014 few things it seems have changedThe Ugly American is a tale of American foreign policy gone wrong It s a series of vignettes about dumb and dumber statesmen who are propped up in relative luxury overseas inadvertently causing massive harm to smaller and weaker countries Its fictional though based on real life characters can be neatly classified into two categories those who are idiots and those who are notAmong the idiots are Joe Bing a public relations man who manages to recruit all of the wrong type of people into duty overseas He waxed lyrical about the conditions one can expect a description that caused me to uncomfortably remember the 3 years I spent in Okinawa Japan when I was a kid Foreign affairs is a big business and it s important business You all know that Now maybe I can tell you a few things about working abroad for Uncle Sammy that you won t read in the handouts After all even when you re doing big work and important work you still have to relax and I know you d like to know about the informal side of living and working abroadYou ll have to work among foreigners but we don t expect you to love em just because you work among em I don t care where you work for Uncle Sammy you ll be living with a gang of clean cut AmericansYou can buy the same food in Asia that you can in PeoriaWhen you live overseas it s still on the high American standard 79 80So how does this measure up to my experience as a 7 10 year old kid living on Kadena Air Force Base Unfortunately it s pretty accurate I spent probably 90% of my time on the base interacting with clean cut American kids and attending an international all English speaking school I learned about a dozen phrases in Japanese that s it My family shopped at the PX and the BX and the Commissary The times we did venture off base usually on the weekends to go to the beach we considered the atmosphere exotic and treated each excursion like a vacation Now did living in Okinawa for 3 years change me as a person To some extent sure But it definitely wasn t the rich cultural immersion that it could have beenBack to the idiotsThe bulk of The Ugly American is set in the fictional Southeast Asian nation of Sarkhan a thinly veiled allusion to Vietnam The subject America s ineffective efforts to curb the spread of Russian Communism But if the idea of reading Cold War propaganda makes you sick to your stomach don t worry It s less an indictment of Communism than it is of American stupidity The book will make you groan and guffaw and wonder how we even managed to become a country in the first placeBut for each idiot the book presents there is a well meaning hardworking and intelligent foil Homer Atkins aka the Ugly American after whom the book takes its name is an engineer fluent in Sarkhanese and determined to improve the lives of the people in the country through simple effective technology Atkins is indeed ugly in the conventional sense he doesn t dress well his hands are perpetually dirty and his manner of speaking is course rather than refined This ugliness sets him apart in a world where appearance is considered important than common sense Dammit said Homer Atkins to himself as he looked around the room at the fashionably dressed men The princes of bureaucracy were the same all over the world They sat in their freshly pressed clothes ran their clean fingers over their smooth cheeks smiled knowingly at one another and asked engineers like Atkins silly uestions 205Atkins ugliness is a metaphor for many things including honesty pragmatism sincerity and discernment The bureaucrats described in the above paragraph are none of these things but are nevertheless bestowed with power than Atkins has I ve found myself in many situations where I feel I m the only person in the room with anything genuine to say and I m sure I m not the only person who s experienced this Especially when you can just watch a Ted Talk anytime a pseudo intellectual self congratulating phenomenon that never fails to make me feel nauseatedWilliam J Lederer and Eugene Burdick were smart enough to write a book that pretty much anyone can understand In terms of prose it s clear and precise with few chances for misinterpretation This helps to explain no doubt why it became a huge bestseller in the late 50searly 60s and is still a linchpin in many Political Science classrooms today I dearly wish I had read this book in high school not only would it have helped me enormously with debate I could have started to cast off the mantle of the Western centric neoliberal and semi colonialist education that I received in the American public school system much much earlierThis book flies in the face of adages accepted as common knowledge eg You can t fight an ideology I ve heard that phrase used many times to explain America s defeat in Vietnam and our long winded sashay in the Middle East We can t fight those guys they fall prey to a dangerous ideology and after that they can t be rescued Incidentally in 1958 Lederer and Burdick demonstrated that this is a flimsy excuse The fictional Father Finnian again based on a real life persona cunningly crafts an effective stratagem against Communism in BurmaAfter an exhaustive study of Communism including reading the prophecies of Lenin Stalin Engels and Marx and becoming fluent in the local language Father Finnian recruits 9 anti Communist Burmese to devise a way to demonstrate to everyone else that Communism is not in their best interests In the course of their conversations Finnian and the Burmese demonstrate why Communism is inherently anti Democratic the Communists have made all worship impossible except the worship of Stalin Lenin Mao In the areas the Communists control everyone must believe in one single thing CommunismI too am a Catholic but I do not reuire that all of us be Catholics What this means I think is that the thing we want is a country where any man can worship any god he wishes where he can live the way his heart says That I think is the final big thing 55This conversation however is ironic in the wider context of The Ugly American Americans who travel abroad and insist on replicating American lifestyles in vastly different circumstances who are convinced that traditional warfare will eventually surmount guerrilla tactics who assert that large construction projects are prestigious and useful than small everyday technological improvements who interact only with other Americans and are incapable of detecting the disdain in which they are held by foreigners and further who do all of this in the name of DEMOCRACY Well frankly that s idiocracyActual rating 455 stars Old Flame, New Sparks years agoFrom 1958 to 2014 few things it seems have changedThe Ugly American is a tale of American foreign policy gone wrong It s a series of vignettes about dumb and dumber statesmen who are propped up in relative luxury overseas