Edward G. Lansdale (1908-1987) – whose career included service in the Philippines during the Huk Rebellion and in Vietnam during that war – was a major thinker and practitioner in counterinsurgency.
When William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick wrote their influential 1958 novel, The Ugly American, “Colonel Hillendale” was modeled on Lansdale. He is the subject of a new biography by Max Boot, The Road Not Taken (reviewed so far by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, National Review, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Washington Post).
Lansdale emphasized “hearts and minds,” “grass roots village democracy,” psychological operations, and civic actions. He was a friend of Public Diplomacy programs, including a USIA officer, Hank Miller, on his staff.
A memorandum that Lansdale penned in 1963 is frequently cited by scholars, but it has not been available on the web. Lansdale wrote the memorandum for military advisors in Vietnam, but its profile of the images, traits, and behaviors of Americans – touching on professional competence, language skills, accessibility, empathy, directness, enthusiasm, adaptability, patience, humor, temper, and politics — is evergreen, for Public Diplomacy officers too. So is his counsel to “know the country” and “be a good guest.”
Donald M. Bishop is the Bren Chair of Strategic Communications in the Brute Krulak Center for Innovation and Creativity at Marine Corps University in Quantico, Virginia. Mr. Bishop served as a Foreign Service Officer – first in the U.S. Information Agency and then in the Department of State – for 31 years.