inadvertently causing massive harm to smaller and weaker countries Its fictional though based on real life characters can be neatly classified into two categories those who are idiots and those who are notAmong the idiots are Joe Bing a public relations man who manages to recruit all of the wrong type of people into duty overseas He waxed lyrical about the conditions one can expect a description that caused me to uncomfortably remember the 3 Lone Star Baby Bombshell years I spent in Okinawa Japan when I was a kid Foreign affairs is a big business and it s important business You all know that Now maybe I can tell Lullabies and Lies you a few things about working abroad for Uncle Sammy that One Night In New York you won t read in the handouts After all even when A Night to Remember you re doing big work and important work An Earl to Save Her Reputation you still have to relax and I know On Fire you d like to know about the informal side of living and working abroadYou ll have to work among foreigners but we don t expect The Doctor Takes a Princess you to love em just because Rescued by the Viking you work among em I don t care where The Australians Society Bride you work for Uncle Sammy Master of Maramba you ll be living with a gang of clean cut AmericansYou can buy the same food in Asia that Daring to Date the Boss you can in PeoriaWhen Sasvim skromni darovi you live overseas it s still on the high American standard 79 80So how does this measure up to my experience as a 7 10 Larenzos Christmas Baby year old kid living on Kadena Air Force Base Unfortunately it s pretty accurate I spent probably 90% of my time on the base interacting with clean cut American kids and attending an international all English speaking school I learned about a dozen phrases in Japanese that s it My family shopped at the PX and the BX and the Commissary The times we did venture off base usually on the weekends to go to the beach we considered the atmosphere exotic and treated each excursion like a vacation Now did living in Okinawa for 3 Protective Instincts (Mission: Rescue years change me as a person To some extent sure But it definitely wasn t the rich cultural immersion that it could have beenBack to the idiotsThe bulk of The Ugly American is set in the fictional Southeast Asian nation of Sarkhan a thinly veiled allusion to Vietnam The subject America s ineffective efforts to curb the spread of Russian Communism But if the idea of reading Cold War propaganda makes Protecting His Brothers Bride you sick to Claimed by a Cowboy (Hill Country Heroes your stomach don t worry It s less an indictment of Communism than it is of American stupidity The book will make Bluegrass Christmas (Kentucky Corners, you groan and guffaw and wonder how we even managed to become a country in the first placeBut for each idiot the book presents there is a well meaning hardworking and intelligent foil Homer Atkins aka the Ugly American after whom the book takes its name is an engineer fluent in Sarkhanese and determined to improve the lives of the people in the country through simple effective technology Atkins is indeed ugly in the conventional sense he doesn t dress well his hands are perpetually dirty and his manner of speaking is course rather than refined This ugliness sets him apart in a world where appearance is considered important than common sense Dammit said Homer Atkins to himself as he looked around the room at the fashionably dressed men The princes of bureaucracy were the same all over the world They sat in their freshly pressed clothes ran their clean fingers over their smooth cheeks smiled knowingly at one another and asked engineers like Atkins silly uestions 205Atkins ugliness is a metaphor for many things including honesty pragmatism sincerity and discernment The bureaucrats described in the above paragraph are none of these things but are nevertheless bestowed with power than Atkins has I ve found myself in many situations where I feel I m the only person in the room with anything genuine to say and I m sure I m not the only person who s experienced this Especially when Forced Alliance you can just watch a Ted Talk anytime a pseudo intellectual self congratulating phenomenon that never fails to make me feel nauseatedWilliam J Lederer and Eugene Burdick were smart enough to write a book that pretty much anyone can understand In terms of prose it s clear and precise with few chances for misinterpretation This helps to explain no doubt why it became a huge bestseller in the late 50searly 60s and is still a linchpin in many Political Science classrooms today I dearly wish I had read this book in high school not only would it have helped me enormously with debate I could have started to cast off the mantle of the Western centric neoliberal and semi colonialist education that I received in the American public school system much much earlierThis book flies in the face of adages accepted as common knowledge eg You can t fight an ideology I ve heard that phrase used many times to explain America s defeat in Vietnam and our long winded sashay in the Middle East We can t fight those guys they fall prey to a dangerous ideology and after that they can t be rescued Incidentally in 1958 Lederer and Burdick demonstrated that this is a flimsy excuse The fictional Father Finnian again based on a real life persona cunningly crafts an effective stratagem against Communism in BurmaAfter an exhaustive study of Communism including reading the prophecies of Lenin Stalin Engels and Marx and becoming fluent in the local language Father Finnian recruits 9 anti Communist Burmese to devise a way to demonstrate to everyone else that Communism is not in their best interests In the course of their conversations Finnian and the Burmese demonstrate why Communism is inherently anti Democratic the Communists have made all worship impossible except the worship of Stalin Lenin Mao In the areas the Communists control everyone must believe in one single thing CommunismI too am a Catholic but I do not reuire that all of us be Catholics What this means I think is that the thing we want is a country where any man can worship any god he wishes where he can live the way his heart says That I think is the final big thing 55This conversation however is ironic in the wider context of The Ugly American Americans who travel abroad and insist on replicating American lifestyles in vastly different circumstances who are convinced that traditional warfare will eventually surmount guerrilla tactics who assert that large construction projects are prestigious and useful than small everyday technological improvements who interact only with other Americans and are incapable of detecting the disdain in which they are held by foreigners and further who do all of this in the name of DEMOCRACY Well frankly that s idiocracyActual rating 455 stars

characters The Ugly American

The Ugly American

Not only important but consistently entertaining The attack on American policy in Asia this book makes is clothed in sharp characterizations freuently humorous incident and perceptive descriptions of the countries and people where the action occurs Robert Trumbull former chief correspondent for the New York Times in China and Southeast Asi Though The Ugly American was published in 1958 it rose to 6 on the bestseller list in 1959 Set in the fictional country Sarkhan it is a fictional account of American foreign policy in Southeast Asia and particularly in Vietnam The writing style is reminiscent of James Michener especially his early books such as Tales of the South Pacific I was surprised at what a page turner it was and read it in just a few hoursIn the 1950s America had decided that the USSR was our greatest enemy that Communism was dedicated to the eradication of our way of life that foreign aid was the solution to successfully overcoming these threats to freedom and democracy America it would seem was born in revolt against a powerful enemy and so must always have one selected to keep us goingThe point in The Ugly American is not that we should fail to fight against Communism but that we were going about it in all the wrong ways The authors claimed that incidents in the book were true with only the names changed According to their views we were losing the fight against Communism in Southeast Asia because our diplomats and foreign service workers were alienating the peoples of Vietnam Indonesia Burma Cambodia Laos and Thailand due to arrogance rudeness and the inappropriate appropriations of billions of dollars in those countriesAmbassadors and their administrative aides seldom knew anything about the countries where they served could not speak the languages and conseuently were woefully out of touch with the peoples In contrast to the chapters exemplifying the above are others about honest hardworking well intentioned Americans who actually helped certain Asian villagers improve their lots by small effective measures such as showing them how to farm effectively or start small industriesThe book had a large impact in America and some say it led the way to the formation of the Peace Corps I was surprised to see a chapter The Lessons of War in which a US Army Major one of the good ones studied Mao Tse tung s writings on war and figured out why the Western armies cannot ever win against Asian guerillasAs I finished the book I wondered if it was still relevant today After all haven t we won in Asia because of Coca Cola Hollywood movies fashion the internet and all that I came across Mekong Network that featured a review of The Ugly American Bruce Sharpe founder of the site is an American who became involved with modern day issues in Southeast Asia after he began tutoring refugees from those countries in Chicago The last line of his review statesAnd yet America s foreign policy is still haunted by the same mistakes The Cold War is long finished and communism discredited but it hardly matters Who needs an enemy like communism when you are already your own worst enemySo we still have a problem with our image not only in the Middle East but also in Asia And yes The Ugly American is still relevant Hers to Protect yet America s foreign policy is still haunted by the same mistakes The Cold War is long finished and communism discredited but it hardly matters Who needs an enemy like communism when Her Small-Town Hero you are already Red Tail (Travis Trilogy your own worst enemySo we still have a problem with our image not only in the Middle East but also in Asia And Promises in Tumble Creek yes The Ugly American is still relevant

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The multi million copy bestseller that coined the phrase for tragic American blunders abroadFirst published in 1958 The Ugly American became a runaway national bestseller for its slashing expose of American arrogance incompetence and corruption in Southeast Asia Based on fact the book's eye opening stories and sketches drew a devastating p One theory is that the book is based on an actual US ambassador to South Vietnam Ellsworth Bunker a rich businessman He never learned the language or left the compound He s only given the information that his staff thinks he ought to have


10 thoughts on “The Ugly American

  1. says:

    I first encountered this book as part of an undergraduate political science class on American politics Among other long and dry reading assignments I found myself thoroughly engaged in the book and looking forward to spending time reading Lederer and Burdick's work In fact I'd have to say that it has been my favorite book since that political science class almost 25 years agoI have read it at least 20 times in those 25 years often

  2. says:

    I read this book in 1982 just before I joined the Peace Corps The book was important to me because it solidified the idea that we are all walking a path that is uniue and the that we are engrossed by our own path consumed by our own needs wishes and desires we will miss the beauty and uniueness of every other person and every cultur

  3. says:

    One theory is that the book is based on an actual US ambassador to South Vietnam Ellsworth Bunker a rich businessman He never learn

  4. says:

    15 starsI'm so glad this semester is almost over because my Political Science class has the worst reading curriculum This book was so drybland and the explanations were incredibly long winded I skimmed the last 70 pages for the purposes of writing my essay Never again I say never again

  5. says:

    Again and again while reading this book I found myself flipping to the copyright page to check the publication dat

  6. says:

    The Ugly American was published in 1958 as a call for change It was a blockbuster with millions of copies sold The authors wanted to alert the American people to the fact that their government's diplomatic efforts against c

  7. says:

    If you've ever heard the term ugly American used this is where it originated And if you want to understand why many folks from other countries refer to some Americans using that phrase this book will make it crystal clear why they

  8. says:

    The Ugly American is a story about Americans living and working in the fictional South East Asian nation of Sarkhan Written in 1958 it is a critiue of American foreign policy—specifically the work of embassies and expats abroad In this novel Lederer argues that the US is losing the tiny battles against the Soviet Union The US is too focused on dumping money into countries and building giant infrastructure projects that

  9. says:

    Though The Ugly American was published in 1958 it rose to #6 on the bestseller list in 1959 Set in the fictional country Sarkhan it is a fictional account of American foreign policy in Southeast Asia and particularly in Vietnam The writing style is reminiscent of James Michener especially his early books such as Tales of the South Pacific I was surprised at what a page turner it was and read it in just a few hoursIn th

  10. says:

    I was told that this is an American classic and that every soldier and diplomat going downrange to represent the US should read it Recently while reading another book about the French fight in Indochina and how we inherited Viet Nam from that effort I ran across the backstory on The Ugly American and decided it was time to get a copy Fifty six years after publication the book is still relevant The gist of this work appears in t

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